Generally speaking, first-person shooters are not a gaming genre handled well by Eastern developers. The most recent example of this axiom would be Tecmo Koei’s Gears of War-wannabe, Quantum Theory, but there are a ton more which came before it to point fingers at and march back to the game store to get your money back. Thankfully, Vanquish from SEGA and Platinum Games (Bayonetta), is NOT one of these. In fact, despite some especially bad voice acting and character dialog, it is actually a lot of fun!
Vanquish takes place in the future… A future fraught with global tension as the planet has become seriously over-populated. So over-populated, in fact, that the United States has built a gigantic space station as its 51st state (its that big, people – seriously). The game starts off with a bang as it thrusts you into the middle of an invasion from Russian extremists looking to use the space station as a weapon powerful enough to destroy a city! Why they have to go to all the trouble to do this – gathering space ships, thousands upon thousands of soldiers (organic and robotic), building and purchasing weapons, to any millions of other logistical issues that would have to be in place is beyond me. It would be far simpler to just deliver nuclear ordinance to a city (or, at least, attempt to do so) – hell we have seen situations in our own recent history where a low-tech attack can be far more effective. These extremists are just plain over-complicating the matter. Now, to be fair, in the context of the game their plan is reasonably successful, but still!
The gameplay in Vanquish is nothing you haven’t seen before in one form or another. Most of the run, gun, and cover systems are fairly standard and are very functional inside the game world. However, the two main features touted by Platinum Games regarding the gameplay are the abilities to slide at incredibly-fast speeds via booster rockets and the ability to slow-down time a la Max Payne (or any of the time-slowing clones to come since). Admittedly, both of these systems are cool and visually-interesting, however it is nothing we haven’t seen before in some fashion. That is really an issue when reviewing this one as, technically, the gameplay is somewhat re-hashed from numerous past titles. Couple this tried-and-true gameplay with the interesting boss battles, fast-paced combat, and cool set-pieces – it works!
The game’s boss battles are all very thrilling experiences. The bosses you will run across are all varied, interesting characters, ranging from gigantic robots to more ‘un-realistic’ chaps with seemingly supernatural abilities. Overall, these fights are one of Vanquish’s saving graces and, despite many bosses having a special ability to kill you in one shot, are fun!
Overall, the game’s combat is a cavalcade of action, with battle waging all over the place, not just in your direct line of fire. Vanquish does a good job of immersing you into a larger conflict. You will simultaneously fight enemies en masse from above, in front, and below you! Additionally, many of the game’s levels focus around very cool set-pieces like crumbling bridges and wasted our urban areas offer good variety to make use of the somewhat ‘been-done’ gameplay mechanics.
Visually, Vanquish is a pretty game to oogle. Not the best I have seen – but very pretty. Pretty enough that, during many of the game’s cooler levels, you will take your fair share of impacts from wanting to look around rather than fight the Russian threat. Sound design and game audio are good as well, with the glaring exception being its horrific voice acting. I am still not sure why Eastern developers think that just because we Americans love our share of violent video games, that we don’t also like to hear believable characters every so often. The acting in Vanquish is a step up from that seen in the seminal movie – ahem – ‘classic’, Troll 2.
That is not Vanquish’s biggest issue, however. The biggest problem with Vanquish is that its singleplayer campaign runs about six to eight hours in length. Normally in a first-person shooter of this type, that would not be an issue. With Vanquish, however, you get no multiplayer modes to increase the game’s lifespan. No doubt, if the game performs well they will make DLC packs but, as the mk1 product stands – no multiplayer! Maybe I have become a bit price stodgy of late, but I think that if a game is not a 100% gripping experience un-necessary of multiplayer features, it should be a bit easier on a gamer’s pocketbook – not a full price title.
Overall, Vanquish is a fun, albeit ‘been-done’ shooter that is worth your valuable time if you are a fan of over-the-top action and shoot ’em ups. If you are looking for a lasting experience with some multiplayer, you will not find it here. Vanquish would be a great choice for a game rental or even purchase when the price comes down slightly.