|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Platinum Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sega||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 19, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
When Mega Man and Dead Rising creator Keiji Inafune said that Japanese games in development today were awful, and that the game industry was five years behind at this years Tokyo Game Show, he was referring to the seeming lack of innovative ideas coming out of Japan today.
Inafune has a point; these days its no easy task to ignore the near-endless waves of cookie-cutter action titles, blasé anime-inspired niche strategy games, and JRPGs that saturate the shelves of game shops both domestically as well as overseas. Of course, as a counter-argument I would posit that Western games are often just as set in their ways. As of late, the would-be solution that most Japanese developers try is to either appeal to a very specific Japanese niche market or simply take a Western approach to series both old and new. The common result of such thinkingoutsourcing well-known Japanese series to western development teamsis generally a noble attempt to breathe new life into stagnant properties, not to mention create a diversified market from which Japanese gaming giants can theoretically cull new financial lifeblood. But its often largely a business decision over a creative one, and the quality of these partnerships seems to be pretty hit-or-miss. It should come as no surprise then few games that make an honest attempt at breaching the cultural divide between East and West game design, making hybrids that draw from the best of both styles rare, to say the least. Instead we see creatively bankrupt imitations of Western design, without so much as a single original thought put forth as to how this Eastern knockoff could possibly differentiate itself culturally or innovatively from its decidedly western template (Quantum Theory, Im looking at you).
Vanquish, on the other hand, is the polar opposite of this kind of game. In an industry where Japanese developers seem desperate to try to tap into Western design sensibilities, Vanquishs one-of-a-kind take on cover shootingquite possibly one of the most static (and often bland) iterations of Western action game design to come out of the past half-decade or soisnt just a Japanese game masquerading in Western clothes. Its Western game made by a Japanese developer. From its style to its breakneck pace, its hybrid philosophy is as much Robotech as it is Gears, borrowing some basic western shooter tenets and sprucing them up in a way that arguably only a Japanese developer could. Vanquish is the result of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikamis desire to make a pure action game, and it really is a product of two worlds.
On the surface, Vanquish probably most closely resembles a cross between Gears of War and an anime-influenced Halo, given the sleek, cybernetic suit worn throughout the game by Sam Gideon, a highly-trained DARPA operative. But its not really a cover shooter, or even a standard one. Youll have to make use of cover from time to time, but the frenetic pacing here means youre going to be zipping around aboard a massive, war-torn space station using a slide maneuver thats something like a cross between in-line grinding in an extreme sports game and continuous dashing as seen in mech titles like Virtual-On. Sam can slide across a battlefield in a matter of seconds, making wide swaths around enemies while targeting them or flying into cover practically on a dime. While the slide will make your suit overheat, you wont be running around like a normal soldier very muchat least not if you want to stay alive. In terms of pure control, Sams suit feels closest to the orbital frames in Zone of The Enders, specializing in fluid maneuvers that give Vanquish a high-octane feel. All the anime influence is still layered on top of pretty standard run, duck, and gun mechanics, but the fast pace of the battles here barely resemble the comparative plodding pacing of most cover shooters.
Speed is only half of the equation, though. Sams Augmented Reactive Suit (ARS) also lets him distort the battlefield environment around him, essentially slowing down time. This so-called AR mode is basically Vanquishs version of bullet-time, but Mikami and company designed Vanquish so that youll need to use it in conjunction with your speed-based evasive and tactical capabilities, giving the mechanic a distinct feel. You can activate AR mode after performing a dodge roll, leaping over cover, or sliding in any direction. Being able to slow time to a crawl while jetting across an open path in battle (while gunning down a host of enemies in your wake) is as effective as it is a blast to perform (or even just to watch). When it comes to action, Vanquish will spoil you: youre just going to want to slide around with the speed and agility you have here in every other action game after you play this one.