You don't often find the term OTT being used in a positive light, which is why we must assure you that when we say Vanquish is awe-inspiratingly OTT, there is no oxymoron present. The box-art for Vanquish should really have the words 'Big Guns! Big Explosions! Big Action!' plastered all over it, given how extreme this hot-footed blaster constantly is. Room to breathe? Who needs that when you've got guns that build themselves into your hands and sliding action that makes your average Premier League football tackle look like two kittens fighting.
Not that all this heavy-handed action comes without its flaws - a list that reads like the perfect 'how not to make a game' collection. Terrible checkpointing sends you too far back, insta-death lasers are an utter nuisance and there are no new weapons to see after the first hour - all elements that left us rather frustrated at times. Yet Vanquish is still very much worth experiencing, and despite these errors in judgement you'll find yourself wanting to see it through to the end.
The story follows Sam Gideon, a DARPA researcher who's rather handy with a weapon or three. A group of Russian rebels known as the Order of the Russian Star have captured an extremely powerful US space station and after using it to level the whole of San Francisco, have now turned their attention to New York. With an ultimatum of surrender or lose even more cities, the US sends its armed forces to intercept the space station and shut it down.
Sam tags along for the ride, with his mission to find a doctor who is aboard the space station and help his shut down the laser. You've also got the obligatory piece of eye-candy in the form of Elena, who resides back at base, playing around with an interactive panel la Minority Report. With his ARS suit which can take a serious amount of damage and replicate weapons on the fly, it's unsurprising that Sam is a bit of a cocky individual, constantly winding up war veteran Robert Burns and providing a very manly aspect for the experience.
Not that it needs it - Vanquish is like the most explosive action movie you've ever seen and then some. The cutscenes are ridiculously awesome, with huge robotic enemies and ships going boom all over the place, and more rockets and lasers than a Muse gig. The in-game action too feels so slick, mainly due to the simple yet effective control scheme. Moving in and out of cover is wonderfully smooth, and coupled with the excellent slow-mo effects available, there's barely ever a moment when you're not filling a cyborg enemy with lead.
At this point, we must dedicate an entire paragraph to the sliding. Oh man, the sliding. Holding left trigger, Sam can go down on his knees and boost along the floor at breakneck speeds, either to move into cover, clear ground quickly or to attack the enemy. While in a slide, it is possible to activate slow-mo and take enemies out as you whizz by, or end the slide with a kick to a robotic face. Boosting for too long will overheating your suit, however, so balancing your usage is essential.
Of course, all this face-melting action is helped along by Vanquish's stunning visuals. From the moment you boot up the game, it's as if every single pixel is bounding up and down shouting 'Look at me! Look at meee!'. It's not often that we boot up a title screen and say 'wow' outloud, and the rest of the game is just as pretty. It stays that way for the entire duration of the game, too - after several hours, we were still being blown away by the enormity of it all.
While this review has read along the lines of 'we likey very much' up to this point, we did also have a number of issues that marred the overall experience. By far the most irritating issue in Vanquish is the inclusion of instadeaths, usually found during the boss battles. It makes no sense that Sam can take laser fire from all over the place and still be intact, then one particular laser hits and he instantly keels over. Sure you're given fair warning, usually with a blinding light and a haunting 'whoooooo' noise, but that doesn't make it feel any more fair when you have to play through an entire boss battle again.
And this leads us onto our other big gripe - the awful save points. When you've been playing a mission for ten minutes and suddenly get caught off-guard (or one-hit killed), it's not very nice being sent all the way back to the beginning of the mission. Fortunately missions usually only last between five and fifteen minutes so you're never sent back a stupid amount, but it's still not very pleasant. Again, boss battles are the main culprit - you can have a boss' health bar all the way down, only to be killed in some tedious way and have to do it all over again.
The game could have really done with a bit more content too. We'd handled all the different weapons and projectiles within the first hour of play, and apart from a few special enemy types, the same baddies are repeatedly used throughout the game. We didn't particular have a problem with the game's length, clocking in at around 7 hours of play, but there may well be gamers who deem that a rather short length, hence it's worth mentioning.
While we consider whether these issues threaten to stifle Vanquish's cool as fuck spirit, some more beefy explosions go off and we realise we're having far too much fun to notice. Vanquish is exactly the kind of videogame-induced adrenaline rush gamers are looking for. It's like watching a fireworks displays while strapped to one of the rockets. Make sure you check it out - this is a ride you don't want to miss.
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