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Vanquish's robot suit, Russian enemy and cigarette smoking hero took me back to the 90's. But there is more here than meets the eye, stay long enough to scratch beneath the surface and you'll discover a finely balanced shooting experience.
Me and my mates have been following Vanquish for a while - it's the first game from a favourite developer of ours, Shinji Mikami. He made the first Resident Evil games as well as Viewtiful Joe and is something of a hero for us. What's more, with his last couple of games coming in a bit too old for us - both Bayonetta and Madworld were 18's - Vanquish is a chance to experience his talents first hand.
Vanquish looks a bit like Gears of War, it's another third-person shooter that drops into first-person when you take cover. But happily, much of the bravado and gore have been replaced by robot suits and electronically controlled rocket powers.
It has a really impressive futuristic look that reminded me of games I used to watch my older brother play in the arcades of the 90's. This era is also mirrored in the story: you play Sam Gideon who wears a super-soldier battlesuit designed to turn the tide in a war against a totalitarian Russia state that has wiped out San Francisco.
In one final nod to the 90's Gideon smokes incessantly. Every two minutes he seems to stop for a fag. I guess it was supposed to give him more character, but as my friends and I don't intend to smoke it seems a little lame I think - or out of date at best.
I love the way the knee-slide looks as you are propelled along by rockets on your shoes with sparks flying off in all directions.
His suit is more exciting though, and grants him some amazing moves. I love the way the knee-slide looks as you are propelled along by rockets on your shoes with sparks flying off in all directions. Then there's the slow-motion weapons that gives you more time to target your enemies accurately - and once you see the speed of the game you soon realise this is crucial.
You can carry three different weapon classes and two grenades. These match the suit for sci-fi finesse and can be upgraded as you go. Although each different gun is powerful enough to be useful in most sections, using the right armourment is key to progressing through the harder later stages. You can get a feel for the game with this augmented realty video:
These battles get really intense as both speed and volume of enemies constantly increases. Like an old fashioned arcade shooter the challenges come in waves, and in many ways it feels a bit like a 3D shoot 'em up. Unused to this sort of thing though I often found myself simply overwhelmed and disorientating with so much happening on the screen.
At times it seems that he is deliberately trying to put off casual players.
Given some more time with Vanquish and a few retries and I started to get into a rhythm. This is where the real genius of Shinji Mikami shines through. Like his other games, what at first appears to be a brash out of date experience actually has a lot more going on underneath the surface. It takes considerable commitment to realise this though and at times it seems that he is deliberately trying to put off casual players.
Me and my friends missed not having a multiplayer mode, although taking turns on the Horde challenges proved a good way to pass half term together. The single-player itself is pretty long and with all the collectible hidden statues and points to collect I can see us going back to play through it all a few times.
I'm still excited about being able to play a Shinji Mikami game. And really pleased that Vanquish seems to be the best he has produced for a while. Although I guess I won't know for sure till I'm old enough to sample Madworld and Bayonetta first hand.
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