In an industry where sequels top the chart week after week, new IP announcements place a lot of pressure on the developers to deliver a game capable of holding its own against already successful franchises. Following on from one of the best new IPs of the year so far, Bayonetta, Japanese developers Platinum Games are once again giving gamers something fresh. Can Vanquish do for the shooter genre what Bayonetta did for Third Person Action?
If by that last statement you mean breathe some much needed fresh air into the Shooter genre, then the answer is a resounding yes. Vanquish is a third person shooter in a similar vein to Gears Of War meaning big guns and even bigger enemies. What you might not expect though is the character you take control of. Sam is not your average Space Marine, a cross between Dead Space‘s Isaac (robotic suit in tow) and Solid Snake (he’s not impartial to the odd cigarette), the most impressive aspects about him aren’t his muscles, though there are plenty of characters you’d expect to find measuring up against Marcus Fenix, but his agility.
Sam can glide along the floor on hover boots, using the right trigger you can speed between enemies, appearing behind them for a flashy melee finisher or a sneaky EMP grenade. It may not sound like much, but being able to traverse the environment so quickly adds a whole new layer to what would otherwise be a typical cover based shooter. It can be surprising how many times the speed of the game is more important than using cover, as more often than not, any cover you do find is only temporary. The same is the case for your enemies too, cover that morphs into attack drones being the most obvious advantage they have against you. In these situations, its essential for you to keep moving.
Unlike say Gears of War, where pushing forward can usually result in a misplaced chainsaw through one of your limbs, the enemy AI in Vanquish pushes towards you, making tactical shooting much more important than a defensive position. This can however make the game feel much more trial and error than other Third Person Shooters. For instance my end of game time may have been a measly 6 hours, but you can nearly double that if you include the amount of times I had to retry troublesome sections. Though at first this may sound like a bad thing, the restart time is quick enough, and checkpoints frequent enough to make tough boss battles that bit more manageable.
On the subject of Boss Battles, this is one of the most obviously Japanese aspects of Vanquish. Just like their last game Bayonetta, Platinum Games have gone as big as possible on the encounters that break up each of the game’s 5 acts. Though at first these encounters are as epic and well paced as possible, the fact you take each of them on 4/5 times each is not. Each fight has an increased difficulty, but even with this, it’s hard not to wish for more variation in these boss sections.
These epic set pieces are where the game excels though, your squad taking on wave after wave of enemies being as cinematic as say Call of Duty, one of the first Japanese shooters to get even close. It helps that Vanquish looks phenomenal throughout, even the PS3 version which was suspiciously worse when Platinum Games were working on Bayonetta. The graphical style takes cues from the publisher’s repertoire too, the vibrancy of this futuristic world improving on Sega’s last shooter effort The Conduit. With bullets flying everywhere and robotic enemies that take more than a few cues from the Star Wars prequels, Vanquish’s visuals are only bested by the audio design. Voice acting pulled from the best sci-fi movies is accompanied by a welcome mixture of lasers and explosions. The latter are especially impressive, echoing across a Surround Sound system effortlessly.
And it’s on that positive note that I have to recommend Vanquish on the undeniable feeling of excitement you get while playing. No other game this year has had action as frenetic, and very few games get away with such large scale set pieces done in a tongue and cheek way, the story being one of the corniest, but most enjoyable the genre has seen in years. Vanquish features every third person shooter convention, from cover based combat, to characters with arms bigger than small children, but everything is melded together into a well paced, well constructed and predictable in a welcome way.
Vanquish really doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes the genuine shocker of an ending even more believable. One thing to note though, as you may have guessed so far, the single player is all Vanquish is. It has made for a much more focused experience that has enough replay value to warrant a purchase. Some may wish for some of the sort of modes seen in gears of War, but I find it hard to criticise what is otherwise one of the best shooters of 2010.