Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review #121: Vanquish

 It's all about them Space Marines.
 About four years ago, Sega released the Platinum Games' developed game Vanquish, a game that was touted as being the evolution of the third person shooter genre. While time has proven that statement overblown, how well does the game fare today?

 The game takes place far into the future, where Rusia has invaded and taken control of a North American Satellite that doubles as a weapon of mass destruction. As Sam Gideon, an ex-quarterback turned space-marine, you are equipped with the ARS(Augment Reaction Suit), an armor that allows for fast movement and enhanced reflexes(AKA Slo-mo), you are tasked to save Dr. Francois Candide from the Russians. The story is pretty cliched, with twists that you'll see coming a mile away, and the dialogue is downright terrible, typical action-movie stuff. The game is surprisingly cinematic, with a ton of cutscenes between and during chapters, they look fairly cool for the most time.
 Luckily, story is the last thing you'd play Vanquish for, its gameplay is where it's at. At its core, it's a third-person action shooter set in space, a dime a dozen, but it introduces a couple of gimmicks that make it unique. The ARS allows Sam to slide at frenetic speeds through the battlefield, how long you can slide is determined by a gauge on the bottom right corner of the screen, deplete it and the suit will over heat. There are two other actions that deplete the gauge, entering slo-mo, by dodging and then holding down the aim button, or using a powerful melee attack. The gauge also acts as a safety net of sorts, you don't get a health bar, instead the game uses the now obligatory regenerative health, if you take lethal damage, the game will slow down for as long as you have energy left, allowing you to easily dispatch of the aggressors or run into cover, as soon as the slo-mo ends you'll be in Overheat status. Overheat is something that you want to avoid, as you won't be able to dash, use melee attacks or slow down time, even worse, if you receive too much damage while Overheated, you will die. While the controls are extremely responsive, sometimes when slowing down time when aiming, soldiers, objects from the stage or even Sam himself will stand over your aiming reticule, making it hard to aim. It didn't happen too often, but enough to be worth mentioning. All in all, it's a very engaging mechanic, as you will want to make the most of your suit while being careful of when to push it.

 You can take with you up to three different weapons, from a total of 8(11 if you purchase the DLC), they all fill very gratifying to use, and you can upgrade them as you go through the game. Dying actually resets back one level every weapon, it only happens upon your first death on a chapter, but it actually encourages to play carefully if you want to keep them! Almost every stage has you allied with some space-marines, they are not a huge asset, but they can draw enemy fire, and if you revive them before they fully die, they will drop a weapon refill for you. Interestingly, while the game encourages you to zip around your enemies with the slide mechanic, the game offers a very functional cover system, if you so wanted to, you could play this game as you would any other third person shooter. Regardless, the game feels very arcadey, with a score based grading, which I really liked.
 On the Normal difficulty the game packs a decent challenge, but the unlockable God Hard difficulty will test even the most hardcore third person shooter enthusiast. While the game is a bit short, 7 or so hours on your first playthrough, not skipping cutscenes and figuring stuff out for the first time(Like those annoying enemies that have one hit kills!), further playthroughs will probably slim down to 2-4 hours depending on how good you are, although 4 hours will be impossible on God Hard mode! After each chapter you unlock Challenge missions, there's 6 of them, and they are all pretty challenging, but pretty fun as you must destroy waves upon waves of enemies, these fights are more intense than the skirmishes you'll face on the main game.

 The graphics are fairly good on a technical level, but characters look extremely generic. Space-marines look like any other game's space-marines, there's not a whole lot of enemy variety, the common robots you face also lack personality, even if they are colored according to their behavior(Reds are common grunts, oranges tend to stay back and blues will dash towards you). On the other hand, Sam and his ARS look extremely cool and do stand out amidst the other characters. The futuristic satellite the game takes place on also looks very neat, even if it doesn't stand out too much. The soundtrack is comprised mostly of techno tracks, very fitting for the game, and while I won't be humming any track any time soon, they are not bad. Voice acting was very good, even if Sam and the rest of the marines try their hardest to sound gruff.

 Vanquish didn't sell very well, probably had to do with reviews mentioning how short it was, despite getting mostly glowing reviews. Despite its length, Challenge mode does make up for it, and the mechanics are very solid, with just a little issue that sometimes popped up when aiming. While it wasn't the future of the genre, it does stand out against the others when i.
 8.0 out of 10.

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