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With the video game market slipping further and further from Japanese developer’s grasps, one has to ask what must these developers do to get a foothold in the market again. Many of them are beginning to dip their toes into one of the most, if not the most, popular genre in the west: the shooter. Titles like Square-Enix’s Mindjack and Tecmo-Koei’s Quantum Theory are evidence of this. But instead of just saying “it’s a shooter,” each title seems to be getting its own unique twist to differentiate itself from the flood of other shooters. Platinum Game’s third person shooter, Vanquish, adds its own twist to the genre giving players an advanced armored suit equipped with thrusters for some high-speed action.
If you’re not already familiar with the concept, Vanquish lets players jet across the field using leg thrusters. In combination with the leg thrusters, long-time friend of the shooter genre, bullet-time, appears as well. This allows for fast and frenetic high-speed action, but gives the player a level of precision when they need it… in theory.
When it comes down to it, the thrusters are simply a more flexible version of the run feature shooters have been implementing in the last few years. Players are allowed to essentially move faster in a limited time. The only real difference between Vanquish’s thrusters and, say, Gears of War’s running is the fact that you can still act while using this mode.
When thrusters and bullet-time are combined, it actually reminds me two titles: Stranglehold and WET. A lot of the time you will be using your thrusters while using bullet-time to pick off enemies, which feels very similar to how you would do more acrobatic techniques while in bullet-time to take out enemies in the previously mentioned titles. But don’t let that comparison scare you away. Vanquish, in terms of the usual mechanics, is a very solid shooter.
The controls in Vanquish are incredibly fluid and responsive, and pretty much nails many of the mechanics found in other shooters. Very similarly to Uncharted 2, the title takes ideas from a variety of other titles in its genre and polishes them to a shine. The third person shooting feels a lot like Gears of War, the bullet-time/thrusters tricks play a lot like a polished Stranglehold, and the boss in the demo played similar to something you might see in the Lost Planet series.
Vanquish, visually, does a great job of keeping a simple yet detailed style that is easy on the eyes. Not only does it just look good, but there is also just tons stuff constantly going on at all times. Bullets, explosions, and many of other effects are constantly all over the screen, more so than most other shooters. It’s even more impressive by the number of highly detailed enemy and ally units that are displayed at once. The PlayStation 3 version’s framerate never skipped a beat during the demo, resulting in a very smooth and flashy experience. It is one of those titles that is a lot cooler to watch than to actually play. The only mark in the title’s production values is that the voice acting seemed a bit spotty.
Admittedly, the demo takes place in an early chapter of the game. Some different uses for the thrusters later on would be a very welcome addition to the title. But as is, Vanquish seems like a title that is unique in concept rather than mechanics. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, the title is an incredibly well made shooter, it just doesn’t differentiate much from all the other ones out there. The demo is available on both Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, so I’d highly recommend giving the title your own look. And if you like what you play, be sure to check out the title when it launches on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 October 19th in North America and October 22nd in Europe.