For a while, I was just going to link to our previous review coverage of Vanquish, say some things about the port itself and post it. Sure it’s lazy, but for a port we generally don’t need to re-review it as the game is normally out for only a few months. However Vanquish is a major exception, not only was this from around the time where TSA was printing 3 page essays as reviews which are about as tedious to read as War and Peace, but I quite frankly disagreed with a lot of the complaints raised. It was never meant to be a great work of narrative importance, it’s just B-movie shlock.
Vanquish takes place in a futuristic setting, where Russians have boiled San Francisco with a space laser and are threatening the president to do the same with New York. On top of this, a chief scientist has been kidnapped and it’s Sam Gideon’s job to save the day in his rocket-propelled knee-skidding armoured suit.
Every character is utterly detestable, sure, but aside from Ash from the Evil Dead franchise there are very few genuinely likeable characters in B-movies; they’re essentially excuses to see guts and gore in B-movie horror, or spout exposition in other B-movies. Vanquish is the videogame equivalent. You get some one-liners and descriptions of what to shoot next.
While I didn’t agree with where the plot was going, I’m not going to wax lyrical about the levels too much. There are times where the game’s level structure throws in previous boss encounters in an attempt to rehash old ideas.
Frankly, that is lazy level design, but where Vanquish succeeds is in moments such as when you encounter the Argus for the first time, or storm the Kreon. It feels like a perilous mission that only a guy in a super-powered suit can succeed in.
Essentially Vanquish plays like a game of its time – a third person shooter with cover mechanics. Everything is serviceable, though cover is occasionally destroyed when explosives hit it. Should you take too many hits, provided your suit isn’t overheating, you’ll automatically enter a state of bullet-time where you can quickly evade incoming attacks.
It’s also home to another cliché of the early 2010s – limited loadouts. You can pick up to three weapons on the battle and two types of grenades. Weapons are upgradable either by claiming the green cubes that randomly spawn, or by picking up spare weapons you already have that are at full capacity, while upgrades are lost a level each time upon death.
It’s surprisingly elegant once you get used to it and combined with the slide and slow-down you’re able to pull off some very flashy moves. While Vanquish is over in barely a few hours, the action is relentless, leaving few opportunities for a breather. There’s also a challenge mode that unlocks after the conclusion of every chapter, though this generally is wave based killing on a singular map.
As for the PC port itself, one thing I did notice – and which has now been confirmed by various media reports – is that damage you take seems to be higher than I initially thought it would be. Having played the demo back in the day on the Xbox 360, I didn’t recall shots from enemies being so effective. This is because at the time of writing the damage taken is somehow tied to your frame rate.
I’ve personally not had massive problems with my 60hz monitor outputting a maximum of 60FPS, because the slowdown timer kicks in at low health, allowing me to avoid any lethal shots and dive into cover, but it is an interesting, unique oversight. With the uncapped frame rate, those with 120hz or even 240hz monitors may find that currently Vanquish is a harder time than it needs to be.
There are a few blemishes when it comes to cutscenes too, rendering at a fixed frame rate that becomes outright choppy in places when the action becomes intense. Thankfully the gameplay and even the quick time events are all outputting an uncapped frame rate, meaning that at the very least the gameplay is extremely responsive and enables players to react with notice to incoming shots.
However credit where credit is due, the port is generally of the highest quality and the development house behind the port should be applauded. Aside from colour deficiency options as the game excessively uses red and green in the user interface, there’s practically every option you can think of and the game actively tells you how much memory is being used for the graphical settings. It’s a very useful feature for players and really should become the norm.
Vanquish does have its problems, but very few of them are tied to the PC port, which incidentally makes this version the best one by default. It’s B-movie nonsense at its best, with a science fiction setting, and very cool action sequences. It could definitely do with a bit more variety in enemies at times and it’s a little on the short side, but it’s still a great romp seven years later.
Version Tested: PC