A familiar yet fresh experience
Vanquish is a third-person shooter from always-making-a-new-IP developer, Platinum Games. It is set in the future where Russia and the United States are suddenly at war. The action of the game take place on a city-like space station. Players will assume the role of Sam, a wearer of bad ass future armor and Solid Snake clone. Featuring a pretty robust tutorial, Vanquish quickly teaches players the perks and limits of the suit. Shortly after the tutorial it is learned that Russia has broken the peace with the United States and Sam is deployed to help defend the space station from the invaders. The story grows more and more convoluted, and serves little purpose aside from directing the flow of the game. It’s paced well, and the ending is satisfying enough, even if it does make the convoluted story a little more ridiculous. It was easy to pick up on right that this game is very Eastern. It's an excellent shooter and easy to recommend, especially if you like the Japanese style of storytelling in games like Metal Gear Solid or JRPGs.
Vanquish has some of the tightest gameplay among third person shooters. The cover-based shooting works very well, and I was quite unaware of how having three different levels of cover would please me until playing Vanquish. Having knee-high walls in addition to the chest-high walls and… walls, is an incredible addition ought to be adopted by more third person shooters.
What really sets Vanquish apart from the other games in the genre is the suit Sam wears. The suit gives Sam a very fun to use powerslide ability, and when shooting in this state, it sends the game into slow motion. Slow motion can also be triggered by taking too much damage. This might seem out of control, but the suit is balanced in such a way that it never feels that way. Melee attacks drain the suits power for a short time, taking damage drains the meter, the powerslide drains the meter, and the slow motion also drains the meter, and when it is fully drained is when Sam is most susceptible to death.
Perhaps the best part about Vanquish isn’t necessarily these features, but the overall feel and presentation of the game. Aside from the flashy and often pretty effects, graphics and sound effects, it looks, feels, and plays like an arcade game. It's high speed don't-stop-for-nothing action, and for a cover-based shooter, it sure does play it fast and loose. The voice acting and dialogue isn't great, and it would be easy to write it off as bad, but it works and fits with the rest of the absurdity and action surrounding it. The main character, Sam, sounds like he’s trying to pull off his best Solid Snake, and the Lieutenant Colonel who accompanies Sam sounds like a more pissed off and older Solid Snake. It makes what would be ordinary story-advancing chatter a bit more entertaining.
What might be the game’s biggest falter, but could also be a blessing in disguise is the length and lack of content. It isn’t a long game, clocking in at around 5-8 hours. There is no multiplayer and there are only a handful of challenge rooms to keep you playing. However, to increase the longevity of a game such as this one, with multiplayer or an extended campaign, might have trampled over the atmosphere it nailed so well. It doesn't overstay its welcome. All of the pieces of Vanquish, even those that appear to be missing, come together to create something that feels completely unique and fresh, yet familiar at the same time.