As of late, Sega has been on quite a roll when it comes to making titles that are action packed, visually impressive and fun to play. Vanquish more than continues that streak by delivering a third person shooter that pushes the player’s skills not only in terms of the way they actually approach combat but also in their ability to prioritize combat objectives. Vanquish takes place in a future that is not too far from now when the planet’s human population has grown at an unsustainable rate and now multiple nations are fighting for what resources are left. In a move to avoid a resource war with the rest of the world, the United States has launched a space station with a generator powered directly by the sun as an alternative fuel source.
In Russia, the government has been overthrown by a group calling themselves the Order of the Russian Star. This group’s first line of business was to capture the space station and when they did they used its enormous amount of stored solar energy to create a blast wave that completely destroys San Francisco. This is a show of power intended to force the U.S. government into an unconditional surrender. This backdrop is a great way to start a video game, unfortunately you won’t understand any of this until you are well through most of the game and while it doesn’t take away from the gameplay itself, it is a missed opportunity to further entrench the player into the story.
As you might imagine, the U.S. doesn’t back down and instead launches a full scale counter attack lead by LTC Robert Burns who is accompanied by DARPA agent Sam Gideon. Sam isn’t a decorated soldier but rather a star athlete whose career was cut short by a knee injury. While Sam doesn’t have any real combat experience, he does have something that makes that a moot point… an Augmented Reaction Suit. The ARS is a combination of bleeding edge technology that pretty much turns Sam into one bad man. The suit is equipped with jet boosters that are attached to both arms and legs and for weapons combat he is equipped with the BLADE.
BLADE is an experimental weapons system which is capable of scanning any existing weapon (shotguns, rocket launchers, machine guns, etc) and then transforming into a perfect replica of that weapon. Its ability to store three scans at a time means that at any given time the BLADE can shapeshift between three completely different guns. Let me say that the BLADE is awesome and pretty much allows you to always have the ability to customize your loadout for the particular situation you are in. While the BLADE makes weapons combat very easy, I was disappointed with the lack of hand to hand combat moves that Sam has at his disposal. The ARS does have its limitations and is prone to overheat if too many of certain types of actions are taken, apparently throwing a punch in this suit takes a whole lot of energy and thus you are essentially unable to engage in close quarters combat even it would be advantageous. All things considered though the gameplay is excellent and all the controls make sense and are responsive.
When it comes to enemies in Vanquish, players will be happily surprised. The game’s primary enemies are these pretty formidable robots who pack some serious firepower of their own and even on medium difficulty they are challenging. They won’t always just sit back and trade pot shots with you, they move in waves and will sometimes try to rush you head on, if that happens I suggest you take them out before they get too close because as I mentioned earlier Sam is vulnerable in close quarter combat. As the game progresses, you start to see more formidable enemies and then variations of those enemies further down the road. The only problem I had with the enemies at this point was that some of the larger ones might as well have been bosses with the amount of firepower required to take them down.
Speaking of boss battles, Vanquish features some epic boss battles, both in terms of intensity and scale and honestly I haven’t seen boss enemies this large since Lost Planet 2. With that said, I am happy to report that Sega and director Shinji Mikami don’t take themselves too seriously as proven by the existence of the “Unknown”. The “Unknown” is an enemy that is quite formidable because it has the capability to attract all kinds of spare parts to it and then combine into a pretty tough entity. What makes it funny though is that as you start to attack it and pieces start to fall away you realize that inside this thing is a little tiny red ball with legs that when you deal enough damage is revealed and then runs around blindly trying to reconstitute itself, it’s really quite hilarious. This really demonstrates to me both a playfulness as well as a commitment to basic gameplay values because while the “Unknown” is underneath this funny little red ball with legs, once at full force they are one of the tougher enemies you will face in the entire game.
Vanquish is a game that many of you might not be sure about, take our word for it it’s definitely worth picking up, it is an excellent third person shooter. The story development is not great and sometimes the game’s frenetic pace is a bit much but those are only minor annoyances. The folks at Platinum Games did a great job of creating a new IP with a playstyle that has the potential to be solid franchise going forward. In all honesty, after the release of COD: Black Ops, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and GT5 there aren’t a lot of must have titles out there for the rest of the year, so there is no excuse for you not to pick up Vanquish and give the ARS a go. For creating an excellent third person shooter even without a multiplayer component, ZoKnowsGaming gives Vanquish by Platinum Games 8.5 out of 10.