Review by Bkstunt_31
"You gotta love a shooting game with mobility..."
After playing through Platinum Game's Bayonnetta, I was impressed with the studio. So when I got a chance to try out Vanquish I jumped on it. And talk about mobility! You have mobility in spades as the main character dons a suit with rockets to get around. But as you know, one thing can't make a game good (well, most of the time...), so here's what I thought of Vanquish.
You take on the role of Sam Gideon, an ex football star who is now working for DARPA. He actually has a pretty sweet job, as he gets to test out an advanced suit of armor that incorporates jet boosters, uping his mobility on the battlefield immensely. He also has a weapon that is able to, get this, scan other weapons and transform into them. Pretty cool stuff. In fact you get to see all of this in the game's intro/tutorial, as you work with the suit's creator and a tech specialist to test the suit out. You're actually introduced to all this neat stuff before having a reason to use it. What's that, you need a reason? Oh ok, since we are in the future it seems that the earth just has too many people, and a portion of them, including some American forces, live in orbit around the earth using a solar power array for energy. Well, some Russian forces captured this station and then used the solar power to obliterate the city of San Francisco, sparking an immediate war and deploying American forces and Sam to retake the station in orbit. Sam will have the tech specialist to help him out as he gets deployed, but the suit's creator was captured on the station. You'll also work with a giant of a man, Lt. Col. Burns, who is leading the American forces. There will also be a few scenes showing you the American president (a woman!) and the leader of the Russian forces.
So, how is the story overall? Sadly, weak. There isn't much back-history into the game's setting before the story starts, which is sad. The characters aren't even fleshed out in the game at all, instead you are given biographies of them to read while the game load in between areas. Oh yeah, and the game loads super-fast, so good luck reading that! And for some reason, the Russian "forces" are just a bunch of robots, while the American forces are actual soldiers. So what, the Americans can't field robots? Also, I found it weird that the American President apparently has no aides or anyone to help her, as every time you see her she's virtually alone. To be honest, the story is a thinly-veiled excuse to use a cool futuristic suit and kill robots, so don't play this game for it's story.
Game play: 7/10
Now here's what you should be playing this game for, as the game play in Vanquish is quite good. With your experimental suit, you have quite a bit of mobility on the battlefield. The camera is defaulted to a third-person view, making it easy to spot enemies and move around with your rocket suit, which you can control and use in quick bursts or long stretches. It's not too overpowered either, as if you use it too much the suit will have to "cool down" and recharge. And so you'll move about, using cover at your discretion and blasting enemy robots to bits. Like I said earlier, you will find guns scattered around the battlefield and can equip up to three of them (mapped to your directional buttons) to "copy". You'll have your normal fare of weapons: Machine Gun, Heavy Machine Gun, Shotgun, Sniper Rifle, etc... but you'll also get a few unique weapons such as the lock-on laser gun and the LFE gun (which goes through cover and is basically a massive blob of energy).
Now let me tell you about the things that makes Vanquish Vanquish: its quirks. Like most modern games you have no life bar. Instead, if you take enough damage the game will initiate a slow-motion mode on it's own, which gives you plenty of time to kill your attackers and/or find a safe hiding spot. This can also be seen as over-powered, but to compensate as soon as your slow time ends your suit will need to "cool down". Not in any danger but want to use that slowed-down time anyway? You can initiate it yourself by aiming and dodging (your suit will still "cool down" afterwards).
So far, it sounds like a good game, right? Well it is, but the feeling I get is that it's designed to be a "run-and-gun" type of game. I mean you have the mobility and the ease of third-person shooting at your fingertips, and the fact that time slows down when you get hurt too much to give you time to escape or kill even more. Couple that with the fact that you get a score after each section of the game and you'll get the feeling that you're supposed to go fast. Kill kill kill and such. But then the weapon upgrade system comes along and throws a monkey wrench into everything. You see, you can upgrade each one of the guns you copy several times by picking up the same gun, and each upgrade adds perks such as more damage or more ammo. But to get the upgrade, you have to have the same type of gun with FULL ammo. Meaning that you haven't been using it. So if you really want to focus on upgrading your favorite weapon you can't use it at all. Fun right? Well it gets better. As you play through the game you'll find a LOT of weapons scattered around the place. So basically you'll go into an area, clean it out (death to robots!) and than have to choose between keeping up with fast-pace shooting action like you feel you should be, or taking your time and upgrading weapons, which slows down the game considerably.
The game starts off with the destruction of San Francisco, which is animated nicely, then zooms out to show you just how much humanity has advanced as there's a LOT of space vessels surrounding the earth. In other words, the scope of our fight is epic. But after that you'll be stuck solely on a single space station for the rest of the game, limiting the variety in your surroundings.
The levels themselves are pretty good, but nothing outstanding. They lack in variety and don't come with a whole lot of detail. Sam's character design and suit is very well done. In fact, all of the human models are good, but the robot designs also lack variety. In fact, there's only like 3 different enemy robot designs with a smattering of extra enemy designs. They kind-of make up for this with some excellent boss designs and animations. They also throw in excellent quick-time events for these bosses as well (even though they DO reuse them later in the game). The graphics have their good and not-so-good points; fairly average overall. They do do a good job of adding in flash here and there with their animations and are good on focusing in and showcasing the quick-time events.
The sound track is decent but not really memorable. Good enough to shoot robots to! The voice acting was well done. Sam reminds me of a young (futuristic?) Solid Snake with his gruff voice. In fact, it even made me go look and see if it was the same voice actor (David Hayter). It isn't. Come to think of it, Sam even looks a bit like Solid Snake. Hmmm... Anyway the voice acting was good while the music was unmemorable.
Not too much of a reason to go through Vanquish for a second or third time. In fact, the longevity of the game itself is fairly poor, as the adventure only lasts around 5 hours to beat (longer if you weapon hunt, like me). The title is also single-player only, so no rocket-sliding death matches for you! It does tally up your score in each section and at the end of the game, so you can use that if you want to. There's also little statues to find throughout the game that don't do a darn thing for you (besides boost your score) as far as I can tell. If you do play through the game again, you can at least select different difficulties. Still, not too much of a reason to play through it again.
Overall, a (rather low) 7. It's a good distraction for a few hours and is fun while it lasts, but there's just not enough meat on the bones. This is the kind of game that renting was made for. Have fun and keep playing!
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 12/20/10
Game Release: Vanquish (US, 10/19/10)
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