Just sometimes, you’re lucky enough to come across a game that makes you feel like the coolest cat around – the kind of game that straps you to your seat, sets your senses ablaze and gets the adrenaline pumping as you tear a stylish path to the end. The heightened sense of speed and power was pioneered back in 2001 with Capcom’s Devil May Cry, and while Platinum Games has successfully cracked the action genre with the beautiful Bayonetta, they’ve now turned their attentions to an altogether different breed. Gamers should prepare to jet-slide through a sleek sci-fi world of grandiose super heroics in Vanquish, but does it do enough to mark a revolution in third-person shooting or is it too much of a one-trick pony to leave any lasting impression?
The majority of your playtime with Vanquish will see you either bunkered down behind sections of cover or boosting your way between them. In this regard, you might consider the game to be a one-trick pony after all – and you wouldn’t be entirely mistaken either. However, when the trick is done this well it can add to the experience, in turn making things all the more remarkable. Boosting is a thrill and never gets old, largely down to its usefulness on the battlefield. It’s almost mandatory when the missiles begin to fly from any one of the game’s imposing boss fights, plus fast reactions can mean the difference between life or death during the more intense moments, be it an enemy ambush or collapsing bridge.
The pacing too is superb, ensuring things never drag on long enough to become stale. One moment you’re traipsing through a deserted underground bunker, then the next you’re blasting your way from cover-to-cover as the robots phase in. Within minutes you’ll face up against the game’s first real boss (although those who played the demo will know what to expect here) and it can be a serious challenge given its transformation, complete with one-hit K.O. should it be given the chance. Many of the most fearsome foes can down you with a single strike and yet it never comes across as cheap or unfair – rather something you can learn from and work out how to avoid on your next attempt. The game consistently makes you feel outnumbered and, at times, overwhelmed in nail-biting situations, but there’s always a way to get things done with a little extra forethought and skill. Yes, Vanquish can be tough, but you won’t mind replaying sections when the combat is this good.
The game employs an interesting method of upgrading your equipment; though we were disappointed by the inability to level up the ARS suit itself. By collecting duplicates of a particular weapon, you can either refill your ammo or upgrade the gun if full; what you end up with is a case of leaving a weapon to upgrade while temporarily making use of something else, so you won’t want to rely on your favourites until later in the game once they’ve been powered to your liking. While Vanquish offers a level select function, doing so will remove all upgrades collected. It’s entirely likely that you’ll favour one of the standard machine guns for the minute-to-minute action, but with a good variety on offer such as the disk launcher and the penetrative LFE gun, there’s reason enough to experiment. The disk launcher is particularly good for close encounters, as your powerful melee strike will instantly overheat the suit and prevent boosting for a time.