Platinum Games and Straight Story
October 19th, 2010
Third-person Action Shooter
M (Blood and gore, Intense Violence)
Finally, a game that involves your shins.
When the guy who brought you Resident Evil 4 decides he’s making an adrenaline-pumping shooter on crack, you just know that any argument you concoct regarding feasibility or realism is going to be a moot point. Especially when you’re grinding on your knees at 100 miles per hour while shooting up a giant spider transformer in slow-mo. Such is Vanquish, a game that dares you to complain about its storyline by openly mocking you with it unless you fully embrace it and just let the entire thing wash over you like bubble bath. Vanquish doesn’t need engaging characters, not when you have a slide boost.
The setting is all very basic: it is the future and to combat overpopulation and an increasing energy crisis, the United States of America has built an orbital solar station that doubles as a massive city. It houses millions of people while providing clean, renewable energy. However, it has been hijacked by the ruling Russian leader and turned into a superweapon. After a surprisingly gruesome cinematic showing residents of San Francisco boiling in their own skin, the USA launches a massive assault with thousands of ships. One ship gets through, and from here you control Sam, one solid stereotype among an entire cast of them. Like I said though, once you’ve sat through the opening you are in no doubt whatsoever that the characters mean much beyond looking good and sounding cool. Sam, for instance, has designer stubble, a gruff voice and a bad habit for smoking only the first inch of a cigarette before throwing it away (does that make it a worse habit than purely smoking?). Then there’s Burns, a giant man with a giant robot arm and an interesting vocabulary who ends every single sentence with an exclamation mark. And there’s also the obligatory eye-candy as your intel-woman (would she be any other sex?) hides away in her own ship wearing a miniskirt, allowing for conveniently pervy camera angles.
The game is primarily a third-person shooter, but with such intense firefights that it has been likened to a bullet-hell game and you can see why after playing the first few missions. Controls are fluid and responsive though having reload and pick-up-weapon both mapped to the same button can be annoying in desperate situations. This is most noted when you don’t realize you’ve swapped out your rocket launcher for a DVD-flinger. The weapons are generally satisfying though the ones that pack the bigger punches will automatically become the more favored. It should also be noted that the sniper rifle is a waste of space as its implementation is questionable at best and at worst it defies the entire ethos of the game. The boost technique is the most unique part of your repertoire as it has several uses, all of which you’ll need to get to grips with quickly if you want to survive past your first boss. My main complaint with regards to gameplay is not the AI which is practically non-existent (in such a game why would you need smart enemies?) but the way all your ‘powers’ and ‘health’ are linked to one recharging bar as you can quickly find yourself becoming overwhelmed as you fail to escape a dangerous situation. Because of this, you can’t boost away after have being shot in the head repeatedly. It is the only frustrating part of the game (thankfully) and with some quick thinking, can usually be avoided.
After such fundamentals nothing else really matters: no one will be surprised by the ‘twist’ and, to be honest, no one cares who lives or dies here. There are a few occasions where Sam will suffer a minor fall and suddenly everyone is horrified and calls out to him in the hope that he isn’t dead. This just goes to show you exactly what kind of narrative you’re looking at here. It’s not even sensationalist. But as I keep saying, this is by no means a bad thing: I am glad that the story takes a back seat to the outrageous gameplay because otherwise it would just get in the way. In fact, the cut-scenes bring moments of rest and unintentional light-relief as you listen out for dialogue that is so hammy you can smell it coming. Vanquish is big, bombastic and stupidly crazy. It is freshly squeezed gaming.
- Highly indulgent
- Unrestricted fun
- Very punishing
- Can be confusing
- Arsenal of weapons too large
Were you one of the lucky people that bought Vanquish? Give us your thoughts on this interesting title, would you?