Vanquish has the dubious distinction of being Gamespot’s 2010 Best Game No One Played. Back when it was released, I paid no mind to it, as I had no interest in a Japanese interpretation of Gears of War and Halo. However, despite my initial disinterest in the game, the general buzz about the game was that it was pretty good. With that in mind, I kept it on my list of games to pick up on the cheap. I was able to do just that a few weeks ago during the big Blockbuster closeout event in my country. Do I recommend you follow suit?
Vanquish is a third person shooter from Platinum Games, whose previous works include MadWorld, Bayonetta and Infinite Space. While I have not played a game created by this studio before, one of the minds behind this is Shinji Mikami, who was one of the lead guys behind Resident Evil 4. Since Resident Evil 4 is one of my all-time favourite games, I was more willing to give this one a shot.
Though there is a connection between Vanquish and Resident Evil 4, they don’t play anything alike. I’d go as far as saying I’ve never played a shooter quite like this before. What makes this game stand out for me from every other shooter I’ve played is its heavy Japanese influence that permeates the entire experience. For one, the story feels like a Japanese fever-dream mash-up of Gears of War and Halo. In Vanquish, Russia has taken over a US space station and used it to blast San Francisco into oblivion. They threaten to do the same to New York unless the United States hands over full control of the country. You, as Sam Gideon, are the one soldier on the US side with a Halo-esque power suit, are assigned to work with US special forces to eliminate the threat. You even have a Cortana/Anya-like girl in Elena, who is feeding you instructions and hacking computers from a remote location.
I’ll admit, I didn’t pay too much attention to the story portions of the game. The plot gets convoluted pretty quick, the writing of the dialogue isn’t that great and the English voice acting is far from good. In this sense, it feels like many of the poorly translated games of the PlayStation 1 era. This has its charm at times, but I more or less tuned it out. The one part of the story you can’t tune it is the ‘ripped from the 2008 headlines’ twist that is down-right barf-worthy.
Where the game shines brightest though is the action. The Japanese take on a Gears of War style game goes a long way in making this feel exciting and unique. While this game does have a cover mechanic, the emphasis of the game revolves around speed and mobility. When you’re in the midst of the action, you’re fighting dozens of robots at once, while dodging dozens of bullets and missiles. You may also have to defend yourself from robots that are 20 times your size in an environment that’s constantly breaking or warping. Because of all of the influences around at such break-neck speed, you simply cannot live by hunkering down behind one piece of cover and popping out to shoot until everyone is dead.
Instead, you’re forced to move constantly. Unlike other third person shooters that allow you to run, your power suit in Vanquish is equipped with rockets on your legs. When you need to get somewhere in a hurry, you slide on your knees, using the rockets on your legs to propel you very far and very fast. Yes, the concept and execution of this is ridiculous, but it also lends itself to some of the most exciting parts of the game. One moment, you’re sliding around a giant mech to shoot its weak point on its back. The next moment, you’re sliding across a collapsing bridge, trying to get to the other side before you fall to your oblivion. You can also trigger bullet time from this position, allowing you to slide along the ground, while shooting enemies in slow motion. The focus on speed and mobility makes Vanquish really exciting to play. It hit the same nerves in me that were stimulated by playing Contra on the NES. Any sort of story hiccups or bad voice acting didn’t matter when the action is as exciting and as well thought out as it is in Vanquish.
It’s worth noting that the campaign is a bit on the short side (I beat it in 6 ours) and that it doesn’t have any multiplayer component to it. I’m not holding that against this game, as neither of these hurt the overall package. If you’re looking for extended replay out of Vanquish, you can replay the single player to better your scores and work your way up the leaderboards.
I had a blast playing through Vanquish. Sure, it has it’s faults, but it has the visceral action parts down pat, which made it a pleasure to play through. If you’re a shooter fan, and haven’t tried Vanquish yet, I’d recommend giving it a shot. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I’m sure you can find it for cheap at this point.