Every so often a game comes along that looks for all the world like it’s yet another boring spin on an established trope. Its arrival is greeted with a series of yawns and snide remarks. The game then proceeds to blow your mind into a thousand little pieces, leaving you picking your mistaken preconceptions off the floor and humbly exiting its presence while offering your sincerest apologies. Vanquish is a game like that…
I admit it; when I first saw screenshots of Vanquish I thought it was going to be a Gears Of War clone, albeit a shiny GOW clone with a protagonist that didn’t look like an NFL linebacker on horse steroids. But in my defence, this was before I knew that the developer behind it was Platinum Games – the same collection of genius nutcases who brought the world the totally bonkerooney witch tale, Bayonetta, and the blood-soaked black-and-white paean to The Running Man, MadWorld. Once I’d taken that on board, I knew that with Platinum behind it, there was only one thing that Vanquish was ever going to be: mental.
On the basis of the three titles I’ve played from Platinum Games, I can now conclude that the Japanese developer is to action games what EA Sports BIG used to be to sports games. Their M.O. is to take an established genre of game and then so completely over the top with it that the end result beggars belief. Vanquish is a pop and cover shooter. A pop and cover shooter which mixes in bullet-time, power-sliding, hand-to-hand combat and an arsenal of weapons ranging from bog-standard to utterly ridiculous. The soundtrack is a mixture of hammering gunfire and pounding techno. The hero occasionally pauses to light a cigarette, take one drag off it, flick it away and then he plunges right back into the action. The plot is sci-fi pulp hokum, but it may as well have been dumped out the back for all the player will care. This game is utterly relentless; I’m sure the experience compares favourably to the sensation of being dragged behind a speedboat. The action moves so fast, that it actually bypasses the usual considerations one usually has when playing a video game – score, story, tactics – and plugs right into the primal need to just survive. You do get a score, by the way – and it knocks off a 1,000 points every time you die.
Of course, none of this will really prepare you for the experience of actually playing Vanquish. Have a gander at the video below, would you kindly, for just a taste of the bullet maelstrom this game intends to serve up.
That is part of the first level where, believe it or not, the game is at its most restrained. Every single time you think this game has hit its limit, Vanquish cranks things up another notch. If the protagonist doesn’t get hit by a flying kitchen sink at some point, I’ll be astonished.
With Vanquish, Platinum hasn’t created their own spin on the cover shooter genre – they bloody well own it.