4th April - enjoying Vanquish

Just re-started playing vanquish tonight - its actually quite good, though I am finding the combat repetitive and less varied than GOW. There are no real tactics (yet) and there is a MASSIVE difficulty spike between Normal and Hard difficulty levels. That said, the relentless pace, slick graphics and cool weapons are, for the time being, making up for the lack of depth. It is definately fun, definately entertaining and the comic book characters havent yet annoyed me. That said, the techno soundtrack is a little annoying - I mean, why does it have to have the same mental techno music playing for every battle - take a break! I normally love techno, but 1 hr in and this is a bit much for me...

Anyhow, will post as I play more... I am looking for a decent XBOX or PS3 game to play after Vanquish - suggestions appreciated. I keep coming back to Alan Wake, but havent quite bitten it is worth the time I'd need to invest...


24th April 2011

Vanquish - a great game with minimal plot...

I've just completed Vanquish and dont actually have ahuge amount to say about it. It was a really great game, very fun to play and. while relatively short (5.5hrs), felt about right in terms of challenge and game time.

When I orignally started playing it, I had just completed GOW 2 and found it incredibly difficult to get into. This was because it was similar in concept to GOW (i.e. cover based shooter) but very different in tersm of control,pacing and look and feel. Where gears feels bigger than life, charactured and physical, Vanquish feels waspish, scienctific and slick. Does it work? For the most part yes...

1. Guns - not so many guns

The guns in Vanquish are pretty generic and lack the character of their GOW equivelants. You have your standard rockets, rifle, shotgun and sniper rifle with limited opportunity to upgrade. There is one exception - the LFE gun. This is easily the standout weapon, not so much for the damage it causes, but because it basically knocks enemies off their feet by sending a ball of purple light at them. May not sound like much, but trust me - by the third hour of the game you'll have some fun knocking great big monster / machine hybrids around a map like they were pieces of Lego.

Like I say, for a shooter there is suprising lack of imagination and all the guns funtion in pretty much the way you would expect. No bad thing, but a definate detractor from the game.

2. Movement - now you're talking...

Where cover and slow based "tactical" movement was the order of the day in GOW, Vanquish is all about flexibility. Courtesy of the super suit you are wearing, you can zip around the arenas, shooting the living crap out of robots and back into your cover in the blink of an eye. It is remarkablly well executed, mainly because of the ingenius balancing of super-human speed with the ability to slow time down when doing this.

For a limited time, you can use your suit to give you a competitve edge by turning the combat into Bullet-time esque combat set pieces. At first it seems almost counter intuitive, but soon enough turning up the pace then ratcheting it down to give you increased control works incredibly well. Essentially, it gives the game that does rely on relentless combat an extra dimension that can be missing from GOW relatively linear approach to combat. Kudos to the guy who decided to blend high speed with slow-mo control.

3. But is it fun? Vanquish bosses this aspect...

I frequently ask myself if a game is "fun" when playing,  So many games, I feel, delude you into to thinking you are having fun by throwing more eplosions, set pieces and gore at you (Dead Rising and COD - I am looking your way...) Vanquish however serves up big time on the fun scale. Like I said above, you have the flexibility to fight the way you want, but also the game allows you to be imaginative in how you dispose of bad guys. While the weapons for the most part lack any fun factor, your ability to knock over, punch, saw in 2, turn long range into close range combat and zip around at your will creates an often exilhirating expeience. But, like so many games, you have to deal with the bosses, and Vanquish does not disappoint.

The bosses for the most part are either spectacular or ingenius. Fighting everything from 200 foot armour plated killing machines to a souped up AT-AT walker always feels fresh and fun. The scale of the bosses is great, and yes, alot of the time it is just "find the strategy and exectute it" but it never feels too repetitive. The game keeps throwing new things at you and credit to it in keeping what could be a simple concept feeling epic and challenging.

So, by now you can tell i had a blast playing Vanquish -  and for £20 I'd heartilyrecommend it to anyone who wants 5 hours of pretty brainless but satisfying shooting.

Any gripes? A few - the story, the characters and the ending sequence. Firstly, the story itself could be a pretty cool concept, but it is told incredibly poorely. By the end of the game I had no idea what I was fighting for and the plot "twists" are very badly communicated. In fact, they almost feel like an afterthought just to try give the game a bit of depth. For the most part they dont and feel pretty ham fisted.

Related to this, with the exception of Sam, who is a great character (and very well voice acted), the supporting cast are limited. Even GOW manages to add in a bit of depth by giving some back story and motivations to its cast. Vanquish for the most part does not bother. Finally, who ever thought it was a good idea to play a ropey version of space invaders to get through the end credits needs a stern telling off. The fact that you cant skip it left me very cold - all i wanted to see was my end game stats and save the progress - please let me do it.

So there you have it, game numbner four for 2011 and so far I've not been disappointed by any. Vanquish lacks the plot or genuinely epic feel of GOW, but delivers in spades for fun and violence. A special note to the graphics and gameplay- they  are superb and not once did the frame rate slow. The team did a great Job in keeping Vanquish true to its core principles of slickness, speed and fun throughout.

Solid A- rated fun in a B-movie story.