SEGA have teamed up with Shinji Mikami, director of the Resident Evil series to produce a bullet spaying, futuristically armoured Sonic The Hedgehog. This third person shooter blasts the competition out of the water with its addictive jump-in-and-out style gameplay. It combines flashy acrobatics with ultra-futuristic weapon changes and time-altering manoeuvres. If Gears of War and Sonic had a baby I think we’ve found it. Unlike Gears of War, Vanquish is not clunky, not by a long shot. The seamless transitions from boosting your way to safe cover to vaulting in the faces of your enemies are magnificently performed. However, the game invites a time-trial score based gameplay that lacks online playthrough, and boasts a questionable replayability.
You play as Sam, a DARPA special operations agent tasked with the mission of rescuing a scientist who created Sam’s near impenetrable ARS suit. Although there is a plot, it is limited and you’re left wondering about alot of the details in the game. That said, the gameplay is so involved and frantic that you barely get time to focus on, or care about the storyline.
Let’s get to the real reason Vanquish is so good, it’s cool. Unmistakably cool. The feeling you get when you first vault from cover to pick off 3 unsuspecting RIs (Robot Infantries) is priceless, and there is much more. Sam also has the ability to jet-propel himself along the ground entering bullet time (slow motion) and destroying his enemies at point-blank with a shotgun. Sam’s character is rebellious throughout the game, lighting up cigarettes where and when he pleases. You can use this to your advantage as you fling one through the air from cover and then sneak behind the distracted RIs dispatching them how you please. Everything about the game just reeks of cool; even dying seems to happen in a stylish manner. Approaching the first boss you get the chance to vault into a shower of missiles head first in slow motion, digging away at the cloud of explosions. However, these novelties may soon wear off for some people as the manoeuvres end there, leaving a lot to be improved on regarding gameplay mechanics.
Trophies! Yes, Vanquish has them, but if you think that they are easy boasting points you’d be mistaken. Although you can play through the game in casual auto, casual, medium, hard or god hard difficulties, these are nothing compared to the brutal controller-throwing challenges that are required to obtain platinum. Unlocked as side missions to the main game as you progress in the story, they involve several different waves of enemies that you have to defeat in order to complete the challenge. These enemies range from a variety of different bosses you will have encountered in the story and seem to have a vendetta against you since the first time you met. If what you are looking for is a challenge, then these are for you.
The graphics in Vanquish, on the Playstation 3 in particular, are crisp and clear. From the off you can appreciate how much effort has been put into making the environment of the Russian space station as vibrant and as diverse as is allowable.
Part of a mission involves Sam riding a train-like cargo holder while it traverses what feels like the entirety of the space station as you see what you thought was the ground of the station zoom around your screen and above Sam’s head. I mean there’s even a jungle-like area included in the space station, which helps to reassure you that you aren’t just playing through level after level of monotonous metal blocks.
This brings me on to the sleek shiny silver suit everybody sees on the front sleeve of Vanquish. Sam’s ARS suit looks sharp and agile, reflecting his capabilities in-game, whilst also hinting at a more militarised and vicious DARPA agent underneath. The suit itself is a blend of Gundam Wing mixed with Metal Gear Solid as it has very defined and purposeful shapes. The satisfying blue blasts streaming from Sam’s what seems nuclear powered jet-pack give the suit that something special. As precise and glamorous as Sam’s ARS suit is, much the same cannot be said for the rest of the characters, with pretty much all of them looking the same and the other main characters having nothing that really stands out about them. Even so, it has to be noted that a rather comical relationship can be observed between Robert Burns and Sam, constantly bickering and joking amongst themselves. What has to be my personal favourite is one of Burns’ motivational sayings, “stay frosty”, just whipping it out gives you a laugh, even if it’s been said another 6 times that mission.
In all Vanquish is a game that, despite its many niggles, makes up for them by redefining the meaning ‘cool’ and by being a seriously exciting and addictive third-person shooter that is worth far more recognition than it seems to have received. Vanquish easily makes it into one of my personal favourites.
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