by Mark Barley
reviewed on X360
Youíve seen Vanquish before; and at the same time you havenít, not really. The premise is familiar: a futuristic shooter using a third person perspective in which you are tasked to save the planet from a terrorist organization hell-bent on destroying everything. And yet, Vanquish is completely unique. From the sleek graphics to the awesomely fast paced gameplay and over the top gun fights, youíd be hard pressed to find another shooter quite similar to this one.
The game is set on Earth in the not too distant future where population has increased exponentially and Russia has once again become a dominant force, both economically and militarily. The proverbial shit hits the fan when Russianís government is overthrown by a group calling themselves the Order of the Russian Star. Unhappy with Russiaís peaceful policies, this group intends to use their new power to go up against the United States of America.
In an effort to eliminate their energy crisis, the US have developed a space station in the shape of a giant ring. This station turns the sunís rays into solar power before it hits the Earthís atmosphere. Oh the future, how vibrant your imagination! The Order of the Russian Star captures the station and turns all of its energy towards San Francisco. The ray causes a microwave effect, ultimately destroying the city along with peace between the two nations.
Donít focus on...
You play Sam, a military specialist equipped with an Augmented Reaction Suit (also known as ARS) which is quite possibly the most bad-ass piece of clothing anyone could ever wear. The suit is a prototype and has barely been tested, making Sam something of a Guinea Pig.
While the story is a bit loose and details are few and far between, itís not the plot you should really be focused on here, or even the underwhelming voice acting. Itís the gameplay. Itís the mechanics. Itís the graphics and the smoothness that comes with being able to take down a giant robot with careful and well placed shots to the kneecaps.
The game is so fast paced that you barely have time to learn on the fly, which is why the developers opted to give players a ďtraining scenarioĒ before the game actually starts. It is here where we learn how to shoot, throw grenades, perform melee attacks, hide behind cover, use your AR mode (more on that in a bit) and power slide. Itís a training platform that makes sure you understand the controls and the mechanics before actually throwing you into the fire, and boy do they ever throw you into the fire.
AR mode is a time enhanced ability that actually slows the battle down for you, this allows you to lock on to enemies better, get into a perfect position to take down a mech, or just allow you to get away from the gun fight to catch your breath. The game triggers the AR mode automatically when your health gets to a certain point, acting as something of a fail-safe. Itís this ability throughout the game that plays an intricate and very important role to surviving all of the acts and missions through the game.
Along with the gameís AR mode, cover plays an important role in keeping you alive. The cover system is like any other cover system except that you must combine it with your to reach its full potential. It is here where the true game shows its face and makes every other cover based shooter look dated. Using AR mode with cover is certainly a great way to get a leg up on your opponents, but you will also have the ability to perform a power slide of sorts, allowing you to get around the battlefield a lot quicker than running would. Sliding causes your shield to deteriorate so you only have a limited time to perform these slides before the suit overheats and you become extremely vulnerable to attacks.
Dying is a common occurrence here, so donít be pissed at yourself if a giant scorpion robot actually makes you look bad, it is bound to happen a lot. The game does a superb job at saving your progress throughout the story for you though. Once you die, you simply go back to the last checkpoint, weapons and all.
Speaking of which, the weapons in Vanquish arenít really anything new or out of the ordinary but they get the job done. From the machine gun to the sniper rifle, every weapon has its place. Youíre going to do more damage with the heavy machine gun but itís not going to fire as quickly as the regular machine gun. The sniper rifle will give you a scoped advantage, but it wonít do as much damage (excluding head shots) and the rocket launcher gives you extreme damage but you can only carry three missiles at a time. Lastly, the laser gun isnít extremely powerful but you can hit multiple targets at the same time. No matter what you do, you will never feel that you are lacking in the weapon department as there are literally weapon caches littered in every battlefield.
The AI is another strong point in Vanquish. Youíll dispatch the robot infantry with no problem but you will struggle with the larger mechís. Itís this balance in the game that provides the fast paced action and the be-on-your-toes-for-anything mentality that prevent Vanquish from becoming just another Ďrun of the millí futuristic shooter.
Length-wise, Vanquish is just long enough. It gives you everything you could ask for in a shooter but defeating the final boss, you will feel something has been held back for what will inevitably become a sequel. You can quench your thirst for more by going on another play-through and collecting all the achievements but thereís no multiplayer. This is a shame as I am sure Vanquish would be a massive amount of fun going head to head with human players.
Engaging as it is fun, Vanquish proves that you donít need multiplayer in order to have a fantastic shooter. Developer Platinum Games, also responsible for the excellent Bayonetta, delivers a priceless experience that will leave you wanting more!
Plus : non-stop action, fast paced, great weapons, great boss battles, AR mode
Minus: A bit on the short side, plot is all over the place, voice acting is horrendous, no online multiplayer