To me, third-person shooters have shown more in the way of innovation this generation, which is why I’ve been anticipating a taste of Vanquish for quite some time. After playing the demo, perhaps it’s best to describe Platinum’s over-the-top title as an all-out blastfest that takes the basic concepts behind Gears of War and implements more flash, more speed, and even more depth. It’s not quite as polished as I would’ve liked – I have questions about the AI and overall style – but above all else, this one is about the gameplay. Yeah, there’s a story, and there’s even a bit of upgrading freedom involved, but…well, just dive in and shoot. Seriously. Get moving. The best part about Vanquish is that ceaseless action, which grips you by the throat and never lets go. The demo barely gives you a chance to breath.
If you’re looking for a more strategic approach to futuristic battle, don’t bother signing on for this particular adventure. But if what you desire is a cross between Bayonetta and Gears, with blinding speed and nonstop insanity, you’ve found your game. You can opt to try the tutorial before setting out on your gameplay sample, and you should probably take advantage. That’s where you’ll learn all about standard control and how to effectively handle that nifty AR suit; a simple press of the L1 button while dodging enables a bullet-time-esque skill that proves invaluable on the battlefield. Also, just pressing the L2 button while moving enables that drastic sliding you’ve probably seen before. You can snap into cover with a press of the Square button, reload and nab upgrades, ammo and new guns with R2, switch between weapons with the directional pad, aim with L1 and fire with R1. You can change the shoulder button assignments, too.
Then when you start, you’re instantly involved in a massive gunfight that includes what appears to be a mini-boss and a giant end boss, which will require most of your skill to defeat. General movement is smooth and simple, as is most every action. The control mechanic itself isn’t exactly challenging; it’s stringing it all together seamlessly that will take some practice. And considering the team at the helm, this doesn’t surprise me. They’ve produced yet another game that will reward the dedicated, as executing a perfectly-timed slide, “time-slow,” and melee attack will prove to be uber-fulfilling. I also like the fact that it’s not all about silly insanity: you have to manage your AR suit, because excessive sliding, the use of the bullet-time skill, and even melee attacks cause it to heat up. It heats up rather quickly, too, and when it overheats, you have to wait until it cools down. This requires that you think about a plan of attack, so to say it’s all about mashing buttons would be incorrect and a disservice to the developers. Let's be fair.
Everything really feels seamless and explosive. I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere and sheer number of bullets and enemies/allies on the screen at once. However, I do wonder about the AI, as they didn’t seem to do much in either of my play-throughs, especially in regards to the boss. So why should I bother to patch them up when they fall if they suck…? I’m also not sure how the story and voice acting will go over with critics; I get the “cornball” sensation that is common in Japanese productions but doesn’t really get a lot of praise from Western gamers. Still, I sort of liked Sam’s cocky attitude…I’d have to punch him if I met him at a club, but in this situation, he’s perfect. Then there’s the standard cute tech chick (‘cough’ MGS ‘cough’) with the 183 IQ and short skirt and the huge, grizzled veteran with a minigun. Yeah, of course. In Vanquish, all of that seems to work. As for the graphics, I noticed nothing in the way of inconsistencies; it’s not the greatest presentation, but it’s pretty solid. Not the most colorful, but great detail in the characters and environments.
I still worry my compatriots will prove almost useless, and I get the feeling the action might sometimes feel overwhelming in the final product but beyond that, I’m fairly convinced that Vanquish will be well worth playing.
9/1/2010 Ben Dutka