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Vanquish (Xbox 360) artwork

Vanquish (Xbox 360) review

"In the moment..."

In the moment... This best describes the spectacle that is Vanquish's opening act; a fleet of American battleships descend on a hijacked space colony-turned giant laser gun of destruction, projectiles are flying in every direction, and one lucky ship manages to pierce through the outer defenses, only to crash and burn thanks to heavy resistance inside. The commanding officer, Lt. Col. Robert Burns, and a couple Marines survive the wreck, and before they can gather themselves, the gang immediately takes cover behind very, very small pieces of blockades. Why? An opposing force of Russian-controlled androids has everyone pinned down with a row of turrets on a higher platform. There's a trench to the left, but simply running out in the open is going to get someone killed.

This is where you come in as Sam Gideon, a researcher donning an advanced battle suit who's tagging along with the group. Just by holding down the LB button, one of the suit's standout abilities come into play in this third-person cover shooter: boosting. Not even five seconds have eclipsed, yet, with the help of boosting, you've made it through the long trench and already blasting away a robot at the very top. Then you turn around, take hold of the turret, look down at friend and foe, and then gaze at the backdrop as another battleship crashes during the heated exchange. With the immediate situation defused, you won't get a moment's rest as you charge inward through the docking bay to face another onslaught of androids, now accompanied by a bipedal walker that resembles the AT-ST from Star Wars. Which, given the chance, you can control.

On a technical level, thankfully, the controls are pretty solid, which is a must for a game with this much intensity. All the basics are easy to perform, from hiding behind objects and sticking your gun out, to hopping over things and evading fire with normal rolls. There's even a badass move that allows Sam to smoke a cigarette, then flick it into the air, distracting nearby robots! Boosting, while a bit intimidating at first, is very simple, too. It's really just a speedier version of running. Before you know it, you'll confidently use the move in various ways, from dodging life-threatening attacks to literally getting behind an enemy. Vanquish also has its own version of bullet time, called AR Mode, which slows down time either by triggering it after rolling or when you take too many hits, acting as a desperation move. It's such a life saver in this high-octane game. However, it should be noted that boosts, melee attacks, and AR Mode borrow from the same rechargeable temperature bar, so it's up to you to figure out what takes top priority.

Your knowledge of all these abilities will be put to the test instantly, as mere minutes after your dramatic entrance in Act 1, you'll have to do battle with a giant spider-esque robot. Moving with a stubborn mindset, hitting the weak point atop its cannon head will be a workout. This also gives you the opportunity to appreciate how much action is actually happening on screen at any given moment with AR Mode; 20-some heat-seeking missiles are flung in the air, Marines are scrambling and falling everywhere, Burns is fearlessly taking the robot head-on with a gatling gun, and you're kneeling, pumping that weak point full of led as those missiles creep closer to your face. After the beast's health bar gets depleted, it acts like a drama queen by unleashing even more missiles randomly. Of course, due to Vanquish's nature of never giving you a break, it proceeds to transform into a super robot.

But for all the excitement you'll endure in this sci-fi extravaganza by Shinji Mikami, there are stumbling blocks that prevent Vanquish from becoming an incredible title. Probably a nitpick on my part, but there were many instances where your character hops into a vehicle, and instead of controlling it or having it be an on-rails segment, you're forced to sit there and watch a flashy cutscene. Boo-urns. However, a bigger issue I have is the entirety of Act 4. After all the crazy things you encounter in the first three acts, from fighting giant, robotic jellyfish in tunnels to assaulting a frightening battleship in a city, Act 4 doesn't do anything special. It's only right at the end, when you enter a zero gravity area, where the action gets a little awesome again. Everything before that feels like needless padding with repeat waves of enemies. While not boring, it's something you don't want to go through in a game that's only five hours long (on normal difficulty) with five acts.

The rest of Vanquish is still fun, though, even if it is just a short ride. You'll have throwdowns in the actual colony where there's constantly a fantastic interior view of its orbital cylinder structure, aka those things you also see in Gundam shows. You'll also fight on a high-speed cargo platform against enemies shooting you on another load spinning around yours, as well as charge across a collapsing highway while ships, cannons, and androids battle to the death. Quirky encounters await as you bump into robots putting on a dance party with a giant boombox and even fight alongside a Marine named S.Mikami! The enemies, too, are relentless droids, from the typical red shirts that manage to sneak behind if you're distracted, to the bigger machines that like to wield spiked clubs, drills, and backpacks that fire fat rockets. So while Vanquish being just a quick and exclusively single-player experience may turn some players off, it should still be experienced for providing a unique and fun take on the cover shooter formula.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (June 06, 2012)

Hopefully Pixel Ripped will pull a "Witch & Hero" and have a great third game, if it ever happens.

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