I’m going to just come straight out and say it. If you’ve never played a game developed by Platinum Games, then you’ve never experienced the best action games ever made. Platinum Games are the masters of Action. These days it seems like they’re desperate to remind us of that. This year Platinum has re-released three different games on PC, and the ratings speak for themselves. First being the release of Nier: Automata, critically acclaimed for its excellent story, high octane combat, beautifully obscure environments and genre bending gameplay.
Second being that of the Bayonetta PC release. First being teased by SEGA for a few weeks and finally dropping on steam two weeks ago. Personally, the best Hack ‘n slash game every created. An opinion that the industry polarisingly agree with. With Bayonetta also came a small marketing ploy from the genius’ at SEGA by introducing Vanquish teasers.
And here I am, writing a review for Vanquish. A game I adored when it arrived for the last generation of consoles in 2010. Often praised for its ingenuity and unique take of the Third-person shooter genre. Vanquish, although a critical success, is often forgotten. Absolutely criminal. Vanquish represents a golden era of video games where realism, emotion and edgy characters should sometimes be left to the way side to make way for stellar and tight gameplay mechanics.
For those who don’t know, Vanquish is a Third-Person shooter that borrows heavily from the Hack ‘n Slash genre. It’s a game all about style, muscle memory, montage videos and speed running. Fast reflexes, perfect timing and pin point aim are essential for success.
Taking control of a generic action protagonist that swears and smokes too much, Sam Gideon. Using one of the coolest power suits in gaming, the player must slide, roll, dash and destroy the enemies in Sam’s way. Leaving a trail of destruction in your wake has never felt so good when it comes to Vanquish. The power suit in Vanquish comes with one very neat trick. A reactional system that changes preconceptions of many players. Once the player takes critical damage the suit cause time to slow down and allows you to react to all nearby threats with lightning speed.
Not only does this trigger once Sam takes a heavy amount of damage though. You can also trigger it manually by aiming while performing certain moves, like rolling and powersliding. This adds layers upon layers of combat sequences that can only be described in the moments afterwards where you’re left gawping at what you just pulled off.
It is limited however. If you allow your suit to over heat you can no longer slo-mo your way to victory and may get caught out in the open with no escape. This is where cover comes in and using grenades to stave off the onslaught.
Now there are many games that I would often describe as positively hectic. Vanquish however, takes the cake. Known for it’s brutal difficulty, Vanquish piles wave after wave of enemies against the player. Peppering them with an impossible amount of gun fire, rockets and melee units. Your survival depends on only one thing. You’re own skills.
Like many of Platinum’s games, style and fluidity are embedded in to the gameplay. It’s not just shooting things, beating them to death with great quick time events and stylish movement. It’s a dance. One that you must perfect to take on the games hardest challenges.
After completing the campaign on Hard the player unlocks the aptly named God Hard mode that is easily one of the most difficult experiences in gaming I have ever attempted. If this was any other game, a good 4 or 5 difficulty settings would be in between this monstrosity and the previous Hard mode. Everything basically one shots you, your suit is even more vulnerable to over heating, certain pick ups like rockets are much less available and the biggest of enemies are appear a lot more frequently.
And I love it. Masochism aside, many players often state that Dark Souls is one of the most difficult games today. Now while I don’t disagree, the game play is actually not difficult at all, it’s just punishing. Vanquish goes the other way. When you die you just spawn at a checkpoint. All good. But getting past the enemies and not getting hit is nigh-on impossible.
Vanquish was always praised for it’s solid graphics but I was wondering how it would hold up for a seven year old game. Graphics have come a long way since 2010. I have to say, what caught me off guard the most with this PC port was how good it still looks. The environments are huge, the enemies detailed, shading beautiful and colours on par with any game from this generation of gaming. I was often taken aback by how good it looked, especially the massive set pieces like giant space ships flying over my head or buildings falling down around me. The scale of Vanquish is massive.
Enemies tower over Sam and all their moving parts are just as detailed as the powersuit in which he dons. Animations are masterful. The way the guns change in the players hands from an assault rifle to a rocket launcher or a laser can is ingeniously creative. Instead of just appearing out of nowhere like GTA or are taken from the protagonists back they transform and mould like mini Transformers.
The amount of detail and attention put in to such even these small aspects of the game bring the standard even higher than any normal shooter. The little things, like giving all the npc allied soldiers around you a name and allow the player to help them up once injured. Even when in slo-mo the enemies bullets are animated. All guns perform projectile based and not hit scan to make that a reality. A design choice I hope more games take on board today.
Sound design isn’t perfect but the amount of noise in the game, you can hardly notice any details. If I had to compare what it’s like to put a head set on while playing this game, I would have to bring up the likes of any game that re-enacts D-Day and the storming of Normandy. If the gameplay is hectic, the sound makes it even more so. The loud crunching of robots as they stomp you’re allies in to the ground and the sheer amount of bullets whizzing past your head is astonishing. I streamed a little of the game for my little brother and all he could say on the matter was, “Man my head is pounding.”
For others, headache inducing carnage aren’t positives. For me though, it’s a mainstay.
As with other Platinum games, I’m still not a fan of their Music choices. The arcade Asian style popularised by Japanese games from SEGA and Nintendo just don’t do it for me. However listening to my own Spotify playlist of my favourite Metal tracks creates pour joy while I wreak havoc.
The Story is largely forgettable and serves its only purpose of moving the game along level to level. The campaign’s length also comes in to question quite a bit when mentioning this game. Separated in to five acts with each taking around an hour to complete on Hard. It’s not the longest and the ending will only leaving you wanting more gameplay. But that’s pretty much what the game is about. Speed running God Hard faster than anyone and completing the challenge missions with an even higher score. You can even keep track against other players around the world. A ranked leaderboard is a fantastic feature that adds a layer of competition that many players strive for.
As a PC Port, Platinum keep up their good form. With keyboard and mouse along with 4k support. Vanquish has never been better. The fact I now have two of my favourite games made my Platinum back on my current generation PC brings back the adrenaline packed emotions that games these days are just lacking.
One does beg the question however. Why now Platinum? What’s the end goal? Why are we seeing these fantastic games being released so long after their development cycle has ended? Almost no one has asked for it in the mainstream media and many may just glance over the headlines and steam store front pages without a second thought about the game. Who knows. Rumours are surrounding the studio as E3 lurks ever closer. Surely they have something new for us? But for now, Vanquish and Bayonetta serve as stark reminders that Platinum are the masters. A warcry that they’ve had enough of being forgotten by the Western market. Recently relegated to remakes and spin offs of other games, surely now is the time for them to strike with something special.