Whether you know it or not, Shinji Mikami has been involved with at least a few of your favorite games. From Devil May Cry to the good Resident Evil games, this man has given it his flair and something solid has come out because of it. When he teams up with Platinum Games, the insane studio behind Bayonetta, only pure gaming goodness can ooze out. Instead of tackling another melee combat game, they decided to take a more well-know genre of third-person shooting. Leave it up to these creative people to craft an excellent, unique shooter called Vanquish that deserves more attention than it will probably get.
Vanquish‘s plot might as well have been from a pornographic film at one time. Between the tight action, there is just some loose attempt to tell a narrative, but the better part is that it doesn’t matter. Under your white power armor is Sam Gideon, a man who only eats less gravel than his military partner General Robot-Arm-Gravelly-Voice-Potty-Mouth, who must chug the whole damn box of Gravel Flakes every morning (without any milk). You, with a super powered robot suit, must battle the Russians and their robots for some reason. I think they took all the Vodka from America because that’s all I could come up with. Maybe it was something with the nukes that were casually mentioned a couple times? Hell, I don’t know and neither will you. But you know what? I really don’t care. If any game doesn’t need a story, it sure as hell is Vanquish. I had to go here and kill some robots and that was reason enough. Besides there is some insane action moments in these cutscenes that defy all laws of physics. That is all you need.
I could call Vanquish a cover-based third-person shooter, but that would be kind of a disservice. Vanquish plays more like Bayonetta but with shooting instead of swords and a power suit instead of hair. Yes, you can and will take cover, but the emphasis is sliding around like a madman with your freaking rocket legs. Your rocket legs are only one part of your suit as you have access to slowing down time as well. Both of these drain a suit’s power meter, making it a neat balance to juggle when to sit back and when to go balls out. Thankfully, most of your time is spent going balls out. Your melee move is also dictated by this meter, and while it sounds stupid on paper, it immediately drains all power causing you to be smart about your all-powerful robot kick. Even a normal, non-draining evasive dodge is included and extremely helpful when avoiding death. I had to mention all the moves to illustrate my point: everything is ridiculously responsive like an action game. Shooters sometimes have dodge moves but rarely do they actually do much other than save you for about a second only to be turned into Swiss cheese after. Even the weapon switching happens instantly (oh how I’ve longed for this)! Because of this speedy, responsive movement, Vanquish is the most fast paced shooter out there, almost without anything to comfortably take second.
Vanquish says you should be able to dodge when you want, and because of that, everything is thrown your way. Difficult, yes, but also fair. I died frequently but never could blame the game. I could have dodged. I could have used my damn rocket legs. I just didn’t do it that one time.
There are a lot of bosses and mini-bosses and most of them have one-hit kills, even on casual auto difficulty. Gigantic robots that have different attacks and patterns show up almost at random for you to take care of. These fights are thrilling and intense, something shocking to say about a shooter, a genre with pathetic attempts at frustrating boss fights (I’m looking at you Resistance 2). Quick time events show up but they aren’t the lame ones, but ones that actually add to the experience. I’d never thought I’d play a shooter where boss fights were actually a highlight.
Playing Japanese games usually comes with some sort of compromise in the controls, especially when a gun is involved. Why can’t I move and shoot? Why is the fire button on the X button? Why do I control like a tank? Not here, as I think it is safe to say that Vanquish kicks all of the oddities of some more eastern control schemes in favor of satisfying shooting controls. In fact, I’d say the gunplay alone can stand up there with the best. Cover is snappy and works appropriately and all the buttons feel right where they should be. I was even looking for some sort of “Japanese-ness” in the controls and couldn’t come up with one.
On a technical level, Vanquish is pretty impressive. Environments are pretty cool and characters look good, if not standard, but the real star is in the framerate. I can’t understand how it doesn’t dip given all the shenanigans happening on-screen. Stuff is always exploding, robots are raining in, and some huge mechanical monstrosity is stomping on the battlefield, destroying cover in its wake. All of this and more and it retains a rock-solid framerate.
I sort of feel bad for Vanquish. It isn’t a huge, marketable shooter that will stand out and it doesn’t have that stupid back-of-the-box feature of online multiplayer or co-op. Vanquish also isn’t an incredibly long game by most people’s standards, which makes it an even tougher sell. Regardless of these “short comings,” Vanquish is an incredibly fun third-person shooter that moves at breakneck speeds. I’ve played a great deal of these types of games, but none have had Vanquish‘s feel that is all its own. Vanquish may choose the quality way over the quantity, but sometimes that is a choice I’d rather see.
+Fast paced, solid shooting
+Excellent boss fights
+Responsive, tight controls
+Ridiculous action in gameplay and cutscenes
+Difficult but fair
-Story is pretty lackluster
-Not much other than the six to seven hour campaign and challenge mode
Final Score: 9/10