Vanquish is a Veritable Feast for the Senses

I finished Vanquish at the weekend – boy what a game. It’s the kind of game that’s so intense you need to take a break every half hour to imbibe a soothing cup of tea and have a lie down in order to rest your shattered senses. Never is there a pause in the action – you’re constantly bombarded from all directions with a never-ending onslaught of ever bigger and crazier enemies, with the piéce de resistance being a prolonged journey through the innards of that most welcome of Japanese gaming tropes, the giant robot. But despite the chaos exploding around me, the smile never left my face.

The key ingredient is your character’s boost slide – rather than trudging heavily between bits of cover á la Marcus Fenix in Gears of War, Sam Gideon prefers to whoosh balletically from pillar to post in his fancy white cybersuit, before boosting in close to his robot foes and punching them in the face with his bare fists. There really is nothing like laying the smack down on a robot three times your size – it’s a gameplay mechanic that never gets stale. There’s no two ways about it, this game is fun with a capital ‘fuh’.

Ooooh, that robot’s in for a smacking, just you wait.

Like all of Platinum’s games, the level of polish is phenomenal – it really is remarkable how much care and attention, and love, has clearly gone into making this game. The space station setting looks gorgeous, and it constantly throws up new and exciting vistas that had me ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’ at my telly every few minutes. Even more impressive though is the fluidity of the controls, which are satisfyingly precise and intuitive, letting you pull off the most astonishing moves with the minimum effort. As Bayonetta before it shows, if there’s one thing that has clearly become Platinum’s signature besides polished graphics and out-there plots, it’s absolutely spot-on control schemes.

Special mention should go to the weapon set, which is satisfylingly diverse and features a clever levelling up system that means it’s always worth picking up whatever weapons you find. Oh, and special mention also has to go to the most gratuitous use of cigarettes in a game since Metal Gear Solid – “press LB for a smoke break” is a line you seldom find in instruction manuals. Sam’s ciggies do prove surprisingly useful though, as he can toss them from behind cover to distract enemies (a tactic that Fenix could take note of, although perhaps we shouldn’t encourage him to take up the habit).

Argh, mind… melting… need.. cup… of… tea…

Perhaps the only slight niggle I had with the game is that the ending is a little abrupt, but otherwise it’s a delight from start to finish. It’s a shame that it really didn’t achieve the sales it deserved, as it’s easily one of the best games of this console generation. The publisher, SEGA, gave the game very little promotion, and effectively torpedoed any chance it had of making an impact by releasing it in October along with the usual avalanche of triple A pre-Christmas releases. As Platinum CEO Tatsuya Minami diplomatically says, “Perhaps they did not realise how good our games were.” Ah, SEGA, what happened to you? It seems like they’ve been on a disastrous downward slide ever since the pinnacle of the Dreamcast, too reliant on trawling through their back catalogue and re-releasing new versions of old games. When they finally struck gold again by signing the four-game deal with Platinum, it feels like they let it slip through their fingers all too easily…

Here’s hoping that, financially at least, Platinum’s new relationship with Nintendo will bear more fruit.

[Another game blasted off The Mantelpiece by Lucius Merriweather.]