Vanquish Review: Slide the lightning
Developer: PlatinumGames, Little Stone Software
Platform: PC [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: May 25, 2017 (PC), Original October 19, 2010
Disclaimer: A code was provided by the developer for review purposes.
2010 was one helluva year for video game releases. Games like Red Dead Redemption, BioShock 2, Halo: Reach, and God of War III all graced us with their presence. This is also the same year in which PlatinumGames hit its three-year mark as a video game development studio, releasing its fourth title: Vanquish. Although, much like all of the other games released that year, Vanquish wasn’t a franchise tie-in like Halo: Reach, or a sequel like BioShock 2. This relatively new studio did have one thing to propel the launch of its new IP, and that was Sega backing them as a publisher.
I couldn’t help but think how insanely fast-paced, quirky and over-the-top the action was the first time I laid eyes on Vanquish. Then again, PlatinumGames was just starting to make a name for themselves, and I’d later become well-acquainted with the studio’s unique flare.
The story of Vanquish is essentially ripped from your favorite B-movie. The game embodies what it means to be cliche. Its dialogue is fuming with cringeworthy strings of phrases, not to mention the machismo matchups between protagonist Sam Gideon and Colonel Burns. The best way to describe it is like a mashup between the action of “Dragon Ball Z”and the bro-ness of “Starship Troopers”, then sprinkled with a dash of “007” Russian espionage.
All of these elements might seem like the right formula to create a game that you could simply turn your brain off and play. Vanquish, in many cases, instead provides an often frustrating experience with flashes of fun.
The main mechanic in Vanquish is the dash ability found in Sam’s Augmented Reaction Suit. Or is it the ability to swap out guns and gain powerups on the fly? Or the ability to slow down time in VR Mode while under heavy fire? I question all of these elements as the suit runs off of a single-bar of power.
When you are in the dash/evade mode, you can grind away at lightning speeds as you sweep across the map. However, when this powers down, certain weapons become unavailable.
And, once power is depleted, you can no longer slide. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the bar didn’t deplete so quickly. This takes away from the core gameplay mechanic that is supposed to be the driving force of the game, leaving you vulnerable in moments when you need it the most.
Unlike titles in a similar vein, weapon and suit upgrades are not done in a menu or skill tree. This is actually one thing that I really like about Vanquish. Instead of navigating through menu bars and looking at small percentage increases for active and passive abilities, upgrades are done in the field. Your HUD will identify green blips for cases not opened while white icons are known weapons not picked up the first time. This is important when it comes to upgrades.
If you keep picking up the Heavy Machine Gun, even though ammo is full, you will continue to upgrade that weapon. The same goes for things like the Rocket Launcher, which usually gains around a 20-percent increase when upgraded.
Outside of the previously mentioned suit shortcomings, the AI, both enemy and squad, need some major work. You could plow through flocks of enemy robots, evade turret fire, and then knock the legs out from under a giant mech only to be incapacitated by a stray robot who got the jump on you when your shields dropped. These robots are exactly packing heat, either. Most of the time they were just your run-o-the-mill grunt that wasn’t paid much attention to the first sweep.
You might think that this instance infrequently happens, but with the growing difficulty throughout each level, deaths become more than a common occurrence. This is increasingly frustrating as the NPC’s in your own squad of Marines are mostly useless. And, when you complete a level, you are graded based on your points accumulated for kills, and of course, deaths.
The game can be grueling and challenging. But, when cheap deaths come one-after-another, it can be a chore to progress even the simplest firefights.
Being a released for the first time on PC, the game has aged surprisingly well, especially during moments of heavy fire and explosions. I was able to ratchet up and max out all settings without becoming unstable. I don’t have a system capable of 4K resolutions but the game does support it, along with uncapped framerates. However, there were a few times where progress was impeded by small bugs and characters becoming stuck to the environment.
Luckily, Sam’s slide ability can push NPCs, making them physically move, thus pushing them to continue on their pre-designated path to enact the next checkpoint. This was a frustrating occurrence that happened throughout the game.
Vanquish as it currently stands is a B-movie action shooter that has instances of brilliance in its quicktime events and CGI cinematics. But, the majority of the fun is found in those, outside of the actual gameplay.
Although the game touts a cover system, the majority of your time will likely be dodging enemy fire during each firefight though agile evasive maneuvers. You can’t rely on your AI squad much for help as they are mostly there for looks.
Overall, Vanquish barely squeaks by as a game you can shut your brain off and enjoy the action. I do hope that if a sequel does rear its head, PlatinumGames of 2017 will create something more memorable than the PlatinumGames of 2010 did with Vanquish.
- Graphics hold up
- Fun at times
- Upgrade system
- Cheap, frustrating deaths
- Small bugs impede story progression
- Action is outside of the gameplay, found in QTE and CGI
- Enemy and team AI is of no value