Vanquish (XBox 360)
Developer: Platinum Games
Released: October 2010
Played: story complete in 6h
After a Russian nationalist group seizes control of a space colony and repurposes its microwave power transmitter to boil San Francisco alive, an American military force launches an all-out assault to reclaim the station. Joining the squad is Sam Gideon, outfitted with the DARPA Augmented Reaction Suit, which enhances his reflexes and allows for high-speed jet boosts. Sam and Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Burns are tasked with retaking the station before it fires again on New York City.
Vanquish earned average review scores of 84%. Reviewers praised the over-the-top style, fast pace, smooth controls, and visual design, while criticizing the campaign's short duration, plot, and dialogue.
There was a patch that improved leaderboard load times, enabled the DLC weapon pack, and reduced the power of one enemy.
The Tri-Pack Weapon DLC adds three new weapons: boost machine gun, laser cannon, and anti-armor pistol.
The first thing you do in Vanquish is play a short training mission to learn the controls. Fairly standard, a bit of banter but nothing special. But that short boring training session is the perfect contrast with which to emphasize the completely balls-to-the-wall space battle crash landing action cutscene.
After the awesome intro it just doesn't let up. Vanquish is fast-paced, kept moving by the pumping electronic soundtrack, flashy visuals, and the delightful speed and fluidity of the ARS - sliding, dodging, and slow-motion...ing are immediately responsive and easy to learn, while providing some crazy tactical options. You can take cover like any old shooter, or you can rocket your way through enemy lines and attack from behind while the rest of the squad draws attention to the front.
The first boss battle is pants-off crazy. You don't just get a colossal robot battle - just when you think you've won, it transforms into humanoid mode and resumes the battle with a whole new health bar and attack pattern. The first boss battle is excellent, but subsequent ones are just a little disappointing since they re-use the same giant robot instead of mixing it up with new ones.
I figure I should mention the weapon upgrade system and some point because it caught my eye, and this seems as good a place as any. If you pick up a weapon that you already have equipped and you already have full ammo, you get an upgrade point. Each weapon can level up to ten, gaining increased max ammo / magazine size, damage, accuracy, etc. It's a neat system, except that you lose an upgrade level if you die, so upgrades aren't quite permanent and you may have to re-earn them. Fortunately it seems you can only lose one upgrade per checkpoint, so if you have to do the same boss battle over and over you're not getting weaker and weaker.
The story is about what you'd expect from a Russia vs. America scenario (albeit with robots and lasers), and the characters/dialogue are comically gritty and cheesy. But that's okay, because that's just the kind of game Vanquish is. It's that cheesy classic action movie vibe where it's not going to win any awards for writing but is tons of fun all the way through.
If you're still skeptical about whether this game should be taken seriously, consider that there is a button dedicated to smoking a cigarette while in cover. A smoke break button, if you will. That's goofy enough on its own, but when Sam tosses the butt, it can actually distract enemies. There is an achievement for killing enemies distracted by the cigarettes you smoke on a live battlefield surrounded by death and explosions and killer Russian robots.
So, the verdict. Vanquish is not a perfect game. There are some moments or battles that felt unfair. The style is not for everyone. But if you like cheesy 80s action movies, Vanquish is a video game version of that style, with great controls and high-speed action. I had a blast.