Short but incredibly sweet.
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Nov 30, 2010 14:55 (Nov 30, 2010 14:55)
Written by: Alex
Coming from Shinji Mikami, the creative genius behind games such as Devil May Cry and Resident Evil, comes "Vanquish".
Developed by the Japanese studio Platinum Games, it is hard to overlook the games Western influences, but Vanquish retains a distinctly Eastern feel. Blending a Gears of War cover system with rocket jets creates an experience that brings both speed and fluidity to what is normally a very plodding genre, which along with the stylish design does much to set Vanquish apart from its piers.
A Russian terrorist group seize control of an American space station, designed to collect solar energy, and use it to destroy San Francisco (creating numerous job openings in the game industry). Its ridiculous, ill-explained and unbelievable, even in the future world create by Platinum. As it grew in complexity, with double cross after double cross, I eventually became happy that my brain tuned out, letting the senseless plot wash over me as I lost track of who was doing what and why, focussing purely on the gameplay.
As the player I took the role of Sam Gideon, a member of DARPA, who is sent in with a team of marines to fight back against the hi-tech Russian robots that have over run the station. Equipped with an ARS (‘Augmented Reaction Suit’) Sam is more than ready for his task. Able to slow time, perform jet powered knee slides across entire rooms and with a gun that is able to alter forms at a moments notice. Indeed here is little that Sam is not able to take on alone once the controls and game mechanics are grasped, allowing for an incredibly fluid and entertaining motion.
I have an affinity for fluid motion in games. The kinetic grace of games like Mirrors Edge and Prince of Persia provide me with a thrill that I find it hard to separate from my enjoyment of the game. But while these games deliver me stunning sense of speed, Vanquish manages to integrate it seamlessly with stylish gunplay. Rocketing around the environment on my knees, stretched backwards, gunning down huge robots, before ducking into cover fills me with a glee that I have rarely experienced in games since reaching adulthood. And it’s a feeling Vanquish provides with delightful regularity.
Vanquish began with the ship I was stationed on being attacked and smashing into the huge cylindrical space station that formed the backdrop for events. Swarming with enemy Russian robots the action started immediately and I realised (retrospectively) how glad I was to have been forced through the tedious tutorial because here my usual trial and error approach to learning game controls would have certainly failed. It is only thanks to this short, stilled introduction to the intricacies of the experimental exoskeleton I find myself in and afforded me some small chance getting through first stage.
Within moments I had absorbed the basics of Vanquish and it wasted no time in making me feel like a master of combat. Every moment was action filled, and even the basic robot infantry provided a perfect level of resistance, and reaction to my attacks to induce a sense of accomplishment. It is incredibly satisfying, and it only grows more so as the size of the robots and challenge increases. Requiring every single mechanic squeezed into the game in order to succeed Vanquish undoubtedly has controls as complex as any of its equivalents on the market, but the gradual building of challenge means it never feels overwhelming, even when facing insanely powerful robots that fill the entire screen.
To ensure that I at least felt some humility while in my ARS, Vanquish applies a temperature system. It is a mechanic that means the whenever hit, or using any special ability, the heat gauge fills and once it overheats the suits abilities go off line, and require time safely in cover to regenerate. Leading to a need to at times balance the use of the suits powers with down time it creates a subtle back and forth between offensive moments and more defensive duck and cover moments. While on occasion the wait to cool can be frustrating, it breaks up the action effectively and prevents the whole game turning into one long rocket slide (though in truth I think that would be pretty good. ).
Upgrades are perhaps the one element of Vanquish’s mechanics that never became second nature to me. Though standard full upgrade modules can be found (upgrading an equipped weapon) the main method of improving weapons is to collect identical weapons of the same type. Collecting three of these constitutes a full upgrade, which is all well and good but for this to work the gun already possessed has to have full ammo or the new gun will only refresh the supply. To compound matters upgrades from an equipped weapon are lost when I was killed. This system creates a conflict, as a weapon I want to upgrade can’t be used while in the process of levelling it up. It's a bizarre system that requires more thought that I wanted to apply during the frantic action sections of the game.