The new game from Shinji Mikami, Vanquish, takes the standard cover based shooter and gives it a Japanese flavor. The kinetic look and feel of the game is a visual treat, with bullets flying through the air as you jump, slide and shoot your way through enemies, stopping occasionally for a puff on your cigarette. Vanquish shown at E3 behind closed doors and on the show-room floor demonstrates how, with the right ideas, a genre can be re-invigorated and expanded upon.
The story of Vanquish is a cross between Tom Clancy and Robotech. Russian forces have destroyed San Francisco after taking over a US space station built to harness solar energy. It is only with the help of Sam and his battle suit that the US-led forces have a chance of taking the station back. The game is contains a ridiculous story, unquestionably, but it fits with the action of the game and the self-aware silliness behind the production.
The visuals of Vanquish are beautiful, but not about to break any moulds. The style is crisp and clean with large vistas and abundant visual flairs. Robots and soldiers fly across the screen as the war for the space station wages on. You move at a good clip, and no time during the demo did the visuals slow down or appear sluggish. The landscape of the space station appears huge yet confined at the same time; a claustrophobic environment which seems to reach on indefinitely.
If you are a fan of such anime as Gundum or Macross you will see similar ideas and concepts woven though the world of Vanquish. Even inside the space station, the sharp modern aesthetic is believable but fantastical at the same time, a balancing act Anime is well versed in. The colour palate is bright and clean, and the visuals are vibrant, a quality sorely missing from many modern shooters.
The controls of the game feel smooth and responsive. Never during the demo did I feel the game was overly complex or overly simple. The enemies acted as you would expect, running for cover when you shoot, but also pushing forward on your position ensuring you always need to keep forward momentum. The slide-and-attack mechanic also presses this idea making some encounters much more riveting than you would expect.
The weapons of the game feel solid, as if you might feasibly be able to wrest control of the station. Sam is given three different firearms simultaneously and with a simple d-pad click you can switch between them with ease. Each weapon has a substantial feeling of power and kick, and the variety keeps the interest high enough that no weapon wears out its welcome.
The suit Sam wears is one of the most important aspects of the game. You slide forward and with a quick button combo you can begin a bullet time effect to mow down enemies with precision. The way you can chain these ‘freeze’ moments together allows for ease and flexibility when confronted with a formidable army. To witness soldiers soaring through the air one after the other is a visual feast to behold and extremely rewarding when pulled off with skill.
Coming out this fall, Vanquish is sizing up to be a significant game to watch out for. Much like Platinum’s previous title, Bayonetta, Vanquish will be an interesting and unique take on the genre of the first person shooter. It is still to be seen how it will sell, but if you are a fan of the genre and want to try something new with a bit of Japanese flavor this may be one to look out for come October. Anyone not into the genre, keep an eye on this one, it may surprise you.