It’s hard to tell if Vanquish is a typical example of the broad-shouldered, chain-smoking, constantly angry and edgily swearing machismo that was so prevalent in action games released around 2010, or whether it is a parody thereof. The testosterone is laid on so thick that you can almost smell it and Sam Gideon is such a man’s man that you could easily see the game as a parody, but the fact that Platinum plays everything so straight and cheerless that could be a mistake. The story of Vanquish does nothing to help - some evil Russian robots are trying to take over the world using a space laser that makes heads explode, because that’s what robots/Russians do, and Sam Gideon and his magical slidey suit are the only thing that stand in the way of Communist robogeddon.
Vanquish looks its age. It’s not an unattractive game but it is kind of bland in a Michael Bay Transformers meets Roland Emmerich disaster porn kind of way. The game also sounds its age with an exceedingly forgettable soundtrack and some pretty naff voice acting. The cutscenes are pretty average too. All that fades into nothingness however, when you discover the power of sliding around on your knees.
Platinum Games has a reputation for amazing action, and PC gamers have finally had a chance to sample their wares with the recent releases of the amazing Nier: Automata and the equally awesome Bayonetta. While not quite reaching the giddy heights offered by the aforementioned games, Vanquish still dishes out the goods when it comes to action, thanks to excellent level design and a form of movement so satisfying and dynamic that you’ll want to do it as much as possible.
Most fights in the game take place in large, open areas, giving the player heaps of room to move around. There are obstacles everywhere that Sam Gideon can take cover behind, but playing as a stop and pop shooter would make for a very unsatisfying game. Gideon’s super-suit gives him the ability to rocket across the ground by sliding on his knees (or arse as it sometimes appears). While sliding time slows, enabling our manly man of a protagonist to avoid bullet hell swarms of projectiles and dispatch scores of robo-Russkies. The suit only has a limited power meter, so no matter how appealing sliding is, you can’t do it all the time.
Sliding may be limited but the time slowing isn’t locked to manual activation - it kicks on automatically when you need it most. When you’re at death’s door, time slows and you have a chance to turn the situation around. When you run out of energy for the suit the same happens for an instant allowing you to get to cover to regenerate. You’ll still die a lot, but those moments of slow motion carnage make death fun rather than a roadblock.
The PC Port of Vanquish is excellent. Not only does the game run buttery smooth, the mouse and keyboard controls feel better than using the controller it was built for.