Vanquish Xbox 360 Review

November 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Features, Reviews, Xbox 360

Publisher – SEGA – Developer – Platinum Games – Genre –  Action – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 15+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3

Vanquish is a third person shooter with a cover mechanic implemented, though it has enough of its own ideas that, unlike fellow Japanese crafted game Quantum Theory, it’s far from a clone of Gears of War and is actually one of the more unique cover based games. As suited protagonist Sam Gideon, you blow up a zillion tons worth of robots (and that might even be an understatement) and sprinting has been replaced by a boost function.

It’s Sam’s Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS) boost function that sets Vanquish apart from other cover shooters. This allows you to slide along the floor on your knees and you can even stylishly fire your gun away whilst doing so. It not only looks fancy and gives you an almighty rush, but it’s also integral to the game: it’s a handy evasion manoeuvre that allows you to quickly get your battered and bruised body to the safety of cover.

Another capability of the suit is the AR mode of which can be activated to slow down time to a crawl, allowing you to shift a desperate situation into an advantageous one, perhaps shooting an airborne grenade or rocket. When you’re near death the mode automatically kicks in offering you a last effort to save yourself.

Sam's suit grants him a speed that is uncommon for the genre.

If they were infinite, Sam’s suit abilities, whilst fantastic, could have left you feeling overpowered, so sensibly you can only utilize the manoeuvres if you have enough energy to do so, of which is measured by a bar. Running out of energy will overheat your suit, leaving you vulnerable to enemy attack until it cools down. It’s designed so beautifully that you’re often up against overwhelming odds, resulting in some tense situations when that all important energy bar is fully emptied.

It’s up to you of how you decide to expend the bar and, the fact that multiple actions feed from it, gives Vanquish a welcome tactical slant when it could so easily have just been a mere brainless blast-a-thon. Melee attacks, whilst very powerful, will completely empty the bar, leaving you unable to use the sliding or AR abilities until the gauge is refilled, for example.

There’s a decent amount of guns and up to three can be carried at one time. Shotguns, rocket launchers, machine guns and sniper rifles are all conventional, but slightly more outlandish killing tools come with the disc gun and the lock-on laser. It’s hardly the most inventive arsenal, but most are enjoyable to use. Weapons can be upgraded by picking up either upgrade boxes or the same weapon of a fully loaded gun, allowing you to enhance them in various areas, increasing their firepower or their ammo capacity for instance.

The enemy behaviour isn’t anything remarkable and they prefer to overwhelm you with numbers ahead of surprising you with their tactical manoevoures. There’s a reasonable selection of enemy types, of which all blow to smithereens in satisfying fashion and often call for contrasting tactics. The often colossus boss encounters are a highlight and some of the most memorable in recent years, and their defeat often results in some of the most fiery and gigantic explosions that you’re likely to see – that’s always a good thing in an action centric game, it’s just a shame that bosses are relatively few in number.

Platinum Games has admirably attempted to mix things up a bit in the hope that the incessant shooting doesn’t devolve into monotony. Occasionally you’ll be tasked with protecting something, albeit by shooting things, whilst there’s also moments that called for speed to, for example, escape a collapsing freeway and yes, along the way this also involves shooting things to pieces. Vanquish is not the most variety filled game then, but its relatively short length means that it will unlikely outstay its welcome.

Length wise, Vanquish is only around the seven hour mark, but there is a hidden statue to destroy within each stage as well as the unlockable God Hard mode (which in case you’re wandering is just as hard as it sounds). There’s also a challenge mode, which sees you taking on multiple waves of enemies and adds further value to the package. Many will scoff at the lack of multiplayer, though the spirit of competitive multiplayer lives on somewhat with the implemented scoring system.

Some enemies possess one hit kill attacks, but being clearly sign posted they're not unfair.

For a certain type of gamer, the addition of the scoring system combined with the leaderboards will be the thing that keeps them coming back to Vanquish as they strive for betterment, for instance attempting to make every shot a headshot or attempting to get through the game without dying. For those that want it there’s actually immense scope for replay value with the game.

Visually, Vanquish is lovely, boasting an engine that can handle a lot of chaos with only the occasional framerate drop. It really gives you the sense that you’re a part of a large scale war, with plenty of glorious explosions and often a lot of enemies to contend with. The only real downer is that the environments can be a bit grey and bland, but with the spectacle of the battles that is likely to soon be forgotten.

Vanquish may not be a huge game or offer much in terms of variety or innovation, but it’s a wonderfully designed and delicately balanced game. It twists modern western third person action gaming convention but also possesses a Japanese style – it has a flavour that is all its own and is more than just another cover based shooter. Stylish, explosive and accomplished, Vanquish is quite simply one of 2010’s finest action games and another strong offering from Shinji Mikami and Platinum Games.

9/10

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