Dripping with 90's Japanese Game Design
Popping this game into my console I have to say I was taken aback by what I initially found. This game has so much 1990's game design flair in it you would think that you were lost in a time warp. When you first load up the main screen you are greeted with some techno music, a robot voice saying "Vanquish" and a rolling screen with glowing text. I felt like I was loading up F-Zero or some other futuristic racer.
The Japanese game design doesn't stop there though. Everything from the character design to the scoring system at the end of each level just feels Japanese. I was surprised I didn't see an "S Rank" scoring after each level.
I was slightly disappointed by some of the tropes that seemed to make their way into the game though. Character dialog occurs in the hud through a small pop up video window colored blue-green (a la Metal Gear). The character animations to not even closely line up with the words being spoken and if you are looking at the same character in the game world they are just a frozen mannequin with not movement. It comes across as just sort of lazy game design from something we would have seen ten years ago.
All that being said the actual gameplay is pretty fun. The game is just long enough to do what it needs to do and doesn't overstay it's welcome at about ten hours long. At its core the game is a cover based third person shooter. While those mechanics work well enough, there is an added mechanic of speed and time thrown into the mix to help mix up the game play. Your character has the ability to jet around most levels very fast to maneuver around enemies. Also there is a bullet time mechanic that slows down time that is very cool. You can literally see bullets wizz by you distorting the air in this slowed time for a great effect. The only thing about this that drove me nuts was that if you took enough hits you automatically went into this bullet time. It resulted in draining your meter for this which I often found I was saving for certain situations. If you are not careful you could come out of this bullet time in precarious situation with no way to escape.
The game has a decent selection of guns and the enemies are nicely mixed for the first two thirds of the game It isn't until you get to the last couple of acts that things begin to get stale. The new weapons stop coming and you have by this point seen all of the enemy types. Unfortunately the developer tries to amp up the intensity by throwing your character into smaller and smaller rooms with more and more enemies. On a game that is based around being mobile and jetting from cover to cover this becomes aggravating at times. There is also no shortage of larger mini-bosses that have one hit kill grapples, that will become the bane of your existence in the later levels when the rooms are so small. Some have the ability to grapple your from almost anywhere in the room.
Overall there is some really cool gun play happening here and the third person shooting is solid. The game is soaked in Japanese game design though and if you are unable to get past the over the top acting, old school design choices and cheesy techno music then this game is not for you.