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PlatinumGames is a video game development company that’s been around since 2006 and since that time they’ve developed quite a few amazing games. I think one of their best and most popular games is Vanquish. Published by Sega, Vanquish was released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in October, 2010. Speed, over-the-top action, high scores, and killing robots is what Vanquish is all about. In the vein of Gears of War, Vanquish is a third-person, cover based shooter with non-stop action from beginning to end. The unique slide boost mechanic and the ability to slow down time are just some of the things that really make this game stand out. With no multiplayer to be found, Vanquish is strictly a single player experience and does offer plenty of replay value.
As soon as you start the story mode you have the option to complete or skip the tutorial. I’d actually recommend you play through it since mastering the controls and understanding how things work will be really helpful. After the tutorial the story begins and you’re greeted with a cut scene showing the Russian military using some form of artillery array to wipe out San Francisco. The Russians then threaten to destroy New York City and a war breaks out between America and Russian robots. Yes, most of the enemies you face in this game are robots. You play as Sam Gideon, a chain smoking DARPA operative sent in to aid the marines in the war against the robots. Sam is equipped with the highly advanced AR Suit, which stands for “Augmented Reaction Suit”. Wearing the suit enables Sam to withstand some enemy gunfire, boost around the environments at high speeds, and enter AR mode which slows down time. However, doing these things for too long will cause the suit to overheat, including taking too much damage. If you’re health reaches critical levels the suit will automatically enter AR mode, and if you keep taking damage you will eventually die. The suit does recharge over time and taking cover behind objects is a great way to avoid projectiles. Sam is always in contact with Elena who gives him insight on what’s going on, hacks doors and terminals so you can progress, and basically guides you throughout the game. Most of the time Sam is accompanied by a group of Marines led by Lt. Col Robert Burns. He looks like a Gears of War character and everything he says is usually over-the-top and ridiculous like most of the dialogue in this game. The voice acting isn’t too bad but it’s not amazing, either. I didn’t really find the story that exciting but the cut scenes are all awesome and usually action packed so at least they’re fun to watch.
The story in Vanquish is broken up into five acts with each consisting of several missions. Each time you complete a mission you’re scored based on various things like completion time, how many times you died, cover usage, distance traveled, and it all adds up for a score. Deaths will subtract points from your score and if you manage to complete a mission quickly, you’ll receive bonus points. Throughout the missions are small gold Pangloss statues that can be destroyed are a form of collectibles. As you complete missions they become unlocked in the mission mode where you can replay any missions on any difficulty. Speaking of difficulty modes, there’s four difficulties to choose from when playing the game for the first time – Casual Auto, Casual, Normal, and Hard. After beating the game you will unlock the God Hard difficulty mode. After completing entire Acts you unlock Vanquish Tactical Challenges which are round-based events where you need to defeat waves of enemies. If you die during a challenge you’ll need to restart it from the beginning and you’re scored based on how long it takes you to complete it.
Needless to say you’re going to be killing all kinds of robots in this game. Infantry robots, sniper robots, flying robots, giant boss robots – yeah, there’s no shortage of robots to destroy and watching them explode into pieces is extremely satisfying. Thanks to the Blades System of the AR Suit, Sam can hold three weapons and two grenades. You start the game with an assault rifle, heavy machine gun, shotgun, three hand grenades, and three EMP Emitters that will temporarily disable the robots. You can switch out weapons with others found in the environments including a rocket launcher, lock-on laser, disk launcher, sniper rifle, and LFE Gun that fires a giant ball of energy. If your weapon is low on ammo you can pick up the same type and it will replenish. Weapons are primarily found in crates scattered all over the environments and aiding injured Marines on the battlefield will also reward you with weapons. Each weapon can be upgraded by finding upgrade chips dropped from destroyed enemies. Upgrades include increased ammo capacity, increased firepower, increased grenade count, faster lock on for the rocket launcher, increased laser count for the lock-on laser, things like that. Weapon stats can be viewed in the armory, accessed from the pause menu. If you have a weapon equipped with full ammo and pick up the same type, it will start the weapon on the upgrade path and after picking up three of the same type, it will finally upgrade. If you die, you normally lose an upgrade so even though there’s plenty of checkpoints, dying has its penalties.
The gameplay in Vanquish is extremely fast-paced. You’re normally swarmed by robots, bullets and lasers will be flying through the air, and most of the time you really feel like you’re in a war zone. Boosting around the environments is not only a great way to get places quickly but it’s also a great way to dodge enemy attacks. Slowing down time will enable you to easily shoot down incoming projectiles as well as aim more accurately during combat. You can only manually activate AR mode when performing specific moves like evasion and vaulting over cover. The only thing I don’t like is that you can’t enter AR mode when standing still. You must evade, vault over cover, or take enough damage to enter AR mode but I guess that’s the game’s way of keeping you engaged in the combat. You can also use extremely powerful melee attacks when up close and personal with the enemies but melee attacks will cause your suit to overheat immediately. The environments are linear and most missions have you moving from point A to B while killing enemies. Sometimes you’ll have a unique objective like defending transports, assaulting bunkers, and destroying artillery. Many missions have boss battles which are normally giant robots or smaller types that can transform, move quickly, or fly around. Many of the bosses have attacks that can kill you relatively quick so keeping your eyes on the boss and what’s going on is always a must. There are several stand out sequences that are really awesome like riding in a high speed train car as you fend off enemies, a similar sequence has you riding in a train car with automatic turrets, and running across a highway that’s collapsing.
I think Vanquish is quite a looker, at least for it’s time. Most of the environments look the same but many of the backgrounds are beautiful. Not only that but things like debris and smoke in the air, rubble and destroyed buildings, and watching robot heads explode makes everywhere you go feel like a battlefield. Because this game is so fast-paced and action packed, a ton of shit is going to be happening on-screen and that also means the frame rate is going to dip frequently. It never really hinders the gameplay but it’s noticeable. I also noticed some screen tearing here and there but these technical issues are easily overlooked thanks to the intense gameplay and sleek visuals. I do kind of wish there was some more color overall but at least the colors are not obnoxiously washed out like in many other games of the time. Animations are smooth and fluid and it’s cool to see Sam switch guns and robots transform. The music is full of this electronic stuff that fits the theme of the game and the sound effects are mostly loud and explosive which really helps emphasize the action.
I think it’s obvious that I love Vanquish and thanks to the difficulty modes, challenges, and scoring system, there’s plenty of replay value. I think I beat it on Normal in about six hours and the pacing is just perfect. As you progress, the game becomes more challenging, but I never encountered a situation that I felt I couldn’t overcome. Compared to many other third-person, cover based shooters, I think Vanquish is the best. I don’t think the story is meant to be taken too seriously, the characters are over-the-top, and fast-paced gameplay really make this game stand out. If you’ve never played Vanquish I would highly recommend you do because I have yet to see any other game come along that’s quite like this. I guess you can compare Vanquish to the Gears of War series and even Binary Domain and if I had to choose just one, I would definitely pick Vanquish.