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Review: Vanquish

Subjugation in more ways than one.

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.

Score: 7/10

This review is based on the PS3 version.

  1. DrNate86
    Since: Apr 2010

    Nice review, I was expecting it to get an even lower score as I was reading from what you were saying! The poor story and characters doesn’t really bother me, it strikes me as a Gears or DMC style game where the characters are ridiculous badasses put in random situations more for the sake of action and fun gameplay than a clever plot. The repetition of bosses is a real shame though, that is a pretty cardinal sin in my eyes, lazy and unnecessary (unless really, really integral to the plot, but even then the boss should have changed). I definitely will get this at some point as it sounds like a visual feast, but with so many big game atm it will have to wait a while.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 09:23.
    • Kovacs
      Since: Dec 2009

      Glad you liked the review.

      Just on your “I thought it would score lower from the review’s content” point. Vanquish is a good game and got a good score accordingly. Don’t forget, we use the full scale, so a 7 is a solid experience. I think I emphasised the fun factor and its stellar design just as much as some poor gameplay nuances and lacklustre plot. I’d recommend Vanquish and it’s definitely a game worth playing. It does have flaws, though. Not enough to skip the title completely, but evident enough to prevent the game from getting an 8, a 9 or a 10.

      Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 09:37.
  2. artefx
    Since: Aug 2008

    Personally I thought the game was great deserving a 8 or 9 in my opinion. I looked at it like a Japanesse interpretation of a western 3rd person shooter and as such I really enjoyed it. Its pure action going from one relentless battle to another.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 09:28.
    • Kovacs
      Since: Dec 2009

      I didn’t check other reviews until I had finished the game and yes, there are a few 8s and 9s out there. (There are also other 7s and lower). If you would have scored the game diferently, that’s cool. As long as you could backup that score with justification in your review, which I have done here, that’s all that matters.

      Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 09:45.
      • artefx
        Since: Aug 2008

        Of course. That is simply my opinion from playing the game. I totally respect the score you gave it.

        Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 11:10.
    • retro_
      Since: Jul 2009

      I agree, an easy 8/10. This sort of all out shooter doesn’t need an oscar nominated story. My favorite shooter of 2010 by quite a margin, loved every moment of it.

      Comment posted on 22/11/2010 at 15:54.
  3. project84music
    Since: Mar 2010

    For the most part I agree, though I have to say I found Burns a lot more annoying than Gideon, and think the game could benefit from a multiplayer (to be given the opportunity to return to that world again is something I would like very much – and whilst I’m not sure exactly how they would have implemented it, I think it would have been a good addition).

    Also, I’m impressed you managed to write a review longer than the game itself =P

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 09:31.
  4. RadicalMave07
    Since: Sep 2010

    i picked this game up about a week ago,i fully agree with the points you stated,mostly on the lack of in depth character interaction,a score of 7 is suiting of this game but i think the non stop adrenaline pumped action in the game more then makes up for its faults,in my opinion it would be 8/10 but 7/10 is still awesome for a game this good.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 09:42.
  5. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    Thought this was going to be a reasonably good game, but not excellent, and you’ve gone and proved my intuition correct. This is a definite love film rental for me. A game i’d like to play through, but doesn’t warrant having 40 quid thrown at it. Rent it, play through the story, pick up some trophies, send it back. As drnate said above, too many big games right now to warrant buying this. Black ops has me hooked!

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 09:57.
    • ruinereraser
      Since: Nov 2009

      I’ve already 20 quid on Amazon right now, good value!

      Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 13:12.
  6. Voganlight
    Since: Jul 2009

    This has to be the best written, most detailed review I’ve ever read, brilliant.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 09:59.
  7. Dan Lee
    Common like the rest of us.
    Since: Jun 2010

    Your words make my words look like monkey vomit :oD fantastic review, and now you can pick the game up for under £20 which is a good price.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 10:06.
    • Sympozium
      Since: Aug 2009

      Yeah I knew that would happen, I played the challenge demo its quite addictive so I need to get Vanquish soon not sure if I would’ve payed over £30.

      Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 11:18.
  8. TheLig
    Causing trouble is my business and business is good
    Since: Dec 2008

    While I respect your opinion on Vanquish, I absolutely disagree that it is “only” a 7. I would honestly have given it a 9. The lack of depth to the characters and story do not detract from what is essentially an arcade shooter, emphasized by the fact that youre scored by your speed and style running through the levels. The game is essentially a 3rd Person shooter style Space Invaders. Enemies appear, you shoot them and move on. I love the relentless nature of combat and that the developers didn’t feel like they had to tack on a stealth section, or some other unnecessary genre staple that have become so fashionable. They focussed on what the game did well, and that was fast, intense action.

    But what I found most telling about the quality of the game was that everyone works perfectly. The shooting is ridiculously satisfying, the sliding mechanic adds something new and the cover system is perfect. Nothing feels like they missed something.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 10:08.
  9. SuperHans
    Since: Apr 2010

    This comment is hidden.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 10:12.
    • Kovacs
      Since: Dec 2009

      It’s late. There are reasons.

      Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 12:30.
    • billsmugs
      Since: Mar 2009

      Better late than never, I buy a lot of games months after their release date, so it doesn’t always matter if a review doesn’t come out at release (obviously it’s better for the two to coincide, but I’d rather a later, better review than an early, rushed one.)

      Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 14:43.
  10. JaffaMan24
    Since: Jan 2010

    Like others, I mostly agree with that brilliantly written review. However, I think the review focuses a bit too much on the story, which lets face it is, and was only ever intended to be, superficial at best. It wouldn’t be so bad if we could read the operation dossiers which give a bit of background, but the loading times are so quick you don’t get chance (never thought I’d ever complain about loading times!).

    Yes the characters are all rediculously stereotyped and we’ve seen them all before. Agreed that Burns ground my gears more than Gideon, but still. Let’s not forget that what it’s all about is shooting punching/robots in the face!!

    I didn’t think the AI too bad. The animations are first rate and I love the way you can selectively disable enemies. I love shooting the Romanovs in the face and then watching them ragely blindfire. If you disable a robots legs, it’l come crawling after you. The insta kill lazer things, whilst grating, I generally like. It keeps you on your feet and there are enough audio clues with all insta kill lazer/rocket attacks for you to get your ass out the way!

    The choice of red colour for the robots is excellent. Killzone 2 was all too grey for me, and I found it difficult to distinguish grey friend from grey foe, especially at distance. Here the robots can still be picked off in the fiercest and most chaotic fire fights. And boy can they be hectic!! There must be 1000s of individually animated projectiles on screen at times.

    For me it’s a good 8 going on 9/10. The fact I’m playing through twice says a lot as I rarely devote time and effort to a second playthrough with the Uncharteds being the only exception so far.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 10:13.

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