When I was asked to compose this fortnightly column, Vanquish was definitely one of those games I had in mind to write about. For me, Vanquish is one of those super-hard games that require patience and practice in order to master. In some ways it is comparible to games such as Ikaruga in that it requires a lot more thought and strategy than the game’s genre usually expects you to put in.
I seriously cannot emphasise how tough this game is; according to TrueAchievement’s statistics, only 429 of the site’s members have earnt all of the game’s 50 Achievements. Looking at the game’s ‘Tactical Challenge’ leaderboard, there are less than 1000 players registered on the 360 version (and I imagine around the same number for the PlayStation 3 version as well). Want to be one of the elite few? Read on…
Vanquish can be described as a Japanese-made Gears of War, it’s a cover-based third-person shooter, but it’s an incredibly fast-paced one; that’s where a lot of the difficulty lies. Large numbers of enemies, bullets and missiles are constantly coming towards you and it is imperative that you’re aware of your character’s abilities, and master them, so that you can make swift tactical decisions depending on the situation. With that said, here are some tips for general Vanquish gameplay:
Check Your Boost:
Your character (Sam Gideon) has a green bar in the bottom-right hand side of the screen, which dictates how much boost power you have. Sam has several moves that deplete this bar, ahandy evade move that allows him to slide around an environment on his knees at an incredible pace (press the Boost button), plus the ability to slow down the action at any time (By hitting the Aim button while boosting).
Completely depleting your boost bar will cause your suit to overheat for a short while, taking away your ability to boost or slow down, which makes you incredibly vulnerable. If this happens you NEED to find somewhere to hide to allow your boost to replenish. Also, if you take too much damage (more on that in a minute), your suit will enter a critical state and your boost bar will deplete by itself. This will activate a slow motion “overheat” mode, and any boosting will deplete your bar even further. In overheat mode, if you get hit too much, you’ll die instantly.
Due to this; never, EVER, boost more than you need to. If you don’t have enough reserve boost power then you will be a sitting duck if you take too many hits. However, there is a sort of glitch/exploit that makes boosting a bit more economic…
If you want to become skillful at Vanquish then you need to learn the Boost-Dodge. Basically, while holding the boost button you tap the Evade button every second or so to cancel the boost. This will allow you to cover distance at speed, while conserving a little boost power and give you a better chance of dodging some of the deadlier attacks out there. You’ll know you have it right when you are barely using any boost power, and the bar is replenishing as quickly as it’s depleting. It’s not going to make you invincible, but it will make your life a little easier, providing you get the timing right, really helping you to dodge some of the deadlier enemy attacks.
Check Your Health:
Vanquish doesn’t actually give you a health meter, but it does give you information about your health. Sam’s suit is trimmed with coloured lights – Normally a pale green, these lights will change colour the more damage is taken, changing to yellow, orange and then red. It’s difficult to see these lights in a firefight, but get used to glancing at them (and get ready to boost to a hiding space if they start to go yellow/orange).
Play On Hard:
Yes, you heard me, play the Single-Player game on Hard. Not only will you earn all the difficulty-related completion Achievements, but you will learn the skills necessary to get the toughest Achievements/Trophies in the game (and by that, I mean the dreaded “Tactical Challenger”). It can be hard going to start with, but you’ll thank me in the long run.
Keep Calm (Don’t Carry On):
Vanquish is a pretty intense game, and there will be times when it stresses you out, possibly even exhausting you. If it gets to that stage, take a break. Either play something more relaxing (I recommend Rez or Child of Eden) or just do something non-gaming. If you are stressed or annoyed, you will make mistakes.
Leave Tactical Challenges For The End:
There is one Achievement/Trophy that you will learn to hate, “Tactical Challenger”, earned by finishing all the Tactical Challenges, the first five of which are unlocked by finishing each of the game’s Acts. Once surviving those five challenges, you unlock the evil sixth Challenge. Leave these until very last, finish the game on Single-Player (Hard difficulty), and get all of the other Achievement/Trophies before you even think about taking these missions on. These Tactical Challenges consist of several rounds of enemies that get increasingly tougher and, much like Rocky IV’s Ivan Drago, they will break you.
The final Tactical Challenge is one of the hardest stages I have experienced in any game ever. It throws large quantities of grunts, mini-bosses and bosses at you, some of which are even more powerful then they are in the single-player game on Hard difficulty. Finishing the game on Hard will give you the fundamental skills you need to get the Tactical Challenges done, but it takes several weeks of practice to actually finish these missions.
YouTube Is Your Friend:
It would be stupid of me to say I’m awesome at Vanquish, because I’m not, but there are people who are, and watching some of the masters play on YouTube can be both a humbling yet helpful experience. While it’s almost impossible to mimic everything these players do (there is no way a mere mortal can finish Tactical Challenge 6 in under 5 minutes, it took me around 25!), in watching these types of video you can pick up some fantastic tricks and tactics.
Know Your Enemy:
Not only a kick-arse ‘Rage Against the Machine’ track, but a sound piece of advice. While playing through the game on Hard mode, you will face every type of enemy in the game; observe their attacks and remember them. Some of them have distinctive “tells” that will inform you of their next move. For example, the Bogey enemies say phrases in a distinctive Russian accent, that you will learn to fear by the end of the game.
Also learn the weak point of every enemy. The red grunts have a green light on their head that knocks off a lot of damage when hit. The hulking Romanov’s are deadly enemies, but attacking the head will damage their targeting systems, causing them to have difficulty seeing you (and will even attack their comrades).
Weapons also need to be taken into consideration. Save rocket launchers for the big enemies, use a standard assault rifle for most of the game’s grunts. Shotguns are great for close-range carnage, while the heavy machine gun is very effective against bosses. Each weapon has their own purpose, and experimentation reaps its rewards.
Enjoy The Experience:
Vanquish is a brilliant, and incredibly underrated game. Yes it is tough in places, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Enjoy the game’s blistering pace, and revel in the chaos of it all. If you are after all of the game’s Achievments/Trophies, be prepared to get frustrated, but remember to have fun because, after all, that’s why we play games in the first place, right?
That’s it for this fortnight’s column. In future instalments, we’d like to hear about some of the Achievements you have earned. Feel free to add me on Twitter with any comments and suggestions for future columns.