Vanquish: review


  • Format: Xbox 360 (version reviewed), PS3
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Platinum Games
  • Players: 1
  • Site:

He's behind you!

On paper Vanquish is little more than a vide game by numbers: American good guys? Check. Evil Russian? Check. Robots? Check. Gruff male lead? Check. Gruffer male side-kick? Check? Massive weapons? Check? Sexy female support? Check. Outer space setting? Check. It reads like a multiple choice exam paper on gaming stalwarts. It goes on. Fire the game up and you’ll be struck by how much it resembles Halo. The lead character looks like a variant of Master Chief and the game takes place entirely on an orbiting space station in the shape of… a giant halo. And if there were nothing going for this game then we could all sign off here and go home, leaving a generic third person shooter in a puddle on the floor. But Vanquish is no more a poor man’s Halo than it is a bite-size Gears Of War. The parts might look like a bunch of gaming cliches held together with spit and vinegar, but as a whole they make a glorious, addictive game that never loses its suspension of disbelief

Flying out of the traps faster than a whippet with a jetpack, Vanquish hurls you into a manic gunfight that flashes by in less than seven hours at a near perfect pace. The plot is a simple one: with the planet’s population reaching 10 billion and its resources straining under the weight of demand, the Americans build a giant space colony. The Russians, now under the control of a military dictatorship, aren’t too happy about that and steam off into space to invade. Once there, they convert the space station’s power to make themselves a deadly super-weapon and launch a devastating attack on the US, destroying San Francisco in a matter of seconds. Naturally, the Americans want revenge and dispatch a vast army of space marines to give the Ruskies a land-of-the-free slapping. And here’s where you come in. Playing as Sam Gideon, researcher for DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) and designer of the Augmented Reaction Suit (an experimental combat suit that acts like a jumpsuit shaped tank), you’re packed off with your old sparring partner, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns – a man who makes Conan era Schwarzenegger look like Pee Wee Herman after a six month intensive weight loss regime – to wage war on those damn fascists. There’s more, but all you really need to know is that you and walking megalith Burns will be standing side-by-side as the enemy guns spew hot lead in your direction until one side remains.

Future space Russian Oligarchs all dress like this, don't you know…

The fact is that until you’ve reached a cut scene there’s no time to think about plot anyway. The game kicks off and you have to answer a question that haunts you from start to finish: find cover or get in there and kill? Gideon’s suit is so funky that he can hug the ground and blast around at inhuman speeds, allowing him to get right into the heart of the battle or escape quickly depending on the situation. He can also use that booster power to deliver deadly melee attacks or even to slow down time enough to give himself a life saving edge just when he needs it. Since the suit has only one meter bar, all of these abilities have to be used sparingly for, though it only takes a few seconds for the suit to recharge, it only takes a few seconds to get Sam killed too.

Much like the metal freak in Terminator 2, the arm of Sam’s suit is able to take on the form of any weapon, although it can only store three weapon configurations at any time. Weapons range from the basic shotgun right up to a bonkers LFN gun that burps out a slow moving ball of electronic death.

And yet, after all this, Vanquish still reads like a generic shooter. That’s because so far you’ve not played the game. You’ve not torn through a wave of robot soldiers and blown off the legs of a giant, gun toting, robot spider. You’ve yet to come face to face with a glowing humanoid with cloaking powers and a desire to tear your face off and eat it. These are just some of the boss type characters you’ll meet along the way, and every one of them is excellent, though none more so than the Unknowns. Imagine if Cool Spot had the power to gather all metallic objects about him like a suit of armour and, once dressed, could assimilate anything or anyone into his get up. That’s an Unknown, a brilliantly realised boss character that’s half hilarious and half nightmare.

Depending on your level of skill and the difficulty you choose to play on, Vanquish will take as little as four to eight hours to complete. Short, yes, but those few hours will be some of the best video gaming hours you’ll enjoy this year. From the set pieces through to the open battles, the breathtaking cut scenes to the superb details on each and every character, Vanquish doesn’t ever drop the ball. It’s an absolute pleasure to play through, the kind of game you stay up late on a Monday night to finish and then bunk off Tuesday to play through again.

Stealing base in outer space

There’s almost nothing to complain about in Vanquish, but not quite. Right in the middle of the frantic fighting there’s a mission where you have to switch to a sniper rifle and carefully take out a series of spotlights. Not that this part of the game sucks at all, it just feels out of place amongst all the immensely satisfying mayhem. And that’s it, the only gripe.

On paper, a game that does nothing to raise the profile of videogaming and adds bugger all to the genre, but in practice Vanquish is a superb example of why there’s no need to do either.

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Written by Neil

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