The Average Gamer

Vanquish Review (PS3)

Vanquish is the latest creation from Platinum Games, the makers of Bayonetta. This should give you some idea of the kind of over-the-top action experience to expect from the game. It also helps to explain the fact that the storyline has its tongue firmly in its cheek – being frequently funny, often baffling, and at times downright incomprehensible. Basically, it seems that the Americans and Russians are still engaged in some cold war type affairs, this time involving solar energy. Russia has done something rather nasty to San Francisco, by focusing what appears to be a gigantic magnifying glass on the Golden Gate Bridge, and you have to stop it from happening again. As the game progresses, the plot bobs and weaves a bit, but I wasn’t really paying that much attention to it, as the real driving force behind this game is not the story, but the action.

Meet Sam

The star of Vanquish is Sam Gideon – an ex-College American Football player with a fancy Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS), a propensity to swear, and an unfeasibly gruff voice. The voice is probably a result of the fact that Sam is the only person in ‘the future’ that still smokes. The swearing is understandable, I suppose, given the circumstances. The suit meanwhile, is simply awesome, and allows Sam to slow time, boost across the floor and target enemies at will. It also allows for an extremely satisfying selection of upgradeable weapons to be scanned and deployed to great effect throughout the game’s twenty nine levels.

Using the ARS is a real learning experience. The tutorial level introduces the individual features of the suit in a relatively non-patronising way, but it is not until you try to put these features into action that you really start to understand the controls. For the first few levels, I found the boosting confusing and got in a real muddle when trying to work out why the suit was overheating so often. About an hour into the game however, everything seemed to click into place, and by the end of the game I was boosting, evading, shooting off several shotgun rounds, reloading and even managing to slide neatly into cover, all in one smooth move. When you have a handle on it, the Vanquish control system really is a joy to use.

New Canary Wharf

For some reason, the future in Vanquish seems to have been styled on Canary Wharf. That is not a bad thing, by any means, and it allows for some spectacular architecture and views across the city as you progress through the game. Matching the backdrops in terms of creative impact are the wide variety of robotic enemies that you will encounter. These range from bog-standard ground troops and snipers to ridiculously large transforming spider robots, and flying attack ships, all of whom have you firmly in their sights. My personal favourites were the ‘Number 5’ look-alikes, which transform themselves into mobile shields for enemy ground troops to use as cover. They almost seem too cute to destroy, until you realise they are also popping their heads up from their self-made cover and taking pot shots at you.

The enemy AI throughout the game is fairly robust. Ground troops will push forward when in large numbers, and hold their position when isolated. Larger enemies will tend to follow you, but can be distracted by attacks from the marines that accompany you during most levels. It is actually quite common to see three or four small scale fire-fights taking place at once during larger levels. Quite how much damage the friendly troops and enemy bots are doing to each other in these exchanges is questionable, but they certainly add to the feel of being part of a team assault on a large scale enemy encampment. It is also good to have a few seconds respite when the level boss that you are battling stops giving you the evil eye, momentarily, and focuses on your team-mates instead.

How Long Have You Got?

With no multiplayer aspect, all eyes are on the Vanquish single player experience. This certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of quality, but it is somewhat shorter than many other games currently on the market. Whether, or not, that is a bad thing will depend on your approach to gaming, and the amount of free time that you have. The game took me just over seven hours to play through on ‘Normal’ difficulty, not including the cut scenes. To me, that represents about a week’s worth of gaming time, and I can safely say that I enjoyed the experience from start to finish (well, except for level 1:3, which took me 50 minutes, seven deaths and several clumps of hair to complete).

Vanquish is also the type of game that encourages multiple play-throughs. It offers instant access to any level in the game after completion, ‘Hard’ and ‘God Hard’ difficulty levels, along with online leader boards, where you can compare your pitiful scores with the guys and girls who are actually good at the game. When the main game is over, there are also a number of challenges to tackle, which involve defeating waves of increasingly difficult enemies, with or without friendly AI help. Again these feature online leader boards, and I can safely say that they will offer a real challenge, even if you thought you were pretty hot stuff when you successfully completed the main game.


In an era that seems increasingly dominated by the multiplayer aspects of gaming, it is refreshing to come across a game that is happy to stand up and be proud of providing a quality single player experience. Rather than trying to shoe-horn in a multiplayer or co-op element to the game, the developers of Vanquish have focused their energies on creating a great single player action game, and the results are certainly impressive. The fact that you can actually play the game from start to finish without having to take a week off work is also a bonus.

Vanquish is available now on PS3 and Xbox 360. If you’re in the UK, check out the location-based Vanquish app we posted a few weeks back.

Update 18th Dec 2010: Pick up Xbox 360 Vanquish for a super cheap £12.85 from Simply Games.

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