is by no means a perfect game. It won’t win Game of the Year, and it probably won’t make a lasting impression in the roster of video games that have been released. It is, however, a very reasonably fun game that is worth playing until the end.
The third-person shooter revolves around a very familiar theme for its genre: the ventures of science, its negative impact in a futuristic setting, and a conflict between nations. In this scenario, antagonist Victor Zaitsev performs a coup in the Russian Federation to seize control and attack the United States.
After wiping out San Francisco, Zaitsev threatens a similar fate upon NYC unless President Winters submits to him. As part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Sam Gideon and his newly acquainted companion, the decorated
Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Burns, are tasked with confronting the Russian force and interrupting their plans for devastation.
Having access to said projects, Sam is fitted in an Augmented Reaction Suit that provides the abilities that set the stage for Vanquish’s gameplay. The suit is equipped with boosters for a quick getaway (or, you know, long hallways) that can be combined with another trigger to enter Augmented Reaction Mode. AR Mode slows your perception for precision shots, and can also be activated when your health is at a critical minimum.
AR Mode is the perfect compliment the some of the enemies you will face in Vanquish. The enemies are all a variation of mechanics. Many of these will have energy generators exposed at intervals in battle that need to be attacked to deplete their health. With a small target that is only accessible in short periods of time, the slow motion perception from AR Mode is your right-hand man.
Your suit also comes with a BLADE system that allows you to store and upgrade weapons. Therefore, rather than discovering a stock of Assault Rifle ammunition when you are at your maximum and having to abandon the loot where it is, you can pick it up to upgrade your weapon a level thereby increasing its accuracy, ammunition capacity or attack power.
There are an interesting assortment of weapons to choose from, as well. I always appreciate creativity in weaponry, and Vanquish utilizes the idea of scientific advancement to the game’s benefit. The Disc Launcher does exactly what the name implies: it launches discs at your enemies that slice them into pieces. The Lock-On Laser is particularly useful when upgraded to a maximum, being able to lock on to more enemies as it increases in level. Typical additions such as assault rifles, heavy machine guns, rocket launchers and snipers are available as well. An LFE gun projects a spherical energy ball that is fun, if not inaccurate to use. It is also worth mentioning that you can board one of the mech’s machines to shoot powerful bursts at enemies, but you will never stay in them for long.
Vanquish was surprisingly harder than I had expected on a normal difficulty setting. You’ll soon learn that mechanical bosses have a wide array of weaponry with which to tackle you. You’ll be boosting away from a barrage of missiles and rockets almost all of the time. That, combined with the difficulty of having to target specific portions of the mech to do any damage to it can get quite frustrating. There is also the lack of health information in your HUD so, save for entering AR mode, it’s difficult to tell where you stand against the enemy in terms of your life versus your death. This gets especially frustrating against a boss battle, and can sometimes leave the feeling that strategizing against the boss is impossible.
The boss battles in general do not feel very creative. It’s the same repetitive routine of targeting the sensitive areas of the mech, rinsing and repeating. Fortunately, Zeitsev is more interesting to battle as he is more a matter of faster targeting since he is lithe and incessantly flying. Although the battle can be equated to attempting to swat a persistent fly away, your quick movement with boosters and rolling across the ground make Zeitsev’s movements easier to parry.
Although achievements should not function for judgement towards a game, Vanquish actually has surprisingly fun ones to attempt. Certain achievements will require you to proceed through an area unnoticed, or kill an enemy before it reaches a certain part of the level. The achievements, provided you attempt to get them, add to both the challenge and the fun of the game. I’ve restarted levels many times over to get certain elusive ones. However, while they are definitely fun, I felt that if they were integrated into the level as part of the gameplay they would have been more appropriate. As options, they are fun, but as part of the gameplay they would have made the game itself more interesting to play. This is particularly an issue given that some of the levels are bland and repetitive.
Although the visuals, particularly in cut scenes, are quite good looking, the storyline never consumed me. The entire world of Vanquish was explained to me hurriedly in a very long introductory cut scene. While I can see the sweat shining on Sam’s face, I was never invested in who he was.
Sam is the typical “I’ve got attitude, but I also have a heart” soldier with two equally typical companion characters. Burns is Sam’s more brutish companion, with a hard exterior, while their radio support Elena is a sweet, wide-eyed girl with a lot of care for Sam. The characters could have been more appreciated had I seen more heartfelt interaction between them in cut scenes as opposed to snide comments and playful banter, but the game does develop the storyline by the end to include more riveting scenes.
Although the storyline in Vanquish isn’t captivating, and the characters aren’t as developed as they could have been within the context of said storyline, the game is fun to play with its upgradeable weapons and unique abilities thanks to your scientifically researched defense suit.