Pretty Damn Badass
While putting together my review for Vanquish, I came across a bit of a conundrum – I couldn’t find an adequate word to describe Platinum’s Game latest masterpiece. A word so simple it could sum up the whole game in less than ten syllables. A word that could encapsulate everything about my experiences playing this little masterpiece.
So I settled for this: Vanquish is… pretty badass.
From the moment you fire off your first boost glide, Vanquish overloads your senses from every direction. So much so, that it can be a bit of an overwhelming experience. If you’re willing to adapt though, willing to learn, willing to master the game, what you’ll experience is one of the most thrilling rides in recent video game history.
Those looking for a more casual pace and slower gunplay will feel more at home with, well… pretty much every single game made before this one.
Vanquish puts you in control of pretentious badass Sam Gideon, but the real star of the show isn’t this Nathan Drake wannabe. It’s his ARS (Augmented Reaction Suit) body armour.
Persevere with Vanquish, and dodging bullets by the skin of your teeth turns into an art form of its own.
Sam’s primary skill is his ability to boost. Like a hyper-active kid after too many sweets, he propels himself around the scenery at a rate of knots that would break the sound barrier if it was any faster. You have full control over your aim during all of this, allowing you to fly past, around and behind enemies at much faster speed than they’re capable of shooting you.
Your suit’s other major ability allows you to slow down time, letting you pick off headshots and enemy weak points at your own leisure. The handicap in all this comes from the fact that both these abilities – gliding and slow down – run off the same energy bar.
Use up your reserves of energy, and your badass abilities are temporarily disabled while you recharg your energy gauge, leaving Sam slow, vulnerable and open to insta-kill attacks. Vanquish play a fine balancing act between managing both of these skills, and the player’s capacity to walk this delicate tightrope of balance well is what will help to separate the men from the atomized puddle of human ash burnt into the floor.
In a change from the usual, and much to my own surprise, all these skills are available to you right from the start, and your suit has no upgrades all. You can upgrade the ammo capacity of your weapons (and minor adjustments), but you’ll never learn how to boost greater distances, or discover the means to dodge bullets faster, or magically gain the ability to sprout wings and fly.
This is a good thing; if you ever want to have any chance of beating the game on anything higher than Easy Automatic, you will actually have to make use of the wide variety of abilities bestowed upon you by Sam’s badass ARS suit.
Yes, this really is an in-game screenshots. This particular enemy will pursue you relentlessly until you take it down.
Although the ability cover is amongst your repertoire, there’s one important point about Vanquish that simply cannot be stressed enough: this game is not a cover shooter.
The game requires you to make full use of your abilities during combat, precise and well timed boosting from position to position, rolling out into slow motion at the opportune moment to attack an enemy, sliding back into cover to dodge the imminent crossfire, then boosting out of the way again two seconds later, when the big guys pull out their giant lasers and point them straight in your direction.
These standoffs start small – just you and a tiny selection of robotic nuisances to blast your way through, but they quickly escalates to the point where each battle becomes a large collection of metallic adversaries that required you to make smart use of boosting, flanking your enemies (especially the bigger ones), and picking them apart in style. Vanquish never lets up. Not for a millisecond.
As epic as the game clearly succeeds in being though, its narrative is, sadly, complete garbage. The level of forced machismo coming from the lead rules is as hammy and overacted as they as they come, and the story is entirely forgettable to the point that you probably won’t ever care about it. But you know what? Who cares? It just doesn’t matter in Vanquish – the game is so busy letting you be a complete badass that you simply don’t care.
This level of awesomeness can only sustain itself for so long though. Vanquish simply doesn’t have the same breath of replayablility as, for example, Bayonetta does, even with five difficulty levels and the kind of hardcore achievements (one of which requires you to complete the game without dying even once) that would drive even the certifiably insane mad.
This is one of the smaller enemies in the game. Wait until you see the GIANT ENEMY CRAB!
While it lasts though, Vanquish is a masterpiece of design. The game is an exercise in gameplay purity. Every weapon has a purpose, every ability is refined to within an inch of its life. It makes every single third person shooter up to now look amateurish and poorly made in comparison.
Vanquish does for third person shooters what Bayonetta did for spectacle fighters. It doesn’t just raise the bar. It puts the bar at such a high level that only someone with Sam Gideon’s badass skills could ever hope to reach it.
If you’re looking for an experience and a world to simply immerse yourself in the depth of, Vanquish is not the game for you. If you’re looking for deep storyline and complex character development, Vanquish is not the game for you. If you want another Gears of War like cover shooter, Vanquish is definitely not the game for you.
If, however, you’re looking for some of the most refined and perfected gameplay ever seen in a video game, Vanquish will probably be one the greatest video games you’ll have the pleasure of playing this generation.
So… Vanquish in a nutshell?
Pretty damn badass.