Vanquish

Early in 2010, Platinum Games were behind the surprisingly-excellent Bayonetta. Less than 12 months later, Vanquish arrives on PS3, with creative influence from the legendary Shinji Mikami. For anyone concerned that Mikami's Resident Evil background might hamper the fluid, fast-paced action of Platinum Games' latest, this fear is immediately put to rest with one of the most creative, intuitive, adrenaline-pumping control systems yet devised in a game. Vanquish, a space-based third-person shooter, features Sam Gideon, a special operative, with an even more special suit, dunked into the middle of a brutish military unit determined to save the US from a Russian satellite attack. Yep, Platinum Games have gone from action-packed combat, sexy butts, sassy dialogue and a shed load of guns to action-packed combat, sexy suits, macho dialogue and a shed load of guns. Oh, and gigantic lasers. And pow, blam, thwack do both concepts work brilliantly when developers know what they're doing!

Vanquish

So, there's a story, which doesn't tear up the usual script and make fresh magic, but at least keeps things stimulating. With a Russian satellite reigning laser-fuelled terror from one coast of America to another, it's only a matter of time before the next major strike. Fortunately, there's just enough time to prepare a counter assault, while diplomatic solutions continue to fail, with troop assault ships sent into orbit, ready to take on the robotic army onboard. The main character, Sam, equipped with a state of the art suit (featuring jet boosters and a funky retracting head guard), joins the assault commander as they surge into the dangerous space-based arena. Firstly, everything looks incredible. In the same way that the original Star Wars films managed to capture the sense that the universe far far away had actually been used (something the prequels were oblivious to), everything about the locations used in Vanquish seems to have purpose, to have been used for something, or to at least have some meaning. There are promenade areas in this huge space station, with tranquil, beautiful views, there are more functional engineering areas, monorails and some truly spectacular structures that serve the dual purpose of looking sensible and realistic, while also providing incredible arenas for combat.

The colours tend to favour clean shades with more white than grey, or certainly lighter shades of grey. It's like taking Killzone 2, smartening it up a bit and switching the lights on - there stands Vanquish, blinking slightly, marvelling at the opportunities it now has. The characters are given as much attention as the terrific environments too. The main cast, particularly Sam, are each very realistic, with decent voice acting to back them up. Sure, there's a lot of macho nonsense, but that's what works in these survival situations, and it's what we've come to expect when we're ready to switch off our minds and enjoy the spectacle. There's also a lady involved (ooh-er!) providing useful technical advice. She's the brains of the outfit, operating from a remote station, helping to control Sam's fancy suit. She actually provides some useful balance to the otherwise Bam! Bam! cast.

Vanquish

The primary focus of the game is of course the combat action though, and the developers have unquestionably delivered one of the most exhilarating combat games of all time. Sam can hold up to three weapons at a time, as well as a couple of grenade types. Armed with the standard assault rifle, you take on waves of robotic enemies. Things start gently as you learn the ropes, introducing you to the clean targeting, clear aiming, satisfying response and basic combat techniques. The main thing you learn is that the key power the suit offers is the ability to slow down everything around you (familiar, yes, applied brilliantly here, definitely), and take out as many enemies as possible before the suit overheats and returns you to your normal state. The slow motion can be activated manually by sliding with the suit's boosters and aiming, or is triggered automatically when the player suffers significant damage. The combination of boosters, slow motion, swift rolling and serious weaponry is devastating in the right hands. The game insists that you learn the variety of techniques available, and gradually turns you into an awe-inspiring killing machine, ready to take on the biggest bads the game has to offer.

And wow does the game offer big bads. Bosses in Vanquish, even intermediate foes on the way through acts, are utterly stunning, and they take no prisoners. Many of them tower above your character and squadmates, with weaponry that can devastate your the surrounding environment. More often than not, they're fast too, capable of surging across the screen in an instant, leaping through the air, burrowing underground, or simply stomping around smashing everything in sight. Things are kept fair though. Despite several instant-kill moves from these deadly enemies, most major attacks are gently announced with a key sound, colour change or characteristic movement. The game then proceeds to test your reaction speed to the full, with unforgiving force for the moments you get your timing wrong. It's incredibly tense as a result, with a genuine feel of impending doom and desperation with every major boss fight that truly drives you to draw on everything you've learned in the game in order to survive.

Vanquish

Split into a series of increasingly frantic and dangerous acts, Vanquish never disappoints, with some of the most spectacular set pieces ever seen in a game. Everything has been thought through with an incredible amount of detail. From the little touches, like seeing a solider named S Mikami, to the big stomping robotic monstrosities crushing everything around them, the game is a perfect slice of combat action. That the game looks so beautiful is definitely a bonus, and some impressive sound effects really help to enhance the sense of immersion. Music doesn't play a huge role, but there are occasional interludes, opening and credits music that add another level to the game. There's really nothing to complain about, other than perhaps the slightly short length of the game.

Though completing the game on the hard difficulty setting will likely be an enjoyable challenge for many gamers, the developers were obviously aware that many gamers tackling Vanquish would be after extreme difficulties and steadily harder challenges against which to test their skills. Vanquish delivers, with a God Hard mode and a series of extremely tricky challenges that will test gamers to the maximum. In particular, the challenges, and perhaps the tricky-to-find collectibles, could prevent many gamers from obtaining the Vanquish platinum. It's exciting to find a game with a genuine challenge, though it sometimes feels a little less fair than the incredible Demon's Souls. At least with From Software's masterpiece, you felt like every death was a learning experience. In Vanquish, a near-flawless challenge attempt can be ended instantly with an unfortunate decision; luck playing as much of a role as skill. That said, in the main game at least, it's rarely frustrating, and Vanquish will be worn as a badge of honour by many. The combat in the game makes it one of the most enjoyable and thoroughly polished third-person action games around. If a sequel is released with a more fleshed-out story and perhaps a few save markers at stages during the challenges, then Vanquish 2 would be an awesome prospect.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sega

Developer:

Platinum Games

Players:

1

Online:

None

Release:

2010-10-26

Trophies:

51

Review summary

Gameplay:

Perfectly polished gameplay demanding quick reactions

Graphics:

Sharp, beautiful and with spectacular scale

Sound:

Atmospheric sound effects and good voicework

Lastability:

Cracking replay value and relentless challenges

9.4

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