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Vanquish Review

Vanquish pack shot
Developer:PlatinumGames
Publisher:SEGA
Genre:Third Person Action
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.sega.com/vanquish/
Release Date:October 22nd, 2010 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 

"Holy crap this is awesome." I live on my own, so for me to say things out loud - to myself, no less, is something of a rarity. To openly sit forward in my armchair and stare open-mouthed at a TV screen even more so. This game made me do both - in the first 15 minutes.

Springing from the genius mind of Shinji Mikami, the man behind Devil May Cry and Resident Evil, Vanquish is the next generation of third-person action games - fast, frantic, and immensely fun. It's even better than Bayonetta - and that takes some doing.

Set in the near future, Vanquish sees an Earth apart from our own. The world's resources are nearly depleted, thousands are dying as the sea level rises and America has turned to space for our salvation - constructing a massive orbiting space colony, Providence, which absorbs the light from the sun to produce limitless energy.

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Russia, on the other hand, is having a more difficult time of things, and the rightful leader is quickly overthrown by a military junta, which just as quickly captures the colony - with devastating effects.

With time running out for America, the President sends a huge space fleet to recapture the massive cylinder-world, along with a full battalion of battle-hardened marines, and one wiry man in a thin, form-fitting metal suit - DARPA research scientist Sam Gideon.

Playing as Gideon, the gamer has to retake Providence, battling legions of psychotic robots, a crazed Russian dictator and the commander of the American mission (he doesn't like you very much.)

Good thing then that Sam's bought along one of his inventions: the Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS) - a powerful bit of kit which turns the wearer into the fastest, meanest, most powerful warrior on the battlefield - as well as being totally badass.

Putting it simply, if Contra, Gears of War, Megaman, Bayonetta and Ghost in the Shell had a child, this would be it. And yes, I know that makes no sense.

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The game is the most intense, frantic third-person action shooter I've played, and is crammed with brilliance from start to finish - from the opening invasion of Providence, which plays like the invasion of Normandy (but in space), to the intensity of battling a massive, city-sized flying mech-walker, to blowing the crap out of a legion of robotic Russians, Vanquish never stops, it never slows, it's an adrenaline ride of epic proportions, and it gives you the freedom to fight like never before.

The ARS is the latest in weapons technology. Powered by its own miniature reactor, it can boost Sam along on his knees, punch through solid metal, have him run faster than any human should be capable of and even slow down time - tapping into Sam's reflexes to slow the world around him.

Add to this the suit's built-in BLADE (Battlefield Logic ADaptable Electronic Weapons system), which has the ability to scan any type of weapon, then transform into it at the touch of a button, and you've got one heck of a mean machine.

The thrusters in the ARS allow the gamer to zip about the battlefield in any direction, while firing full auto. You can trigger the time slow-down at any point, be it if you're flying past a robot's exposed back, or if you just want to roll out of cover and launch a single missile. And the game is clever enough not to let you overuse the ability - boost for too long, slow time too much, and the reactor overheats, bringing Sam's abilities to a (relative) crawl, and forcing you to dive behind the nearest bit of cover - a good thing then that the cover system is accurate and easy to use, and makes taking cover while the ARS cools down all the easier.

It's actually hard to describe how using the ARS makes the game so much fun, but here's a typical encounter: Sam zips over (on his knees, sprays of sparks flying from his thrusters) to a massive robot, kicks it in the face, sending it flying backwards, back flips - while firing a heavy machine gun on fall auto into its chest as it falls (in slow motion) - lands, then casually open his visor and smokes a cigarette. Yeah, it's that cool.

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Over the course of the game, Sam has to defeat thousands of Russian robots, ranging from the smaller grunts, to massive 'Romanov' bruisers, and - in a true stand-out moment a Transformer-like starship with a dirty secret - and how you approach the battle is up to you.

With the suit and the BLADE, the game's frantic action keeps you constantly on edge, and once you master the simple control system, boosting along the floor while switching your weapon and slowing time for a brutal melee uppercut becomes the work of mere moments.

The game's many varied environments, ranging from the vicious trench warfare of the opening act to a tense standoff in a darkened tunnel, to airborne dogfighting over the wrecked Providence city, present the game brilliantly, and the amazingly astute graphics engine brings the action to life with amazing clarity.

The engine simply doesn't slow down, no matter how many missiles the gigantic boss robot's just fired at you as you boost to cover, casually firing over your shoulder, and the little things - the way the ARS realigns your greaves after you've boosted, or the piercing red gaze of a pissed-off Romanov as you line up a brutal, slow-motion kick to its chest, are simply stunning - Vanquish was clearly a labor of love.

The score is also excellent - a tense, needy drumbeat of electronica and trance, acting as a nice counterpart to the frenzied action on screen.

The same can't be said of the hammy dialogue and lackluster plot, however, which diminish the experience somewhat, especially the repetitive lines of the US Marines - there's only so many times I can stand hearing "***ing robot!", before boosting over to the offending trooper and kicking him into the stratosphere - but this is not enough to overshadow the action itself.

Though the game itself isn't massively long, clocking in at about 6 hours, more if you set it on a higher difficulty, the game's extensive leaderboards are sure to encourage competition among the more hardcore gamers out there, and the challenge levels unlocked by completing the game's acts add a little more value to a package already imminently replayable. Its just a shame there's no multiplayer - the powers of the ARS could have made for a hell of a game of team death-match.

Summary

With a screen full of blisteringly good-looking enemies and amazing environments, brilliant stand-out moments which fill the sky with dogfighting battle-cruisers, massive bosses, a thumping soundtrack and more shooting, gunning, running, boosting, back flipping, time-pausing and punching than should really be on one disk, Vanquish is the next generation of third-person action games.

The bottom line
9.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Amazing, frenetic gameplay
  • Great musical score
  • Excellent re-playability
  • Stunning sequence of stand-out moments

Not so good stuff

  • No multiplayer
  • Hammy dialogue and slightly contrived plot
  • A little bit short


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