Review: Vanquish (PS3)

Title: Vanquish
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Platinum Games
Original MSRP: $59.99

Platinum Games and renowned director Shinji Mikami show off their skills with their latest release, Vanquish, which combines tight gun play with a thrilling, action packed experience. More importantly the game is a blast to play and delivers what almost feels like a guilty pleasure from beginning to end.

As tempting as it is, I’m going to refrain from comparing Vanquish to other games. It seemingly draws influence from some of the biggest titles in the industry but it does so in a manner that makes the game it’s own. Vanquish is a third person shooter that combines gun play with a cover mechanic. Wait, that sounds familiar. Well before you jump to conclusions consider the main protagonist, Sam, has a cutting-edge suit outfitted with jet boosters and an experimental weapons system called BLADE which is capable of scanning existing weapons and then transforming into those weapons. Add in a “bullet time” like capability and a formerly clunky genre is born anew with an experience much more quick, fluid and enjoyable.

Gameplay is set in the future where over population has depleted available resources. Enemy forces intercept a satellite launched to harness solar power but instead reverse the effect and use it to destroy San Francisco. Sam Gideon, a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) researcher, is sent in to save the day armed to the teeth in a rocket suit and carrying transforming weapons. Sound like fun? It is. The story, on the other hand, can be a little long winded and maybe even too complicated for it’s own good. Fortunately it doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

Sam faces so many varying enemy types that the game never feels the same and each enemy has it’s own strengths, weaknesses, tactics and weapons. Generally speaking head shots are an effective means to kill certain enemies however some require shots to different weak points. Enemies are robotic by design which allows for creative license and some unique battles. One looks like a giant spider, for example, and in order to defeat it expediently you need to aim for it’s weak point or prepare for a long battle as shooting other points are much less effective. Another enemy rolls around like a ball and then peaks it’s red head out every few seconds. Quickly shoot the head while it’s exposed in order to defeat it because in it’s ball form it’s invincible.

Not only are there varied enemies but Vanquish also includes many boss battles. In addition to the bosses there are also plenty of mini boss encounters. Players never know what they might run into next and must be prepared for just about anything. These battles can sometimes be challenging but never to a point of frustration. Once players learn their attack patterns and weak points, they’re often not difficult to beat. Because of the enemy variety you cannot walk through the game defeating each enemy type with the same strategy. Instead players must use combinations of cover, rocket boosters, “bullet time” and different weapon types. Engage rocket boosters to quickly evade an attack or use it to circle a boss while shooting different weak points that are otherwise difficult to hit while standing. And deciding which tactics to use and when to use them is very satisfying especially when figuring out how to beat a tough boss. Even using these techniques against common enemy types is a blast. Never has killing the low guys been so damn satisfying. Feels almost like an arcade experience for lack of a better way of putting it.

The campaign mode is relatively short and takes approximately six hours to complete. Each level is scored and then uploaded to online leader boards which adds some depth but there are no multiplayer modes available in Vanquish and therefore not much reason to return after beating it once or twice.

So it’s a third person shooter with it’s setting in a war torn world. I can close my eyes and almost picture that landscape in my head as can so many others who have played their fair share of third person shooters. Again Vanquish bucks the trend by adding, wait for it, brightness and color. There are no dark clouds nor blood red skies but rather a colorful back drop that stretches from the black of outer space to a vividly white skyline. Players are immersed in a futuristic city with lots of whites, silvers and blues without the common over saturating browns. Adding to the frantic gameplay the environments destruct and deform. A large building standing on it’s last steel beams crumbles after nearby explosions shake the ground. Not only for effect but players actually have to be mindful of their surroundings. Another level has spaceships crashing to the surface during battle. And that’s just the setting. Characters are beautifully designed and animate well. At one point I caught myself staring at Sam’s gun as I transformed it from weapon to weapon over and over and over… Definitely a site to behold and one of the most visually stunning games currently available.

What would you expect a break neck shooter to sound like? Loud with lots of explosions and a rumbling in the sub woofer every time bullets fly? Rocket boosters that when engaged drown out all other sound effects? Well that’s exactly what Vanquish delivers. The musical score is electronic in style and sits behind all the battle noise. Fast tempos and electronic drum beats can make battles feel rhythmic and arcadey. Voice acting by the main character, performed by Gideon Emery, is done rather well. I noticed his performance during the cut scenes as his lines are well acted and never sound forced or fake. The rest of voice cast also does a nice job.

Vanquish combines many of the best third person shooter elements, ditches the clunky parts and introduces a few new twists that when combined make for one of the most enjoyable third person shooters this generation of consoles. Simply put it’s an absolute blast to play. The game’s only downside is it’s short campaign. Unfortunately there isn’t much to do after beating it once or twice. Would make for a great weekend rental unless of course you want to add this gem to your collection.


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