PlatinumGames are universally known for their high-octane, action-orientated games, which more often than not require you to suspend disbelief to get the most out of the experience. Vanquish is one such game that definitely falls under this category, but unfortunately, it’s also one of Platinum’s most under-appreciated titles. Directed by Resident Evil 4’s Shinji Mikami, Vanquish is a third-person shooter that was originally released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2010. On paper, it seems like it’d play more like something akin to Gears of War as opposed to something of Platinum’s signature style (e.g. Bayonetta), and while that can be the case, it can also be played in such a way that allows it to be far more than your standard third-person shooter. With a remaster being released on PC with improved performance and upgraded resolutions, there’s never been a better time to try out one of Platinum’s greatest games.
Set in the near future where Earth’s population is growing rapidly and nations fight for scarce resources, the United States tries to alleviate its energy crisis by launching a space station into orbit which contains a solar powered generator. While it works out at first, the Russian Federation is overthrown by a section of their military called The Order of the Russian Star. This results in the space station being captured and used as a war weapon, devastating San Francisco as an example of the station’s sheer power. Victor Zaitsev, their leader, then proceeds to tell the American government to surrender or he will target New York City next.
As we all know, though, The U.S. doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, so a new task force is commissioned by the President to combat the threat. Lead by decorated war veteran, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Burns, Bravo Company is made up of several space-faring special forces, veteran Marines, what’s left of the U.S. troops on board the space station, and our protagonist, Sam Gideon, a DARPA researcher. What makes Sam special is that he’s equipped with an Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS), which has attached jet boosters and a weapons system that allows him to scan and replicate any weapons he can find. The mission gives the government a perfect opportunity to test the new suit, and Sam is given classified orders to save Dr. Francoise Candide, who was on-site when the station was attacked.
Sam Gideon is exactly what you’d expect from a PlatinumGame’s protagonist. He’s arrogant, straight to the point, self-proclaimed, and most importantly, a badass. Sam, much like Bayonetta, is the life and blood of this narrative, and while the supporting cast is certainly passable, Sam never fails to entertain with his little quips and quirks.
The narrative unfolds in typical Platinum fashion, and while the subject matter is reasonably dark, it’s always told in a fun light-hearted tone with serious moments scattered throughout the game. It’s entertaining stuff for sure, but it’ll never leave you on the edge of your seat wanting more once the credits roll.
Vanquish’s campaign mode spans across five acts, all of which have a certain number of missions that get scored based on your kills, headshots, cover usage, and the time taken to finish the stage. This is a feature that’s consistent across all of Platinum’s titles, but Vanquish lacks anything that mirrors a grading system that can be found in Bayonetta or The Wonderful 101. This makes it difficult to gauge on how to get better scores, and ultimately the system feels meaningless unless you make an effort to work out what affects what. It’s a small complaint, but hardcore fans of Platinum’s other work might find it jarring, especially when so much of the replay value comes from replaying missions to top personal bests.
Vanquish’s combat is designed in such a way that makes it easy to learn and hard to master, much like other Platinum titles. Sam’s suit allows him to boost around the battlefield at high speeds, slow down time, and dodge roll like a madman. This is where all of Vanquish’s depth comes from, and it’s been carefully designed to cater to players of all skill levels. The skill ceiling found within Vanquish provides a lot of replay value after you finish the 5-6 hour campaign, and there are additional tactical challenges to buff that play time up even more, but neither of these aspects will make you more forgiving of the painfully short campaign.
Vanquish’s combat is undoubtedly the focus of its gameplay and for good reason. Combat is innovative, unique, fast-paced, and filled with adrenaline if you play it aggressively. Although, it’ll come down to what kind of player you are. If you want to play conservatively, occasionally using Sam’s thrusters to move between cover as you gradually whittle down a boss, you can, but you’d be missing out. Vanquish is at its best when you’re constantly zipping around the battlefield and managing your suit energy to stop it from overheating. Once you get a grasp of the mechanics, it feels great to slide at breakneck speeds as you slow down time to spray bullets at enemies, only to slide tackle another enemy in front of you to propel yourself into the air and rain death from above. It’s Platinum through and through, and the sheer amount of options available provide ample opportunities to get really good at it. No matter what, though, Vanquish’s combat system makes you feel like a complete badass, and it will forever stand as one of Platinum’s best.
Naturally, there are a plethora of weapons that Sam has access to, ranging from simple assault rifles and shotguns to complex Lock-On Lasers and LFE Guns. In due time you’ll find you have a loadout consisting of your favourite weapons, all of which can be upgraded in firepower when you pick up duplicates or upgrade boxes. All of the available weapons have a nice feeling to them, and switching on the fly for different situations is efficient due to the intuitive control scheme.
The biggest draw of Vanquish’s release on PC for those who have already played it comes in the form of visual and performance upgrades. Aside from the overall increase in textures and resolutions, the PC version sports 4K support at 60 frames per second, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. 4K visuals were made for the sleek, futuristic art style of Vanquish’s world so playing it in 4K is a must if you have the opportunity. Gone is the unsure framerate of past consoles, as I had Vanquish running at a consistent 60FPS with only the occasional drop when things got hectic. For those who care, it’s an incredibly well-optimized port, with a healthy options menu to customise and dig into.
Although Platinum’s titles of late have been hit or miss, Vanquish is undoubtedly one of the best experiences they have to offer. It’s a stellar third-person shooter which holds up regardless of whether it’s your first hour or hundredth. While the campaign is admittedly short, it has an entertaining narrative, fast-paced combat, deep mechanics, and beautiful visuals complimented by 4K enhancements and a higher framerate on PC which you’d expect from an action game as fast as this one. If you’re a fan of Platinum, third-person shooters, or action games in general, you’d be doing yourself a favour by picking this one up, especially given the reasonable asking price.