A shooting game, essentially, about fighting hordes of enemies in a manner similar to the cover-based antics of Gears of War. The aim is simple: use four weapons that suit your playing style best and mix it up with paralyzing and destructive grenades. It sounds simple enough, but there is one crucial and intriguing difference. The player takes control of a balls-to-the-walls type of hero, who has amazing, out of this world fighting skills courtesy of the mechanical suit he is wearing. The cyber suit is the real star of Vanquish, as it puts the player straight into the centre of the action. Rockets and bullets fly everywhere, explosions rip the scenery apart and the metallic protagonist dashes stylishly from one robotic foe to another. Most of the time it's all displayed in a beautiful, slow motion, ballet-like quality. The catch is that the suit can't perform all the time and needs recharging, thus making the player vulnerable to enemy attacks.
Combat is immensely satisfying. Frequently requiring the use of cover to safely charge up the suit and plan the next flanking maneuver, firefights feel fun and keep the adrenaline rushes flowing. The game utilizes time and space in an original way that makes other games from its genre feel lame and slow in comparison. The player has to constantly think about the surroundings and the positions of the enemies. It's a clear case of where the player is, where he has to go, and what he has to do to get there. Every single one of Vanquish's effulgent moments are bursting with energy and rhythm, encouraging its structure and contents to be enjoyed.
It's a stylish, extremely fast-moving game. The controls and the enemy AI are exactly what you would hope in a game like this. They make the player feel sheer joy, disbelief, frustration, and sense of accomplishment and fulfilment when zooming through levels blasting all that dares to move. But make no mistake about it, this is a hard and demanding game. The player's skills are at the center of it all, and willl improve during the course of the action, well they have to because there are no skill points or level ups. Besides guns performing better from continuous use, the player's skills are the only things that improve as the game ramps up its hectic tempo. On normal level things are pretty much what you would expect from an action game difficulty wise, but play it on hard (or on the unlocked by completion God Hard setting) and you will experience Vanquish the way it is meant to be played. Here every situation demands the player's utmost attention.
The realisation of constant danger is excellent. As the player performs a set of acrobatic moves in conjunction with turbo-dashes and slow motion bullet time, the game engages the player on the way the most distinguished examples of action game genre do. Hesitation means instant failure. The bullet time is used like it's supposed to be used, in a manner that puts true emphasize on the players actions. Unlike in Max Payne where bullet time gave you something of a breathing space to get easy kills. In Vanquish you are meant to be playing the game in slow motion as much as possible. The leaps to cover should be the only thing interrupting the flow of play.
In addition, the pacing is very tight and constantly rewarding. There are no empty moments or moments that feel like a grind. The action is both exhilarating and frantic from the get-go to the finishing credits. The game constantly throws more at you, and makes you adapt to it. It is somehow disappointing then that it ends quite so soon. The ending draws near in no more than six to eight hours, an amount that would be too little if the game didn't have such great replay value. In addition to the difficulty levels, the game has engaging and rewarding challenge missions. The compactness of Vanquish reflects many more hours of fun to be had as it draws the player in for more action and honing of the skills. It's easy to get comfortable with the challenge missions upon completing the game on normal difficulty on the first run.
From a graphical and visual design point of view Vanquish is very pleasing and full of atmosphere. The game is set in a futuristic space world that is shaped like Halo's ring. The level design is very different, though. The game world is cold and metallic with brief moments of nature's existence. The world and its coherently structured design provide a perfect and natural playing ground for some clever cover-based action. Sadly, there is also a non-poignant and boring story behind all this, which feels like your average video game narrative. The cutscenes do little to justify the action, so it's a good thing that the gameplay does it so efficiently.
Everything about Vanquish displays an undisputed love of video gaming. The result is a strong game that will leave its mark on players. Here the different gameplay mechanics are fused together with splashes of the purest gaming magic. All this reflects to a game that needs to be played on the highest performance level. It makes no apologies as it demands the very best from its player. The overall vision is executed in a both unique and ambitious fashion. Vanquish is a delightfully addictive and original action game that continues the high standards of its famous director.
Editor Note: English is Johannes' second language and he is looking to improve. There may be a certain amount of lost-in-translation. Any helpful comments much appreciated.