Gears Of War was one of the most successful action combat games in recent years and it makes sense for development studios to borrow key elements of the game mechanics. Platinum games recently released Vanquish, a title which is fast paced, action packed and most importantly, fun to play.
SEGA and Platinum games were responsible for the critically well received Bayonetta, and Vanquish is set many years in the future with a zany far eastern plot line that is difficult to follow. Russian rebel forces are trying to take over the world, San Francisco has been destroyed, one of our best scientists has been kidnapped. You take control of Sam Gideon, a gung ho chap who wears the awesome Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS), sent by the president to help the US army in the way against the crazy Russians.
Anyone who has played Gears Of War will immediately feel at home, because the third person shooter ‘duck and cover’ mechanic is in place, meaning you can peak out – shoot, and jump over items in the terrain as you use them for cover. The ARS suit (what a name!) is one of the games major highlights as Sam can activate jets to boost around the terrain and attack enemies with superhuman strength. Time can slowed (in true Max Payne fashion), weapons can be upgraded in the middle of combat to make for a frenetic and pulse pounding game.
This is how the game differentiates itself with Gears Of War - the speed at which it is played. Gears Of War was always cautious and moderately paced – Vanquish is just a balls out ride to the end. The fact you can skate around at superspeed then slow down time as bullets fly past your head really enhances the feeling of life or death combat.
While many people immediately think of Crysis when super powered suits are mentioned, this suit is actually useful! the powers last longer than 5 seconds and it can make the difference from being carved into small pieces and becoming victorious. Obviously, the suit can’t be used indefinitely, it will overheat if you use it too long, so you will be forced to take cover for melee combat, while making sure you don’t get caught in a crossfire.
The default difficulty is tricky, on normal settings I was dying on a fairly regular basis at the hands of the robots, while only the finest gamers could tackle the higher settings. Casual Auto will be best suited to the general populace, as it lowers the enemy reflexes and turns on auto targeting when zooming in, much like the Call Of Duty console experience.
The Artificial Intelligence system is impressive, because your foes will make use of the cover items in the environment and will try to flank you if they have enough people in the vicinity. The weapons on hand are fantastic, from traditional assault rifles and rocket launchers to more high tech futuristic laser guns and disc launchers. Sam can carry three weapons at a time as well as projectile missles, such as grenades and EMP weaponry.
Graphically the game is extremely appealing, but we already expecting this knowing the development team made Bayonetta and Madworld. The texture detail is high and the engine suffered from only very minor frame rate drop during the most intensive areas. Environmentally, the design team have worked wonders on the little touches, such as debris on the ground with dust particles hovering across some of the surfaces. The enemies also look stunning, especially the bigger mechanoid units which give a realistic impression of hulking monsters weighing several tons.
The audio elements are just as impressive, with a pulsing score which heightens the atmosphere, helped by a first class cast of voiceactors. I was really impressed with the quality of the audio content in Vanquish, it is stunning.
Unfortunately Vanquish has one problem that nothing can fix - it is extremely short. I had beaten the game in under 6 hours, which makes the price of £40 in the UK a tough one to swallow. Even if you replay the levels to get higher scores and faster completion times I couldn’t help but feel a little shortchanged. To be fair, the game contains no ‘filler’ content to help pad it out, but I would like these games to last at least 8 hours under normal circumstances. There is also no multiplayer which means you can easily finish it in a single day if you have enough free time.
Vanquish was actually one of my favourite games this year, the action is paced in such a way to keep everyone addicted and the challenges add value to the experience. Once I started I couldn’t stop playing it, which unfortunately meant it was over very quickly. The final battle was marvellous, but when it ended I wanted more. It is hard to advise you not to buy it however, because the game design is utterly inspired and I can’t wait for a followup.