Developer: Platinum Games
Release Date: 10/19/2010
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Japanese developers have a lot to learn from Western developers but Vanquish shows that they are slowly catching on. Vanquish is infused with Western shooter’s big explosions and lots of shooting fused with Japanese fast-paced action and quick controls. Vanquish is a third-person shooter on speed thanks to the ARS suit. Sam Gideon can slide around at super speeds on the ground as well as slow down time during dodges. This allows for very hectic gameplay against robots of all sizes and shapes.
The plot is paper-thin and only advances at the very end of the game since the middle has absolutely nothing to do with the plot because you’re just dealing with in-the-moment problems, but the overarching story is a pretty standard affair with Russia trying to take over the world with a giant microwave emitter that destroys San Fransisco. It’s nothing to get excited about so just pop in Vanquish expecting fast shooting. The shooting is great thanks to using weapons that can be upgraded throughout the game with droppable upgrades. Everything is done on the battlefield so there are no menus to fiddle with. I wish more shooters would use this idea so it doesn’t draw you away from the action. You get a load-out of three weapons and two different grenades. EMP grenades stun robots and incendiary blow them up. Different weapons range from your standard affair of shotguns, heavy and light machine guns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, etc, but there are a few originals such as the disk launcher, LFE gun that shoots huge blobs of purple energy, and the laser rocket launcher.
Thanks to the ARS suit it allows for what would normally be an impossible amount of enemies to kill in a standard shooter, but being able to slide around at fast speeds and slow downtime isn’t the key to staying alive. If you get shot too much your suit will automatically slow downtime and burn up your energy meter. This allows you to kill any immediate danger and get to cover, but if you continue to get shot you will die. The energy meter determines all your special abilities and if you overheat you have to wait for it to cool down. I found this a little annoying especially when you start dying and you can’t shut off the use of the auto slow down which will actually cause you to die during boss fights since you can’t slide away after it’s burned up.
The best part of the game is the boss fights since you have to shoot weak points and sometimes this will trigger cinematic QTEs (Quick Time Events) but the biggest fallback for Vanquish is the repetition. Sure there are some different gameplay stuff thrown in like firefights on rail carts, and turret sections but I felt the game never truly took advantage of the whole ARS suit system. This is where the typical Japanese game’s generic atmosphere and aesthetics bring Vanquish down for me. While everything is responsive and sharp it all feels generic with weapons feeling like they don’t pack a punch and just feel like pop guns. There’s a good variety of enemies in here, but they are all just robots and you can pretty much use the same tactic on all of them. Boss fights to recycle after Act 2, and the environments all look the same after Act 1.
The game looks good but it is also generic-looking thanks to the typical Japanese art style of sterile whitewashed environments and copy/paste feeling levels. The characters are the usual stereotypical, cheesy voice-acted, empty-feeling people that you can’t really get attached to or don’t make much sense to. I want to get attached to the characters but they just feel too cheesy and stereotypical and are completely forgettable. So why should you play Vanquish? The fast-paced action is undeniably addictive and 6 hours is just enough to not get too sick of the game without wanting it to just end. On a side note, the ending credits are probably the most original I have ever seen in my 19 years of gaming. The developer’s faces are on asteroids and you shoot them as their names pop up. The more important guys are harder to shoot and the lead designer ends everything as a final boss fight. Kudos to Platinum for making credits more interesting than scrolling text.