Review: Vanquish

John Funk | 28 Oct 2010 13:00
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In practice, this eats up your entire heat bar - no matter how full it was, and no matter how long you've been back at full health - leaving you Overheated and exposed. Ergo, if you didn't deal with whatever threats dropped you into the red during the initial time-slow, you may be worse off than you were before it all. If there was an easy way to turn off the emergency bullet-time, I certainly didn't find it, and the game doesn't make any effort to instruct you how.

This is all the worse because Vanquish is a hard game - if you were expecting leniency from the man who made Viewtiful Joe and Devil May Cry, you expected wrong. It's frenzied, it's chaotic, and you will likely get stomped/blasted/blown up by robots many, many times before you see the story to its end. Sometimes deaths will feel cheap, like you didn't have any control over them - or like you couldn't react to them in time because the system had wasted all of your bullet-time for you.

This is the crux of whether you are a gamer that will enjoy Vanquish or whether the game will make you throw your controller against a wall. If you're willing to put the time into learning the game's nuances and its systems, it - like Mikami's earlier games - is frantic, fast-paced and rewardingly stylish. If you aren't, then you're probably just going to put the game down after you die on your third boss fight for the tenth time in a row.

For most gamers, this single question is a make-or-break point. Everything else is solid - the game looks wonderful, and while the story is pretty cheesy, it's functional enough to carry you through a six-hour campaign (perhaps more or less, depending on how many times you die). There are some awe-inspiring set pieces - and what's more, occasional awe-inspiring moments that were completely unscripted.

Vanquish is an acquired taste, but if you have that taste already - or if it grows on you - it's a blast. On the other hand, if you don't have that taste, than none of the robot-face-kicking in the world will be enough to convince you to enjoy the game. Much like last year's Demons' Souls, Vanquish knows who its audience is, and if you aren't part of it then it really couldn't give a damn.

Bottom Line: Apply Devil May Cry's stylish, breakneck sensibilities to the run-duck-and-gun of Gears of War. All of the trappings are perfectly sound if not extraordinary, and despite one or two incredibly vexing design decisions, Vanquish's combat is blisteringly fast and a genuine pleasure to watch and play when it's going well - but an exercise in maddening frustration when it isn't.

Recommendation: If you like Japanese hyper-brawlers like Devil May Cry, God Hand and Bayonetta, or you're willing to give rough games a try, Vanquish might be up your alley. Otherwise, rent it for what feels like a genuinely interesting commentary from a prominent Japanese designer regarding Western-made games.

This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game.

Game: Vanquish
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: October 19th, 2010
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
Available from: Amazon (360), Amazon (PS3)

John Funk would probably have been better at Vanquish if he'd been using an Xbox 360 controller.

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