Developer: Platinum Games
Available on: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Our friends from Japan, who were once the great game developers of the world (with the likes of the Final Fantasy series, Sonic and Mario to their list of money making creations) have been releasing games with mixed reviews recently. From the acclaimed Bayonetta to the quite awful Quantum Theory, it seems the American developers have taken over the games industry thanks to the likes of Halo, Modern Warfare and Gears of War. However Platinum Games, who were responsible for Bayonetta, have decided to step into the fray again with a new third person shooter called Vanquish.
This game has gained a lot of peoples interest from clips off the internet and because it is directed by a certain Shinji Mikami. For those of you that don’t know who this person is, he is the man who created Resident Evil, and has also worked on titles like Viewtiful Joe and Devil May Cry. So it’s fair to say this man knows how to make a good game, but has he helped create a great Japanese title or are they going to let the Americans remain on the throne?
STORY: Vanquish is set in the near future and the earths population has grown dramatically. Nations are fighting for scarce resources and everyone is in the midst of a global recession (sounds familiar). The United States of America have attempted to solve its own energy problems by launching a space station harboring a solar energy-driven generator to provide them with an alternative source of fuel from the sun. On the other side of earth however, the government of the Russian Federation has been overthrown in a coup d’etat by Nationalist forces calling themselves the Order of the Russian Star, who is seemingly fronted by a man called Victor Zaitsev.
The Order then decide to capture the American space station and convert the generator into a weapon of mass destruction. With the powerful weapons at hand, they then proceed to vaporize the city of San Francisco. Following this act, Victor then states his demands to the first female US president (Elizabeth Winters); he asks for their unconditional surrender. As America’s policy is to not back down to threats, she calls on Bravo Company, an elite group of Special Forces lead by their most decorated war hero Lt. Colonel Robert Burns, to regain control of the Space Station.
However, they will not be going into battle alone. Sam Gideon is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) researcher who is equipped with the Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS). This suit is truly state of the art, designed to be incredibly tough, armed to the teeth and extremely maneuverable. Officially, he is there to test the suit whilst assisting Bravo Company, but secretly is looking for Professor Francois Candide, Chief Researcher at DARPA and the designer of the space station as well as the generator. Feeling responsible for the many deaths at San Francisco, Candide takes it upon himself to shut down the Emitter. He informs Sam and his support, Operative Elena Ivanova, that there is a mole in the American government and then departs.
Based on the storyline, you can definitely tell Vanquish is a Japanese game as it’s fast paced and quite cheesy. The characters always have a cringe worthy quip for whatever situation they are in, whether it being bickering (Sam and Burns are always at it, not sure if they hate each other or have a very bitchy homosexual partnership going on) or under attack. But apart from the odd lengthy FMV movie, the story is fed to you thick and fast. There are also a lot of one liners taken from movies. Burns, for example, loves using lines from various war films such as Hamburger Hill (We need to take this hill!) and Starship Troopers (Come on you apes, you wanna live forever!). All of things combined, definitely add an immense amount of points to the cheese factor. Whilst Vanquish will not be winning awards for its storyline, it is easy enough to follow and does the job sufficiently.
GRAPHICS: For the most part, Vaniqush is quite simply brilliant in this department. All the areas that you roam around in are very pretty, highly detailed, bright and colorful, which is refreshing as most games of this nature are quite dark. The character motions are spot on, fluid throughout and very fast. Sam’s ARS suit has two functions you will use in the game. The first function is the boosters which enable you to slide around on your knees at high speed whilst shooting and the graphics keep up brilliantly with little to no slow down. The other function is called AR mode, which is essentially bullet time. When activated, you will see every bullet and missile whizz past you in great detail, along with the air trail from where it came from. Without the AR system on the detail is obviously the same, insanely fast but you can still see it.
However, the most impressive thing about the graphics are the explosions. The basic enemy droid explosions are pretty cool, but when you take down a much bigger foe, the resulting explosion is truly epic! It will definitely leave you with a smile on your face. The character facial graphics are pretty good too, but you can tell they spent most of the time designing Elena to look hot and designing Sam’s sub-par facial hair (aka bum fluff). The only real bad point about the graphics is the lip syncing. On some occasions, it’s not to bad but for the most part it looks ropey and the characters show a little too much teeth!
SOUND: The soundtrack is futuristic by nature and, like the game, fast paced. It’s not too bad, but can be a little annoying at times and doesn’t always set the scene as it should. It will probably fit in quite well at a night club, but in a game like this…not so much.
It’s not all bad though, the explosion sounds are very good and match the size of the carnage really well. All of the gunfire and character noises are as you would expect them to be. The voice actors are played well, but are cheesy and slightly overacted at times.
GAMEPLAY: Vanquish plays very much like Gears of War. You have the basic aim, shoot and dodge functions as well as a cover system. You also have 4 weapons, which are essentially 1 as the weapon that Sam has is called the BLADE weapons system, which essentially mimics weapons you pick up. So when you change weapons, it configures itself into whatever you have, which is actually quite cool to watch. Another cool thing about the weapons system is that, whilst you are firing, the change is instantaneous, which is handy for dishing out the pain against the big robots you come across. The weapons are selected just like Gears via the D pad, although you have 2 types of grenades to select from in one slot, one being frag and the other EMP. When you level up in this game, you only have weapon upgrades, which make them fire further, faster or cause more damage, which is a shame because it would’ve been great to get upgrades for the ARS suit, even though it is a prototype.
The similarities to Gears end by the speed at which the game is played. In Gears the pace of the game is quite slow and you have to roadie run to go anywhere fast, whereas in Vanquish you are always running, which obviously makes the game quite fast paced. Then to make it even quicker you have the boost function, which makes for some excitingly fast battles. You need to keep your eye on the boost gauge though, because if you use it all you have to wait for the ARS suit to cool down. That then has repercussions, because if you run out of boost and are in a bit of a pickle, you could find yourself on the “crushed to death by a big metal bastard” side of things.
The enemies themselves will come at you thick and fast certain times in the game, relentlessly and without mercy. It has to be said that some of the battles are absolutely insane and thoroughly enjoyable. At times, you will find yourself facing a good 20+enemies while boosting at high speed firing at them, making it fun but also leaving you with a slight tinge of brown pants. You also have access to a melee function, but using it once will completely use all of your boost gauge, potentially leaving you up the creek, so you seriously need to this particular action wisely. All weapons have a different melee attack, but if you love to melee make sure you have the Disc Cutter weapon handy at all times. Firing it is almost useless, but with it equipped it’s like having the chainsaw from Gears and, let’s face it, everyone loves that!
Another feature of Vanquish are quick time events and you need to pay some serious attention when these pop up, as you will die if you don’t press the button in time. However, if you pull them off, the scenes can be quite breathtaking. One particulare QTE sees Sam turn into a human drill by firing his boosters and going straight through the core of a rather giant robot and this is most definitely a wow moment. It is made even better by the monumental explosion that follows and I am not ashamed to say I was quite hard when this happened.
The controls are easy to get used to as we’ve all played Gears of War, but it can be quite tricky to accurately fire when you are boosting across the map, so you’ll need to get some practice in. The AR system in place certainly helps you in this respect, especially when you’ve nearly killed a boss and your health is low, enabling you to make every bullet you fire count to cause maximum damage. The AR mode can be manually activated and uses your boost gauge for the time limit. However, if you are low on health and have some boost left in the gauge, the AR system will automatically kick in. It is great idea to combine the AR system and the boost function, as this not only allows you to advance or retreat quickly, but also allows you to get in some accurate shots in at surrounding enemies.
LONGEVITY: Vanquish will only take you about 4-5 hours to complete, but there is no online multiplayer for it at all. After completing it you may try the GOD HARD difficulty and the challenges to get more out of it, but unless Platinum Games bring out some DLC for Vanquish, it will either sit on your shelf collecting dust or be traded in. However, if you like score based games you will definitely play it for a while as there are leader boards, enabling you to compete with the best Vanquish players around the globe.
VERDICT: Comparisons with Gears of War and other similar games aside, Vanquish is quite simply a fantastic third person shooter. It looks gorgeous, it is superbly designed and the gameplay is just plain old cool. The fact that it is a little too short, contains no multiplayer aspect (which would of been chaotic, but brilliant fun) and the storyline whiffs a little of stilton are the only downsides. However, these niggles will be the last thing on your mind as you boost around a level, causing immense explosions and blowing the hell out of literally anything that gets in your way.