GM Review: Vanquish – Insanely Awesome

It’s been quite a while since I had played anything like Vanquish, it reminded me of mindless fun, fast and frenetic action sequences done right and a sense of urgency touching your mind throughout the course of the campaign. I can’t relate this qualities with any recent games and it reminded me of classic Japanese action games of past. Vanquish is as close to experiencing a rush of adrenaline as you experience when you enter a roller-coaster ride for the first time in your life. The game’s not without flaws but it’s this sense of satisfaction and action that drives it to deliver as good an experience as any solid shooter game ever made

You’re Sam Gideon, a researcher over at DARPA equipped with a cutting-edge tech developed ARS suit (Augmented-Reaction Suit). You find yourself in the middle of a conspiracy which saw the demise of one of the biggest cities of U.S (San Francisco) and a Russian assault on the country by a madmen known as Zaitsev which can only end in disaster.  You are briefed to assist a group of trained soldiers led by a war-hero, Burns in a mission to stop the Russians from doing to New York what they did to SF and are sent to an Orbital Space Station, Providence, unjustly held captive by them.

I know all of these sound as being a typical Sci-Fi setting and to be honest, that’s what the story exactly is- typical Sci-Fi stuff. However, that’s hardly going to deter any of the action that awaits you once the game kicks off. You’re sent to the space station in order to test out the ARS’s battle-readiness and test it out you will!

Vanquish picks up right from the start as you’re flanked by 100s of Robots on top of the space station, Sam must use all the features that his ARS comes with if he’s to survive but thankfully, it packs quiet a punch. The ARS comes equipped with a bevy of features to helps you in combat and they go a long way in making the game one of the best action games out there. All your weapons are scanned and created in real time and you can swap through them at will (although only three can be stored in your memory at once), the suit also has a heartbeat detection system and if Sam’s in a near death condition, it enables a “bullet time” styled slow-mo sequence where you can quickly search for cover to take headshots at the enemies which pushed you into this state.  This will prove to be a life-saver throughout the game.

The most interesting feature however, is the boost system, Sam can use it to zoom through the area and take cover,  shoot at enemies and heal downed allies at lighting fast pace. At first glance I was a bit cynical about how it can be implemented but soon I realized how dull the game would have been without it. The boost function lends the game the flair and frantic pace that makes it so good. It might take a while for getting used to it but once you’re familiar, there’s no looking back.

Coming to the gameplay side of things, Vanquish truly manages to get the “action” formula right. You would never feel like things are getting too monotonous or boring as you will be constantly put to test with not a second to rest. The fact that the campaign is divided into acts with 5 parts each and at the end of each section, there’s a boss fight also helps a great deal in keeping things interesting. The boss-battles are the USP of the game as each one requires a different strategy and you will have a lot of fun figuring those out.

One might feel that Vanquish can get too hard at times, especially the boss-sections as you get killed instantly by them if you’re hit you. However, that’s the beauty of Vanquish and if you play close attention you will know that the game’s not unbalanced and you just need to follow the cues provided in battle  or find the “weak spots” to strike as the game itself proclaims that “no robotic design is perfect”. These features manage to keep things fresh and you will be glued to the action throughout the campaign.

Another awesome aspect of the game is its arsenal of cool and effective weapons. The weapons are a whole lot of fun and can be upgraded as well thanks to the game’s simple yet effective upgrade system. Apart from the usual assault rifle and shotgun, you get to wield some very interesting ones as well like the auto-locking laser cannon and EMP gun which are really useful in certain places. All the weapons are infact effective in certain sections more than others and this again lends the game that extra-bit of intensity since you need to be careful how you approach different situations as you won’t be able to survive long without doing so.

The game also has a melee system but it’s fairly disappointing as doing a melee attack drains you out of all your energy which can get you killed more often than not. I don’t really approve of this gameplay element and wish that  they would done it differently. A certain weapon allows you to melee without this outcome though and that somewhat prevents the melee system from being totally wasted. The same can’t be said for the game’s cover system however as it’s one of the best I have seen this generation, you can practically take cover behind any object present in-game and it plays a vital role in the gameplay as you will need to utilize the cover available to you if you want to survive for long amidst all the danger and threats surrounding you.

Another amazing aspect of Vanquish is the setpieces it provides you with, Often you will find yourself in midst of falling wreckage or inside a gigantic mechanical being while at other times you will have to brave moving platforms, trains and warehouses . These kind of intense setpieces does a lot to keep you on your toes and you won’t be able to leave the game without completing  what you’re engaged with as it manages to take hold of you throughout the game. The game also rewards you with points for completing each level that lends it an arcadey feel which I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of and I always wanted to score more points in the next section just for the heck of it.

The visuals of Vanquish are a mixed bag, some sections like the artificial foliage one lacks the amount of the detail that the game otherwise boasts of but when it comes to replicating the chaos and sci-fi setting that the Providence is supposed to have, Vanquish does the mighty fine job, another remarkable thing is that the game didn’t even encounter a single frame drop once in my playthrough even though there’s so much happening around you all the time.

If there’s something which totally falls low compared to everything else in the game, it’s the story. The story and characters of Vanquish doesn’t really make an impact on you and sometimes you feel that they are there just for the sake of it, although the backdrop is meant to be hugely emotional, with the fate of a nation being on the line, you will hardly feel any connection and most of the characters doesn’t really connect with you. Thankfully, Sam manages to do otherwise and you will feel like as you have been put into his shoes, overall, however, the story could have been done in a much better fashion and is surely the sore point of a otherwise brilliant game.

I have heard people complain that the game’s too short and that’s laughable to be honest. If you play this game on easy, yes, it can be beaten under five hours but play on medium or hard and it will provide you about 8 hours of playtime and considering the amount of thrills and action that the game comes with, that’s more than enough to merit a full purchase. The game also unlocks challenge modes which are pure mayhem and will provide you with another few hours of playtime.

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