Last generation, you may remember what was originally referred to as the “Capcom 5” – five games intended to be Nintendo GameCube-exclusive. Well, over time only one remained exclusive, P.N.03 from producer Shinji Mikami, the father of Resident Evil. Sadly, the game flopped, which is likely why it never left the GameCube. I was one of few who enjoyed the game, but it obviously didn’t reach its full potential. Enter: Vanquish. The few of you who played P.N.03 will notice some family resemblance thanks to clear influences from modern third-person shooters, like Gears of War, ironically influenced by past work by Mr. Mikami on Resident Evil 4.
Gears of War on fast-forward. Make no mistake, I love Gears, but not controlling a tank character. Vanquish addresses that by pouring on the speed. You play as Sam Gideon, operator of an experimental suit that significantly enhances the abilities of the wearer. Sam gains greater strength and reflexes, while boosters on the suit allow him to slide and dash around the battlefield with ease. Zipping from cover to cover, while popping up to blast a foe or deliver a melee attack is incredibly fun.
It’s a thrill to string attacks in interesting ways. Combined with Sam’s lightning speed, you can use the suit in some cool ways to engage a version of bullet-time (of course). Leaping over cover, you can slow things down and easily pick off a couple enemies before hitting the ground and dashing up to the next foe to deliver a deadly melee blow.
+ Great graphics. Vanquish takes place aboard a space station taken over by evil Russians equipped with an army of robot soldiers. This would lend to the notion of environmental repetition, but the galactic setting is home to an entire colony, which actually means we enjoy variety instead. The textures and detail are great, and the frame rate rarely suffers despite the blistering pace. Surely a lot of work went into polishing Vanquish.
+ Challenging, but not cheap. This is a gripe I have with many recent games. Vanquish has a very old-school feel to it, but it’s not just about the gameplay. You’re awarded points which can increase by stringing kills together and finishing enemies quickly, but you lose them for dying. Boss battles are epic. Everything is posted to leaderboards, meaning there’s always someone to best score-wise. It’s about striving to do better and testing your skills, as we did in the classic eras. The challenge I think overshadows the lack of multiplayer. It reinforces what the game intended to do from the start.
± A story that rides the fence. There are basically two ways to look at it. Vanquish is either intentionally odd and corny with its Japanese dialog, and classic over-the-top sci-fi ridiculous (what I think the game thrives on). or completely irritating…making the game’s cut-scenes unbearable to watch. I’m in the camp of the former, but take the story as you will. At least there’s a bit more to it than just Russians and robots. It’s not entirely two-dimensional, but it’s close.
– Short campaign. It’s the game’s harshest disappointment because the action is easy to love as you look forward to battling that next crazy baddie. But the credits roll all too soon. During my first play-through on Normal I finished in a little over five hours. While times will vary, expect something in that ballpark. Vanquish I think needs to be played more than once, but if you’re not the type to do so, then wait before putting up the cash to buy it.
Vanquish is hardly original, but it adds flavor to third person shooters, putting an Eastern twist on a very popular Western genre. Yet you may just want to rent it, borrow from a friend, or wait for a price drop. Only die-hard gamers are likely to put down the money right away, and I did, not feeling cheated in the least. Vanquish is undeniably fun, and something I think any serious gamer should at least try some time.