You know those games that really get no attention? Either through lack of advertisement, lack of interest, or simply because it’s not part of a mainstream video game series. Vanquish was one of them. I know I had seen some kind of advertisement for it, but it wasn’t really well-known.
From what I remember of the ad, it looked like a lot of fun. You were controlling some armored guy or a robot or something and he was rocketing along the floor shooting at giant robots and shit. At the very least, it looked fun. At the most, it looked like someone was finally doing something mildly original with the shooter genre. I was wrong on both counts.
The gameplay footage promised high-speed shooty action. The back of the box boasts: “High octane gaming at its most explosive and exciting.” And they’re just fucking lying to us.
I’m going to start with what I did like about it, because it’ll be short.
Graphically, it looks good. It’s not my favorite, but its sufficiently detailed and bright. It was almost always easy to know what I was looking at and where to shoot. The music was also good. It’s kind of techno-rave, which normally, I wouldn’t like, but with the kind of action and atmosphere, it was well-suited. A couple of the enemies looked cool. There were only a few very minor glitches, so it ran from beginning to end without problems.
There, I’m done.
Now for what I didn’t like.
What bugged me almost immediately was the voice acting and dialogue. The characters didn’t really talk like people. They talked like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Eraser (without the accent, of course). They were constantly spouting off stupid one-liners. Normally, I’d be cool with that… if it was done right. In Vanquish, they weren’t even good one-liners, and often, they were out of place or totally didn’t fit the situation. The voice acting itself was, at its best, generic, and at its worst, really fucking grating. And that’s kind of weird, considering the cast included Lee Meriwether. They also borrowed lines from things that don’t suck. Someone lifts a line word-for-word from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers (1997). And they did it in such a way that they weren’t so much paying homage to it (which I think was their intention), but actively comparing the two… Bad idea, Sega.
The story is, put bluntly, retarded. Basically, it boils down to, “Evil Russians take control of super weapon. Shoot robots.” Sure there’s a plot twist, but it comes at a point in the game where I simply couldn’t care less, and it wasn’t even surprising. I just wanted the game to end so I could come here and review it. There’s some kind of history behind the plot, but they don’t go into it… at all. I can make a couple educated inferences, but aside from that, there’s no exposition.
And that’s odd, considering how many fucking cutscenes the game fucking has! At this point in gaming history, cutscenes should be sparse. An opening cutscene, a closing cutscene, and perhaps a few interspersed throughout the game at major plot points. There should not, however, be a cutscene after every single action sequence! For a game that’s so “high octane”, you certainly have to stop playing the game an awful lot just for superficial cutscenes. And, after almost every cutscene, there was a point where you suddenly have to walk really slowly and let the dumb bitch guiding you through the game talk your ear off. It boils down to, poorly executed action sequence pew pew, cutscene, walk really slowly. And as such, the game had no flow whatsoever. I can understand why games in the past had cutscenes. They needed to show off their new technology, to show just what could be done. But at this point, we’ve seen it. Cutscenes don’t look that much different than actual gameplay now, so what exactly are they demonstrating by putting so many in there. All they did was make the game come to a grinding halt.
Even the character development within the story made no fucking sense. There’s a point where someone betrays you, almost ruins everything, and you have to fight him. After you beat him, he suddenly starts shooting at his own men so that you can escape and you’re all like, “No, I’m not leaving without you, man-who-just-a-few-seconds-ago-betrayed-me-and-tried-to-kill-me! We’re like, friends or something.” And aside from that bit of “character development”, there is no character development. There was not a single character in the entire game that I gave a single shit about. So when something supposedly dramatic happens, who gives a fuck? I certainly didn’t.
Now, I’ll admit, before I even knew anything about Vanquish, I wasn’t expecting anything too spectacular story-wise. I was looking forward to rocket-propelled power sliding while firing machine guns. But even that was shit. Sure, you get to do that, but not as often as you should. Actually, you spend more of the game playing as if, rather than Vanquish, you were playing a shitty Gears of War, just rolling around and hiding behind cover, waiting for your health to regenerate. And when you do try to power slide, your suit overheats… and quickly. That means you have to run around until your suit cools down again. Sure, I understand that you shouldn’t be able to do that constantly, but it runs out too fucking fast and takes too fucking long to recharge. And to make matters worse, if an enemy gets close to you, you want to use a melee attack, right. Well, another poor choice on the part of the developers was to make every melee attack you do completely overheat your suit. That’s right. One melee attack, and you can no longer move fast. Melee attacks shouldn’t do shit to your suit! The way it is, if you use a melee attack to kill an enemy, but there are still more enemies around, there’s little you can do besides rolling around, trying not to die while your suit cools down. It’s fucking stupid! And even if you’re not hitting enemies with melee, if you get hit for so much damage, your suit goes into bullet-time mode. Sure, it helps you get away or kill an enemy so your health can regenerate, but it also overheats your fucking suit! So, with your suit constantly overheating, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain that “high octane gameplay” for any major amount of time.
One thing that I was going to include in the things I liked was the fact that you can upgrade your weapons, but that was ruined, too. You can upgrade your weapons in two ways. Either through pickups that enemies drop randomly that immediately raise your selected weapon by one level. Or by picking up a gun you already have while that gun has full ammo (?). That’s a little dumb. You should improve by using the gun. But that’s not the damning part. I mean, it’s stupid that the gun has to have full ammo to be upgraded (if you shoot just one of the 1200 bullets from your Assault Rifle, it doesn’t improve. You just get one bullet). What’s really damning about it is, if you die, the game takes your upgrades away from you. The way the system is, it takes a while to get a gun to maximum level. And to just take it away? That’s horrible. I can understand taking away upgrades if you get one and die before reaching a checkpoint. That’s reasonable. But to take them away two fucking acts later is so stupid, that I would rather not be able to upgrade my weapons at all.
And even that would not have been so bad if the rest of the game were designed even acceptably. But the way it is, enemies take too long to kill, you die too easily, enemies appear at random, enemies have perfect aim, they will only aim at you (even when there are forty other guys that are a more immediate threat), you stagger at random, opening you up to more shots, the bosses take forever and can destroy you no matter how fast you’re moving, some enemies have attacks that kill you instantly and hit you through cover, your suit constantly overheats exposing you to even more damage, you constantly get stuck on obstacles (and sometimes on absolutely nothing) while avoiding fire, your friends constantly get in your line of fire, and to top it all off, the game takes your weapon upgrades away, making the part you just died at even more difficult.
All I have left to say is, thank Arceus Vanquish is really short. It only took about six hours to beat the whole thing, even with the sidetracking I was doing to find guns.
Gameplay: 2/10: That’s sad, because it promised a good time. It could have been good, but they ruined every cool idea they had.
Music: 7/10: Well-suited and fast-paced. Probably the best part of the game.
Graphics: 6/10: They were good.
Story: 1/10: Not a single redeeming quality in there
Overall: 4/10: I wish so badly that I could rate this lower, but the numbers have spoken.