Vanquish ヴァンキッシュ is an action packed third-person shooter, recently released this October for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Basically Metal Gear Solid and Halo combined with some knee sliding and slow motion, but no sneaking and no vehicles.
Developed by Platiinum Games and published by Sega, Vanquish was directed by Shinji Mikami 三上真司, best known for the creation of the Resident Evil series.
Taking place in the future, you control Sam Gideon (Voiced by Gideon Emery, wondering did they take the game name from his name?) who is equipped with a battle suit named ARS (Augmented Reaction Suit), Which basically gives you some special abilities, such as slowing down time, and sliding around on your knees like a crazed rocker. You are tasked with infiltrating a space colony to battle Russians and rescue a genius professor. So, this game isn’t short on cliché plots whatsoever.
The ARS suit looks suspiciously similar to the Halo armor but without the shiny orange visor and also looks similar to the suits Gray Fox, Raiden and Olga wear in MGS, but then again it must be difficult to come up with an original design these days, and the design looks quite good for Vanquish.
The game introduces you with an orbital attack on San Francisco, and the American Hillary Clinton lookalike giving a speech about not giving in to enemies. Then you’re whisked into space, and a load of spaceships are attacking a space colony. The game introduces the main character and his Santa Claus sidekick and some other scenes and you set off.
I love the first opening piece of game play in Vanquish, you’re basically running down a corridor as soldiers get jettisoned into space to die, and there’s nothing you can do, except run down the end of the corridor and exit, that’s it. A completely insane opening room.
The game is visually impressive, and for once loading times are incredibly fast for such a game. You’re given little bits of text which give an overview for different things in the world to read on each loading screen, and the game actually loads before you can read all of it.
One of the things you’ll notice about this game, is how it’s trying to be Metal Gear Solid in many aspects. And I don’t just mean how the main character’s English voice sounds exactly like David Hayter who voiced Solid Snake. There’s also the way the character is constantly smoking, DARPA being heavily involved, the main character having his visor assemble and unassembled constantly for cut scenes; a bit like the battle suits used by people throughout MGS, and just the general feel of the game is similar; how they’ve included cut-scenes and driven game play. Apparently the game was also inspired by Casshern, so I guess it’s possible Casshern itself partly influenced MGS.
It is possible the game took its influences from the same places MGS took its influences and Vanquish just ended up being similar. But one other reason might be the fact that Metal Gear is insanely popular in the West, they probably realized they could mimic it, since they can’t really mimic Resident Evil’s survival horror nature in a fast paced futuristic game filled with explosions. Maybe it’s also partly due to the fact that one of the writers is an American, Jean Pierre Kellams, whose job specifically involves helping bridge the gap between the Japanese and Western market for release.
One thing that annoys me is why we are always fighting robots in these games. Why do the Russians have an endless army of robots anyway? And why do the Americans have none? Your human squad mates in the game are insanely useless, they literally do nothing, just seem to fire off ammo about randomly without killing anything. In cut scenes, you’re constantly having to save them, for them to die the next cut scene after having done nothing anyway.
Another important question is: Why does one of the characters look like Santa on steroids?
And also why is the major antagonist, one of the most outrageously camp, effeminate bad guys since Kefka from Final Fantasy 6? Is this another attempt to copy MGS with a Liquid Snake type of character? I was constantly wondering when I’d see a floating guy in a gimp suit and gasmask.
The inclusion of a female president for the Americans was annoyingly cliché, it’s the future! That means America has a female president!
The game is filled with terrible one liners throughout the cut scenes, I think some writers just don’t understand when to use one liners at all, you’re supposed to use them to extenuate an amazing visual scene, either to lead into it, or lead out of it. They aren’t for putting into every cut scene you make to create conversations.
If you’re trying to aim and one of your squad mates is in the way, your character will constantly exclaim, “Get out of the way” in an annoyed voice. It’s funny at first, but after the millionth time, it gets annoying.
Without doubt, the coolest part of the game is the slow motion and speed sliding as I’ll call it. You can basically boost yourself about at a fast speed, and also use slow motion, either whilst boosting, when you use the dodge button, or when you hit low health. It’s a cool feature, not necessarily original, but the way they’ve implemented it makes the game fun, and it’s controlled by a limitation of energy in the suit which recharges.
One thing that is incredibly annoying however, is the weapon system, your suit uses a system called B.L.A.D.E, basically it remembers weapons and creates them in a cool creation assembly animation. However your suit only remembers 3 weapons at a time, WHY? I don’t understand why they’ve limited it, it just ends up being really annoying. I don’t see any reason to limit it to 3 weapons for gameplay, and it doesn’t make sense that such an advanced suit wouldn’t have the “memory” to store more. Yet it can wipe its memory and switch about different designs at the flick of a button. If you’re a bit too trigger happy you can easily end up without any ammo in a boss fight and after the couple of refills littered about the battleground, you’ll run out of any options to defeat the boss, which is frustrating.
The camera can also become a bit annoying in the game, with stuff flying about all over the place, but I guess that’s the limitation of 3rd person and a console controller, not much you can do about it.
Other annoying things are the suicide robots, if you leave an enemy robot on low health long enough or possible it might be a chance, they’ll turn into a flashing beeping ball and roll about ready to explode, you’ll usually die in one hit.
Your suit glows different colors to indicate its level of health, essentially you just kind of have a limit to how much burst damage you can take and you recharge up after. It would have been better with recharge points, and a set health, rather than the insta-kill suicide robots and then seamlessly easy firefights where you can just duck into cover for some time to recharge. Although for a challenge, I guess it’s solved by putting the game on a harder difficulty mode.
At least they did include some explosive weapons on bosses and other enemies, which will hurt you even if you sit in cover to make the game a bit more challenging, they are however usually accompanied with a noise of some kind to signal they are firing their big dirty attack.
They seem to love elevators in this game, probably another thing they learnt from MGS to include.
I love how some scenes give an excuse for going no further, “Those robots are jamming our frequencies, so we can’t proceed till you kill them”, oh no, not our frequencies, whatever shall we do without radio frequencies?????????
One major improvement I would have advised for this game, is to have made the cast of character much bigger and richer, you’re basically limited to 3 guys on your side (Solid Snake wannabe, Santa Claus on steroids and obligatory genius hot girl, 1 bad guy (Super camp Russian guy), 1 president who’s hardly seen and 1 guy you need to save (Otacon wannabe anyone?). If they had given you a big squad of cool guys to go in with and a big group of bad guys, everyone with different suits and different abilities, and then you split up etc, and one betrays you etc, and one is a love interest etc, it would have still been cliché, but it would have at least been 100 times more interesting than the limited amount of characters in the game. Why couldn’t they have taken that idea from MGS!?!
So this game isn’t really original at all in the writing department, and every scene seems clichéd to hell. Which is disappointing, because the longer you play, the more the game grows on you, and the more enjoyable it is. So I doubt Vanquish can establish itself as a successful series mainly because of its lack of originality, but maybe that wasn’t the intention anyway. Maybe the intention was just to create a one off fast paced shooter, and they wanted to play it safe in the writing department.
The game is fun after a few hours of gameplay, so at least they’ve got that sorted out. It’s visually impressive, but then that’s not too special in today’s market, it’s still a positive though. There’s some cool scenes of falling buildings and robots, so some of the design is cool. But the problems of unoriginal ideas, a crappy character lineup and some annoying gameplay inclusions stop the game from being amazing. Most of the problems wouldn’t of been too difficult to fix, but maybe they fell under time constraints and had plans to improve it but couldn’t.
I do recommend buying the game, especially if you like shooters and futuristic games. There are some really amazing levels, so respect goes to the level designer for Vanquish. Some of the weapons are pretty cool, and the Assault Rifle has to have the most aesthetically pleasing sounds and rate of fire in the history of shooting games. But the game is basically relying on the kind of people that buy MGS to buy Vanquish, which is probably why they’ve copied it at every opportunity. I guess they thought they could get away with it by being in space, but then that’s just copying Gundam and countless other Mecha animes instead!!!!
Overall – 7/10
Graphics – 9/10
Gameplay – 7/10
Music – 7/10
Originality – 5/10
Plot – 5/10
SFX – 8/10
Characters – 6/10
Challenge to Complete – 7/10