Vanquish - Stylish But Flawed!

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Vanquish is an action game with tons of flair. It takes the over-the-top antics from games like Bayonetta, and fuses it with cover based run-and-gun gameplay from Gears of War, to create a highly enjoyable and stylish shooter. Unfortunately it’s also hampered by a bunch of issues that prevent it from becoming a must-own title.

Three's a crowd

Vanquish takes place in the near future as America is under siege from terrorist Soviet forces that have already annihilated San Francisco. As the fate of all America hangs in the balance, you come in as Sam Gideon, a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) Agent who along with his nifty ARS (Augmented Reaction Suit) is tasked with saving the day and apprehending all those who oppose Uncle Sam. Vanquish isn’t particularly heavy on the plot and none of its pivotal characters are very likable. Sam himself comes off as a Solid Snake wannabe who always seems like he’s growling or maybe has a really bad throat, thanks to all the cigarettes he keeps smoking. And then you have Colonel Burns, an angry, grizzled war veteran who wields a gun bigger than himself. The game tries really hard to maintain some sort of banter between the two but it never quite works – on any level.

The bigger they are...

So anyway, it’s a given that you won’t be playing Vanquish for a riveting plot. What you’ll be interested in is the action and that, ladies and gentleman, is available in spades. Sam’s fancy suit allows him to literally slide all over the battlefield and shooting enemies while sliding slows time down allowing players to pick off their targets with relative ease and style. Slide up real close to an enemy and you can leap off it (in slow motion) by quickly pressing the melee key, showering it in a hail of bullets on your way down. The game even throws you a bone when you’re about to die by automatically slowing time down, allowing you to narrowly dodge death. Slowing time down, using melee attacks and dodging deaths all overheat the suit which then requires a short cool down period. During this period Sam is extremely vulnerable so hiding behind cover then would be an excellent idea. Initially this won’t pose a threat but as you progress through the game and the difficulty ramps up, things get pretty intense and you constantly have to make a conscious effort to keep your (suit) cool (and I’m being quite literal here).
While this mechanic works well for most of the game, Vanquish does fall prey to the dreaded “Repetitive Gameplay Syndrome” (yeah I made that up) pretty often. Some truly memorable set-pieces aside, Vanquish does end up feeling like a one trick pony where you’ll be sliding, slowing time down, clearing an area and moving on, to do the exact same thing. Levels too aren’t drastically different from each other and pretty soon you’ll tire of seeing the same generic war-torn industrial battlefield over and over again.

Does this tickle?

Repetition raises its ugly head once again as far as boss battles are concerned and you’ll find yourself going up against the same boss multiple times throughout the campaign. What’s worse is that you kill the boss the exact same way every single time, making it an utter chore. And what’s worse than killing the same boss over and over again? Killing the same boss over and over again only to have him pull some sort of cheap trick towards the end of the fight like explode or release a million rockets. This, of course, kills you instantly forcing you to undergo this drudgery once again. And finally we come to the grunts and mini-bosses that are repeated in nearly every level with a few variants thrown in along the way.

Yes my knees do hurt occasionally

Visually, Vanquish is very appealing to the eye and it performs flawlessly throughout all the hectic action. The suit itself is extremely well detailed and even though the game world may end up looking a bit monotonous, it does look good. What’s truly impressive are some of the backdrops that convey the feeling of being in a large futuristic war a la Killzone 2. Even the set-pieces I spoke of earlier play out marvelously, and could easily rival those of Uncharted 2.

Taking cover is essential to survive

Vanquish has no multiplayer so the only thing left for you to do is replay the game or indulge in some of the Challenges. Challenges are unlocked as you play through the single player campaign and in each one of them you’ll fight an increasingly tougher wave of enemies till you or they die. Thanks to an in-game scoring mechanic pretty much everything you do in the game will earn you some sort of a score which you can then upload online and see where you stand among friends and random gamers. Treat Vanquish as just as a cover based shooter and you won’t earn as many points as you would if you killed people stylishly. One may argue that this could be motivation enough for playing though the game multiple times but honestly speaking that’s a thought that doesn’t really appeal to me. It’s not because Vanquish is a bad game by any stretch of imagination; it is in fact a highly enjoyable and kinetic shooter backed by gorgeous visuals and rock solid gameplay. Unfortunately repetition is a major buzz kill which is why I cannot blindly recommend the game. Buy it only if you’re the patient kind.

Published Date: Nov 03, 2010 09:32 am | Updated Date: Nov 03, 2010 09:32 am