It’s the future, the Russians are upset about something, and they’ve embarked on the following three-point plan. 1) Build massive robot army. 2) Microwave entire population of San Francisco from outer space. 3) Cackle while demanding America’s unconditional surrender. Such is the scenario in Vanquish, the new sci-fi shooter from Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. Hey, he had me at “robot army”.
Vanquish is the second release from Platinum Games, the studio formed by ex-Capcom star developers, the first being berserk witch-’em-up Bayonetta. Unlike that, though, Vanquish has been lead-developed on PS3, and it shows. No disastrous loading times or fugly screen-tearing here, which is just as well given the eye-blitzing pyrotechnics tossed at you.
You in this case being Sam Gideon, geeky weapons researcher, heavy smoker, and pilot of the ARS. Arse? No, Augmented Reaction Suit – cybernetic armour that enables the wearer to rocket boost around on his knees like an eight-year-old sliding across the dancefloor at a wedding. An eight-year-old armed with a multi-lock laser rifle.
This is Mikami’s over-amped take on the cover shooter genre. Whereas games like Gears Of War and Uncharted invite you to move carefully between obstacles, whittling down the opposition with well-
placed headshots, Vanquish is… not like that.
This is a cover shooter that doesn’t really want you to use cover. What it wants you to do is jet around, backflipping past bullets and hosing down commie ‘bots with the finest selection of guns this side of Ratchet & Clank. Ideally in slo-mo.
The controls are typically crisp for a Japanese third-person game, but they’re also fairly fiddly, with almost every button used. Combined with the relentless pace, it took me until halfway through the third act (of five, Shakespeare fans) before I felt really comfortable in Sam’s ARS.
Initially there’s a disconnect between the level design and the gameplay. Environments are dotted with cover, but the best tactic is tear-arsing around like a renegade ASIMO. Once the controls click, though, this is some pretty sweet shooter sauce.
The key is mixing up slides and slo-mo without letting your ARS overheat. Eventually you’ll be able to zip in behind a boss, pound his weak spot, then zip out before he can say ‘01100110 01110101!!!!’.