Vanquish is a hard-hitting third-person shooter that ranks as one of the fastest and most intense action games I've had the pleasure of experiencing in a long time. In a genre defined by hiding behind cover and taking pot-shots, Vanquish goes against the flow by encouraging you to get out of your comfort zone and blast around the battlefield destroying anything in your path. To help you out with that daunting task, you are given control of Sam Gideon, a blindingly fast super-soldier who is tasked with defending everything America holds dear from the advances of evil Russian space-robots.
If that last line didn't already clue you in, the story of Vanquish isin a wordlaughable. The story has received no care or polish; it is essentially a hastily written series of excuses that is designed to get Sam from set-piece to set-piece. Character development is nonexistent outside of brief character bios during the loading screen, which should tell you how much work went into the story of this game. The dialogue is a little better, with Sam popping the occasional witty one-liner, but it's not anything you're going to remember for more than five minutes after turning the console off. However, Vanquish's writing deficiencies don't end up taking away much from the game because the real star of the show is the gameplay.
Once you get used to the game's controls, Vanquish is a blast to play. You'll zip around your enemies, moving seamlessly from cover to cover. You'll be thrown up against endless volleys of bullets, rockets, and grenades, but the boosters in Sam's suit enable you to dodge all of them with style to boot. When things get a little too fast, you can temporarily slow time down to a crawl and empty a few clips into your enemies without fearing immediate retribution. Depending on what weapon you have armed at the time, you can throw out a devastating array of melee attacks that range from boost-assisted uppercut kicks to flurries of punches.
In a refreshing turn away from modern action games, Vanquish doesn't hold your hand and isn't afraid to challenge you as a player. The brief tutorial only scratches the surface of the intricacies of the combat system and then tosses you out into the frenzy of combat. I wasn't impressed at first and even got frustrated with the game a few times in the early going, but I found my enjoyment rocketing upwards as I played further and cut my teeth on the combat system. There is a surprising amount of depth to the combat system; players are unlikely to discover all of its idiosyncrasies within a single playthrough.
The core gameplay is very well polished and thought-out as a whole, leaving me with only a few complaints to mention. Fitting with the more difficult nature of the game, Vanquish punishes the player for dying by sapping away the player's weapon upgrades the first time they reload a particular checkpoint. This has the effect of making the gameplay even more thrilling, since death is that much scarier, but it also has the obnoxious effect of making the game more difficult when you're struggling. Although it is a much smaller quibble, I bemoaned the lack of an aiming system for grenades. This greatly reduces their effectiveness since Sam just hurls the grenade as hard as he can. leaving the player to guesstimate where exactly the grenade's going to land.
The largest stumbling block for Vanquish is the tragically short length of the campaign. It's a lot of fun while it lasts, but you can easily beat it in 4-5 hours. You can always replay the campaign on a higher difficulty setting or try out the game's Challenge mode, but it's no replacement for a more lengthy campaign. Additionally, what little story the game has is incomplete and abruptly ends with painfully little resolution. It feels as if the developers just didn't have the time to make the campaign as long as they'd like, and so they ended up shelving the rest of the game for a sequel.
Graphically, Vanquish is excellent with plenty of gorgeous special effects and expansive vistas to feast your eyes on, but it does come with a few problems. The scenery in the space colony is beautifully rendered, but much it quickly gets old since so many of the environments are the same sterile and bland futuristic architecture you've already seen fifty times before in the game. Considering the amount of things that are happening on-screen at any given time, Vanquish does an admirable job of keeping the frame-rate steady, but it does plunge occasionally.
At its current price point of $20, I'd give Vanquish a firm thumbs-up for anyone who is interested in a blazing-fast shooter that stands out among the endless stream of generic third-person action games. A complex but satisfying combat system and eye-popping graphics combine to make Vanquish a complete blast to play. The disappointingly short campaign leaves you craving more, but the four hours you spend tearing apart robots reaching that point are more than enough to justify the cost of admission.
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