With action-packed, blood-soaked hack-and-slash titles like “Mad World” and “Bayonetta” on their resume, Sega and Platinum Games have proven themselves adept at embodying the proud tradition of stylishly dismembering bad guys into small, gory chunks in video games. However, each time they imbue their game with a unique flair to distinguish it from competing franchises like “Ninja Gaiden” or “Devil May Cry”.
“Mad World” utilized a Sin City-esque color palette of black and white, and “Bayonetta” had its protagonist use her hair as a weapon and clothes. “Vanquish” has jet boosters and machine guns, and are they awesome to play with. Well, until the game ends seven hours later at least.
“Vanquish” entertains a bare bones narrative that barely functions as a tenuous link between the game’s set pieces, but come on, you’re not going to purchase “Vanquish” expecting a Shakespearian epic. All you need to know is that Russian terrorists have hijacked a space station and it’s up to Sam Gideon, a total badass, experimenting with an equally badass battle suit called the Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS), to save the day.
To call “Vanquish” a fast-paced, third-person shooter wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate, but it also doesn’t give Sega’s latest the credit it deserves. Yes, you control the action from a third-person point of view and can take cover while shooting it with enemies using an assortment of high powered firearms, ranging from assault rifles to rail guns. And yes, the game moves at such an accelerated pace that it makes “Gears of War” look like a herd of grazing elephants.
What makes “Vanquish” so stunning is its stylish presentation. Whether you’re using your suit to rocket from one source of cover to another or trading gunfire with a dozen different enemies, all the action on screen unfolds so smoothly that it’s easy to be enraptured by the beauty of all the chaos and destruction you’re creating. Killing enemies and clearing the level as quickly as possible is the key to racking up high scores, and the faster you dismantle the opposition, the more like an omnipotent machine of death and destruction you feel.
On top of all that, “Vanquish” throws more explosive set pieces at you than a Michael Bay film on steroids. Half the fun of these sequences is being taken aback by how ostentatious and over-the-top they are, so I’ll let you discover them on your own. Just be prepared for your jaw to drop when you encounter the slew of thrilling combat scenarios in the middle of which “Vanquish” drops you.
The only time the game really slows down is when you’re almost dead. If you take too much damage, the ARS suit activates a slow-motion effect, giving you a few seconds to either take out your assailants or find some cover. Even with this crutch, though, dying is fairly common, even on medium difficulty. A humiliating death is usually only one screw up away, and the game’s exciting (and periodically frustrating) boss fights are equally unrelenting.
The only real gripe I had about “Vanquish” is that it’s too short. Even with the game’s challenge modes adding some replay value, the intense roller coaster of a ride that “Vanquish” takes you on seems to end far too soon.
The game clocks in at seven to eight hours to complete (more if you enjoy striving to top the leader boards with your high scores). However, the odd thing is that’s not that uncharacteristic of games these days. It’s on the short side, granted, but the disappointment directed at “Vanquish’s” length is also a testament to how much fun it is as well. Time flies when you’re having a blast.
“Vanquish” is very much like a summer action flick. The story won’t make a lick of sense and the experience is over before you know it, but the important thing is that it’s fast, it’s flashy, and it’s packed with so much awesome, frenetic action that your eyes will have trouble believing what they’re seeing.
Final Score: B
Developer: Platinum Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Release Date: 10.19.2010