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Vanquish Review (X360)

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Vanquish Review (X360)
SEGA
On the surface, Vanquish seems like any other cover-based third-person-shooter. In fact, when it was first revealed I said out loud, "Why is Platinum Games wasting time with a TPS? We have enough of those already!". Then I actually played it, and my worries faded away. Platinum knows what it is doing. Vanquish is gorgeous looking, stylish, fast paced, and an absolute blast to play. It isn't about just mindlessly shooting stuff. It is about looking as cool as possible while you shoot stuff, and that makes all the difference. Vanquish is one of the best action games of the year.
Game Details

  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Developer: Platinum Games
  • ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
  • Genre: Third-Person-Shooter
  • Pros: Great graphics; fast paced, fun gameplay; neat set pieces; tons of sci-fi movie / game references
  • Cons: Short; replay value

You play as Sam Gideon, a DARPA researcher decked out in a fancy suit of powered armor that lets him zip around battlefields, precision target enemies, and even slow down time. A group of Russian extremists have taken over a massive space station called Providence and used it's special microwave capabilities to destroy San Francisco. Their next target is New York City. Sam and a group of Marines are sent to the station to try and stop them.

Sounds cool, right? It is, on the whole, even if the story and characters are ultimately kind of shallow. There are a couple of things I love about it, though. First, it never takes itself too seriously like some games. Second, the story doesn't intrude on the fun. One of my main complaints with Japanese action games is that they tear you away from the action far too often for cutscenes and story crap. Vanquish doesn't do that. The story is usually told during radio communications and banter with the other soldiers during gameplay. There were lots of times I expected a cutscene and was ready for the gameplay to be interrupted, and it didn't happen. I like that. Another great aspect of the game is it is pretty much a constant nod to other sci-fi games and movies. You'll catch a lot of quotes and references from other stuff if you pay attention.

Gameplay

SEGA
The gameplay is where Vanquish really shines. You can take easily take cover with the press of a button and can blind fire out of cover and all of that good stuff. Thanks to the special ARS suit Sam is wearing, you can also do things like slide around the floor at super speed and slow down time. Those powers are limited, though, and cause the suit to overheat if you use them too much, so you have to be smart about how you use those abilities. Melee attacks are also tied to this system, so you can only melee once before your suit overheats, so you have to use melee carefully or you'll leave yourself vulnerable to attack.

The shooting part of the gameplay feels surprisingly great. The controls are extremely smooth and precise, and they need to be because the game moves at a lightning fast pace. You move around the battlefield incredibly quickly, even when not using the boost, and targeting enemies and popping off a few headshots before diving back into cover flows together incredibly smoothly and quickly and easily. You have a lot of different weapons that you can pick up in the battlefield, including assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, and more advanced futuristic weaponry and all of them have specific uses. There is also a weapon upgrade system in place where enemies will drop upgrades, or you can pick up three of the same weapon (as long as your ammo for that weapon is full) to earn an upgrade. These upgrades increase ammo capacity and damage, and are a satisfying hook to keep you playing.

Vanquish is fast, frenetic fun, but you aren't just randomly running through battles and destroying everything. The game is challenging. Never in a cheap way. Always in an "I should have known better" sort of way. The enemies are tough, and if you don't use cover, or use your special abilities correctly, or use the right weapon for the situation, the game is difficult. Massive boss fights, usually with specific ways you have to beat them, also up the challenge level. The game a constant balancing act between offering a challenge but still maintaining a fast pace. It is chaotic, yet precise. Brutal, yet artistic. Fast, yet measured. Vanquish is just plain fun unlike any other TPS you've ever played.

Vanquish is also kind of short, as you can beat it in about 5-7 hours. In some ways this is good because it isn't so long that it wears out its welcome or feels repetitive. But that is still pretty darn short. There is an arcade-style high score mechanic in place that scores everything you do, which could entice some players to replay the game to try for higher scores and better mission times. There are also challenge levels to unlock where you can fight against waves of enemies that add a bit of replay value as well. That is it as far as modes go, however, so if chasing high scores isn't your cup of tea Vanquish might be more of a rental than a purchase.

SEGA
Graphics

Vanquish is a fantastic looking game. Even though it takes place entirely on a space station, there are some stunning vistas to soak in. This place is huge. The levels you fight through look great. The character models are nice with Sam in particular standing out because his suit is covered in moving parts. And weapon effects and explosions are stunning. The game also maintains a solid framerate. It just looks great in motion.

Sound

The sound is also quite good. The voice acting isn't anything special, other than Sam sounds exactly like Solid Snake, but it isn't actually David Hayter. The sound effects are good, and the thumping techno soundtrack fits the action perfectly.

Bottom Line

Vanquish is a fantastic game all around. It looks great, sound good, and plays incredibly well. You might be sick of shooters at this point, but Vanquish turns up the speed and throws so many set pieces and great sequences at you that it is hard not to have fun. It is also nice that it isn't a methodically paced, gray and brown game, which definitely sets it apart from other shooters. Replay value depends on how interested you are in trying multiple difficulties and chasing high scores and times on the leaderboards. Consider that before you decide between a rental or purchase, but you definitely should play it. It is a fantastic game overall that is one of the best action games of the year. Vanquish is highly recommended.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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