I do apologize for not having written anything in almost two months. Although I have been playing my fair share of games, I don’t necessarily feel 2011 is starting off as hot as I would have liked.
One of those games I’ve been playing (and playing over) is Vanquish, Sega’s attempt at a Western-style third-person shooter a la Gears of War. It was developed by Platinum Games, makers of Bayonetta (played by millions) and Madworld (played by three people). I only played Bayonetta as a demo and while I did get a kick out of it, at the time I didn’t feel it was for me. It’s pretty cheap now, so maybe I’ll give it a go.
Vanquish is the story of a group of Russian ultranationalists (videogames’ new Third Reich apparently) who annihilate San Francisco and seize an American space colony, demanding the surrender of the United States government and oh really who cares? Let’s kill robots!
Yes, in what seems to be a subversion of sorts from other action games that wage virtual human against virtual human, Vanquish launches its own Judgment Day and decides humans should be fighting robots. The Russians have robots, lots and lots of robots. The US has DARPA, the Marines, and Sam Gideon, who the player will be controlling for the duration of this war. Sam is testing DARPA’s new fancy Augmented Reaction Suit that they dreamed up after watching the Iron Man movies far too many times. This suit is so advanced and cutting-edge that throwing a punch overheats the suit, taking too many hits overheats the suit, it allows Sam to
fly skate around with boosters on his feet (ROCKET SKATES!), and did I mention throwing a punch overheats the suit? To be fair, he’s using the suit’s boosters to really drive the point home.
More or less the moment you take control of Sam, you’re in what is typically referred to as “bullet hell.” The robots are everywhere firing at you and your squadmates. Sam is armed with a number of weapons, although to be frank I pretty much ran through Vanquish twice with mostly the assault rifle and heavy machine gun. Along the way, you’ll find green cubes that allow you to upgrade the weapon, allowing for more ammo and greater firepower. In a nice addition, if your weapon is fully loaded, picking up the same weapon also upgrades it one rank.
Vanquish features that oh-so-familar cover system that you probably won’t be using that much if at all. Sam’s rocket skates allow him to glide all over the area and fire at enemies. When he does this, he enters into the Augmented Reaction mode, which is the nerdy way of saying “bullet time.” Everything slows down, allowing you, and thus Sam, to get better aiming at his foes without them ever getting a chance to turn their guns to you. Of course, do this for too long and the suit overheats. When the suit overheats, you better take cover immediately because those bullets WILL find you and the game does that annoying thing games do when you take damage, the screen turns red and starts having a seizure. Why do games do this? Hey, your screen is turning redder and redder and pulsing like the human body does! Although it’s now harder for you to see the screen and make out the situation to devise a quick strategic retreat, it’s just going to keep doing this until — ahh, there we go. Dead. Enjoy making up the last twenty minutes!
Speaking of those twenty minutes, it wouldn’t be a Japanese game without ridiculously cheap boss battles! I originally ran through Vanquish on Normal mode, and even then it was pretty damned tough. When I fought the first sub-boss, I was doing pretty well. The bosses have glowing parts that scream “PLEASE SHOOT HERE!” so that their core opens up for the smacking. I had almost taken him out, and then he shot what would be Iron Man’s chest beam times a thousand and boom, I am dead. Despite having destroyed the giant robot’s legs, I had to do it all over. 20 to 25 minutes gone. It wasn’t like the boss was difficult, either. The bosses are bullet sponges for the most part. Hell, it happened AGAIN when I had to fight two of them AT ONCE. Japanese developers love to do that, because they’re sadists. The strange thing is that you will fight some tough bosses, but the final boss is actually a piece of cake.
Vanquish is a pretty fun game for the most part, especially if you don’t think too much about it. I mean, you’re shooting robots in third-person with a regular assault rifle (or a rocket launcher, the “LFE Gun” that shoots like an energy bubble at enemies). It’s not new. In fact, it should be pretty stale, but I loved what a mess the battlefield was and how crazy the fights got. Marines get shot down, and if they’re hurting Sam can revive them for bonus ammo and new weapons. I ended up saving like 10 of 80 or so wounded. I wish the robots had been programmed not to shoot at people being treated like in World War II.
It can have some serious frustration at hand, but Vanquish both drove me crazy and entertained the heck out of me.
Do I have to start scoring things now? I guess if that’s how this goes now. 4 out of 5!