Hands on with Vanquish

News Ryan Lambie 8 Sep 2010 - 15:49

Platinum Games follow up Bayonetta with the gun-crazy third-person shooter, Vanquish. And here are our hands-on impressions…

When the debut trailer for Platinum Games’ Vanquish appeared at the beginning of the year, its depiction of sleek-suited space marines fighting humongous mechs caused ripples of excitement.

And by the time the gameplay promo appeared at this year’s E3 expo, it was clear that a game was on the way that was very exciting indeed.

Best described as a combination of Gears Of War-style third-person shooting and Lost Planet-style boss battles, Vanquish has a kind of style and pace that marks it out as something more than a simple retread.

Picking up the controller for the first time, the level of detail in Vanquish’s characters and environments is immediately in evidence. The game’s heavily armoured platoon of grizzled soldiers may be the stuff of cliché, but the unmistakably Japanese design apparent in every machine and environment lifts it from the norm.

Then there’s the frenetic pace of the thing, which barely gives the player a moment to think. Where the cover-based shooter sub-genre often encourages the tactic of camping behind solid objects for extended periods of time, the open level design and aggressive nature of Vanquish’s enemies means you’re never given more than a second or two to hide before you’re set upon at from all sides.

Then there’s its interesting boost mechanic, which appears to be influenced by the iconic mechas in 80s anime Macross – holding down the L1 button allows the central character, Sam, to slide hurtle rapidly along the ground. Used tactically, it’s a neat method of skidding through open areas and quickly into cover. The downside, however, is that indiscriminate use of boost, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the turf you’re about to slide into, ends with you zooming straight into the sights of the enemy.

Most satisfyingly, boost can be combined with melee attacks to smash opponents with deliciously messy, turbo-assisted punches and kicks.

It’s shooting, however, that Sam most frequently indulges in, and Vanquish’s weapons are both meaty and satisfying. Again, there’s nothing – at least in the demo we played – that hasn’t been seen before in other games’ arsenals, but stock ordnance such as shotguns, assault rifles and grenades pack a hearty, destructive punch.

What’s most important is that Platinum has provided so many possibilities in its flexible range of mechanics. You can keep enemies at a distance, and strike from behind cover. You can rush in close and smash opponents apart with your boost-assisted melee attacks. You can take out mecha-riding enemies and commandeer their AT-ST-inspired vehicles and stomp round the play area, blasting away with your heavy artillery.

Ah yes, the mecha. Our demo ended with a vast, protracted battle with a colossal iron clad monstrosity, bristling with cannons and glowing joints just begging to be shot. It’s an absurdly over-the-top, insanely chaotic conclusion.

In terms of gameplay and content, there’s little in Vanquish that could be described as original. Everything from its sci-fi plot (which we only had glimpses of in the hands-on time we enjoyed) to its script, which references Hollywood touchstones such as Aliens and Jaws (“I’m gonna need a bigger gun”), to its duck-and-cover shooting, owe a debt to numerous movies and videogames that have gone before it.

But when influences are borrowed and synthesised with the panache that Platinum has employed, its lack of originality can be easily overlooked. Injecting the third-person shooter genre with a jolt of adrenaline, Epic’s Gears Of War franchise could have a serious fight on its hands when Vanquish arrives in October.

Vanquish is due for release on 22 October for Xbox 360 and PS3.

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