It’s on this aforementioned battlefield, however, where curious design decisions manifest; niggling traits that tarnish and demote Vanquish from being a great game to merely a good one. Gideon’s suit; light, tough and versatile though it may be, has but one central power source. Though admittedly a feature that is arguably grounded in reality (perhaps the one thing that is), linking the suit’s signature glide mechanic with the ability to dish out a melée attack is a disastrous design choice. Slide up to an adversary with the intension of cleaning his clock with a gratuitous uppercut, and as soon as the manoeuvre has been executed, that’s it, you’re out of juice. Heaven help you if you’ve missed your target (or if he has a friend in the vicinity), as your only option now is to shoot him at close range, which is actually harder than it sounds.
A swift tactical retreat is often completely off the table as, without any energy – your power source servo whirring like a cranky alarm clock from your back, announcing an impending death – you can’t dash away. You can walk away, Gideon’s simian, plodding gait denoting the times he pisses up a boss’ arm like a rat up a drain pipe before punching his head clean off obviously reserved for special occasions – or at least when the ladies are watching – destined to get you shot in the back by a likely grinning and happy to be alive robot.
If this was the only issue we might turn a blind eye. After all, the core focus on the game is long-range exchanges of destructive fire-power, not cozying up to C3PO before punching him off a space-station. Unfortunately, the underlying kernel of Vanquish’s whole shtick – its cover system – can malfunction at times. A tacit rule of gaming is, once the player is in cover, he’s in cover. A projectile can come over cover, around cover, it can even destroy cover – all of these scenarios are acceptable – but they don’t magically go through cover as if the object providing solace from a never-ending barrage of bullets in question wasn’t there. It’s not a recurring theme, but it is frustrating when Vanquish’s cover system shits the bed, especially in relation to laser beams and other boss attacks that appear to catch the player out when cover status was thought assured.
Regarding bosses, here Vanquish once again soars and sucks in equal measure. Bosses are usually gargantuan monstrosities capable of earth-shattering attacks, adversaries that often require tenacity and ingenuity to surmount. In order to instill some longevity in the game, however, you’ll find yourself defeating a boss only to confront the same boss later in the game. Such recycling is tiresome and unwarranted. Having figured out the boss’ weakness the first time around, the rematch is often an irksome chore.
- Design and visuals are top-notch.
- Wonderfully created world with some truly amazing vistas.
- Visceral, unrelenting action.
- Poor, moronic story.
- No investment in characters.
- Questionable gameplay design decisions that detract from what is usually an enjoyable experience.
There’s much to like about Platinum Games’ orgy of mech madness. The design is more often than not sublime, while the visuals are a hot, dazzling, relentless attack on the senses. But by cherry-picking certain Western mannerisms and amalgamating them with Japanese idiosyncrasies there’s a degree of culture-shock that is difficult to ignore here. Add in some questionable gameplay mechanics, and Vanquish becomes a game you’ll play twice (because it was a good enough to warrant a second harder play-through) before shelving forever more. Without a multiplayer element (which is actually a good thing, as the game really doesn’t need one), Vanquish relies on the Japanese fixation of high-scoring, every death and friendly-fire cock-up decreasing your overall ranking. However, it’s unlikely we in the West will be that bothered to return to Vanquish’s sheer and awe-inspiring levels in the interest of toppling some high-score legend from half-way across the globe.
Vanquish is a content yet somewhat compromised marriage of East meets West. It’s shamelessly a boy’s game; the testosterone practically oozing out of every sweat-filled pore as soon as the disc start spinning. Pandering to the prepubescent demographic, it makes no excuses for being a macho, dumb, and high-octane bullet-fest. Whether its charms work on the player will depend on who’s playing, how much they want to be a space-marine when they grow up, and if blistering action and outlandish set-pieces are enough to warrant booking a space-flight to Providence.
The Japanese gaming industry has not flat-lined. Diagnosing Vanquish, using its prognosis as a litmus test of the nation’s wider condition; a biopsy taken to understand more about the host, and it’s safe to say it is suffering from an acute case of identity crisis, however.
This review is based on the PS3 version.