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Review: Vanquish

Subjugation in more ways than one.

The Japanese gaming industry is dead. This sudden and stark obit, eulogised by one of its most trusted wards, Capcom’s Keiji Inafune, proclaimed stoic and without remorse or gravitas, recently reverberated around its reeling international family, relatives and rivals alike balking at the apparent abrupt demise of a once vibrant and ancient empire. Especially considering the industry is far from six feet under, Platinum Games’ Vanquish evidence of an abundance of vim and vigor in a region said to be stifled by the virulent, creativity-suppressing scourge of Japan’s “salary-man” mentality. Make a bad game? That’s okay, your job is safe. You’ll still get paid.

Vanquish is not a bad game – far from it in fact. But while it proves there’s life in the old dog yet – and capable of at least trying new tricks – there are other signs of trouble present; portents Inafune may not have specifically referenced in his scything attack on his homeland’s attitude to game production, but symptoms that suggest an even greater threat. The loss of identity.

Not since Japan reopened its borders to the outside world in 1854, thus ending both the Edo period and its isolationist foreign policy, has something as intrinsically Japanese so openly embraced the Western way of doing things. The impact of successful American games like Halo and Gears of War resonate to Vanquish’s conflictive Japanese core. From both its aesthetics to gameplay mechanics, Vanquish has taken the concept of the suited future-marine – twisting the premise to its specific needs – and set it among a third-person cover-based environment all too familiar to those of us on this side of the world. One of its core elements, the unfortunately named ARS, or Augmented Reactive Suit, is a tricked-out variation of Master Chief’s signature attire. Decked with more moving parts, gyrating gizmos and unraveling weaponry than a Transformer with schizophrenia, it’s as if Platinum have ensnared the more compact Spartan, strapped him to a table, and unmercifully unleashed MTV’s Pimp My Ride crew on the non-consenting space-marine.

It’s not that mimicry should be frowned upon in gaming. After all, the vast majority of games are rehashes of what has come before; gaming the paragon of Darwinism – strong and successful traits factored into the prevailing genome, advances passed on in the next evolutionary step to fitter, more resilient descendants. It’s how Platinum Games have built upon this foundation, however, where telltale cracks appear.

Though the suit is predominantly the main character of the piece, it is inhabited by one Sam Gideon, possibly the most unlikeable character to grace gaming since perpetual petition-pusher Jack Thompson. As a video-game personality he possesses not one single redeemable quality. He’s an ass throughout the entire mission, quipping and jostling with his commanding officers at every opportunity, his over-powering bravado often trite and grating. It doesn’t help that he’s been given some of the worst dialogue we’ve come across in a game since, well, since games were supposed to have bad dialogue.

We don’t like Gideon, and it’s almost enjoyable listening to his absurd moans when he succumbs to enemy fire. Platinum Games have no doubt attempted to create a cocky, anti-hero here but they’ve unfortunately misfired. Instead we suffer through a two-dimensional, banal annoyance that we struggle to connect with throughout the experience. It’s a small point, perhaps, in a game where the focus is on death-defying high-jinks and overt displays of machismo, but the detachment between player and protagonist is painfully tangible, the result an abject non-investment in the character and, by association, the task at hand. Not that we really care about that either.

  1. BIGAL-1992
    Since: Jan 2009

    Nice review, but you’re a bit late coming out of the gates.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 10:33.
    • Kovacs
      Since: Dec 2009

      Yep – as mentioned already, this one is late. Won’t happen again.

      Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 12:37.
  2. Kennykazey
    Since: Mar 2010

    It’s a decent game, but I found the characters to be so clishé it hurts.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 12:09.
  3. a inferior race
    I'm special
    Since: Jul 2009

    I had no complaints about the weapons that ignore cover as you are given one as well so it balances out. I quite liked the weapon upgrading system where you would have to decide if you want the ammo now or if your gonna try and suvive on what you have and take the upgrade,

    I’m surprised the challenge mode didn’t get a chunk written about it as I thought it was better than the story mode.

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 12:31.
    • Kovacs
      Since: Dec 2009

      Challenge mode is good. I didn’t think it was any better than the story mode, though. The review is also very long (and late, as people have pointed out) so I chose to focus on the main campaign.

      Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 12:36.
      • yogdog
        Since: Feb 2010

        Kovacs, no problem with the lateness dude, we know that none of you are paid for doing this, it takes up a fair chunk of your free time and that you’re busy with other things as well. Just keep ’em coming :)

        Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 13:41.
    • Kovacs
      Since: Dec 2009

      Appreciated. I am sorry it didn’t go live a couple of weeks ago. Couldn’t be helped, unfortunately.

      Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 15:39.
  4. CptSupermarket
    Since: Jan 1970

    Seriously dude Vanquish, and Sam, are both awesome. Deserves an 8 at minimum anything less is a travesty!

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 13:24.
  5. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Great review. I have completed Vanquish and would agree with your points. It’s such an enjoyable title all in all so it’s definitely worth a play through. I have since traded it in (I don’t trade games normally) but I am keeping my eyes peeled for Vanquish 2. If they tidy up the annoying bits, add co op and online mulitplayer it would be staggering. Imagine a 4 player co op battle again several big bosses? Or 16 player online battles. Man it would be ace!

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 15:42.
  6. cam_manutd
    Since: May 2010

    I think if the game included more content say online play or co-op…then it would make it more worthwhile…its a good game and your review is spot on…I wouldnt think twice about getting it but it feels so much like a cross between lost planet and gears :P

    Comment posted on 21/11/2010 at 23:13.
  7. rht992
    Since: Apr 2009

    i loved the first part about japan. reminded me of the book i’m readinf “the thousand autums of jacob de zoet” by david mitchell.
    on the game its self i’ve seen some very high scores which surprised me. although i’m not surprised it got a 7 here. TSA takes the story and character very highly which is always a good thing to see

    Comment posted on 22/11/2010 at 00:41.
  8. Charmed_Fanatic
    Since: Aug 2009

    I liked it, id say 7 is a good score – 8 for me.

    Comment posted on 22/11/2010 at 16:44.

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