spacegandhi's Vanquish (Xbox 360) review

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Pete Townsend-sliding into my heart.

 

Since the launch of "Gears of War," the 3rd-person shooter genre has been dominated by clunky, cover-based affairs that continually failed to match the finesse of Epic's game.

With the release of "Vanquish," Platinum Games and "Resident Evil" creator Shinji Mikami have injected a much-needed shot of adrenalin into the heart of this boorish trend.

In "Vanquish" you play as DARPA Agent Sam Gideon, an American operative charged with securing Providence, a satellite colony and effective 51st state of the USA. 

An extremist military sect, known as The Order of the Russian Star, has hijacked Providence, using its microwave emitter to destroy San Francisco and now threaten to vaporize New York City.

Where "Vanquish" differs most readily from similar shooters is its blinding pace. 

Sam's experimental combat armor is equipped with a series of rocket boosters that allow him to power slide, Pete Townsend style, around the levels.

When Sam takes an excessive amount of damage, he will drop into bullet time, giving the player an advantage in combat that can be used while retreating to cover. 

On top of jet-propelled leggings and bullet time, "Vanquish" features an action rarely seen in games, smoking.

By tapping the left shoulder button, the player can command Sam to smoke a cigarette while behind cover. After taking a short draw, Sam will toss the cigarette, which can then distract enemies. 

While "Vanquish" provides a thrilling experience on its gameplay merits alone, I found the game's plot provocative—if somewhat enjoyably outlandish.

"Vanquish" takes place in the near future as America's first female president, Elizabeth Winters, has been charged with solving a global financial crisis, severe overpopulation and the resulting mass starvation of the human race. 

President Winters is, by far, the most interesting character in "Vanquish," as she can be viewed as the Japanese envisioning of a post-9/11 American president. 

The post-9/11 mindset is a major theme in "Vanquish." It masterfully recreates a sense of helplessness and tragedy in San Francisco's destruction sequence. 

This event lends to a general feeling of contempt for outsiders, another aspect familiar to the early 2000s, as the Marine unit Sam is assigned to ostracizes him for his DARPA status.

While the game's campaign can be completed in five to eight hours, there are additional difficulty settings and an arena-style challenge mode that can extend the experience.

More than simply being a fast-paced addition to 3rd-person shooters, "Vanquish" is a sign that the stagnant Japanese game industry has the creativity and talent necessary to contend, if not innovate and excel, in a genre dominated by the West.

This review was based on my experience with an Xbox 360 copy of "Vanquish." The game is also available on the PlayStation 3.
 
 
Originally published in the Indiana Statesman.

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