The third-person shooter is a crowded genre filled with mediocre and sub-par games that, more often than not, feel like uninspired clones of other titles. I’ve always been a fan of them, but I’ve definitely started to feel a bit fatigued lately.
Until I played Vanquish.
Now, I know I’m a bit late to the party on this one; the game has been around for a while now, but I stumbled across it at my local mom and pop shop and was intrigued. It set me back a modest twenty bucks, and boy was it worth it.
Vanquish is a third-person cover-based shooter that somehow seemed to slip under the radar of great games. It’s the brainchild of Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami and takes place in the not-too-distant future. Players take control of Sam, a DARPA agent working alongside the military to both stop a massive Russian attack on New York and recover a professor who built an impressive cybernetic suit for the organization but has since been taken prisoner by the Russians. No, the story isn’t great (aside from some awesome sequences of microwave rays in the beginning). But the gameplay is.
The secret is in the suit. Called the ARS (Augmented Reaction Suit) system, it gives Sam access to enhanced body control through brain and nervous system monitoring. Translation: it allows him to be a complete badass.
Power suits are no stranger to gaming. From Crysis to Halo, we’ve used suits with impressive abilities to boost characters and give them an advantage to beat the odds and achieve the impossible. Vanquish, however, gives you more than extra armor or enhanced jumping ability. Rather, using the suit allows you to literally rocket from cover to cover along the groud, deliver devastating melee blows, and even lets you slow down time for stylized kills a la Max Payne’s bullet time. Of course, these powers are limited, and must be used carefully to avoid overheating the suit. Sam is also a strict departure from the oversized gorilla man that seems to dominate the character model of the third-person shooter, instead being much smaller and much more agile, able to move quickly and nimbly in combat.
With a semi-futuristic setting and colorful set design, the game looks and feels like a never-ending Mass Effect battle. Even some of the enemies look akin to the geth that plagued the original game.
But the most addicting and exciting part of the game is its frantic, crazy combat. Gone is the traditional third-person style of shooting made up of hiding behind cover and popping up to shoot an enemy like whack-a-mole. Instead, you literally rocket from one end of the battlefield to another, taking cover, flanking enemies, and zipping around in a frenzy as you lay waste. Like Mass Effect on a crack binge, the game is hectic, crazy, and fast-paced, more than delivering on its promise of being a high-octane shooter.
Tight, fluid controls allow you to be a little crazy, and although the game encourages you to move quickly, you still have to mind a bit of strategy. It is a cover shooter, so you are a bit more squishy and bullets will finish you off fast if you don’t play your cards right. While it might sound like your character is somewhat overpowered, I’ve learned the hard way many, many times that moving fast doesn’t necessarily translate to being immortal.
You’ll have to use different tactics to defeat enemies as well; flanking works best for enemies that man mech robots, giant bosses have varied attacks and patterns you’ll need to memorize in order to best them, and there are a few quick time events that will undo everything you’ve already successfully pulled off in battle if you don’t have the reflexes of a cat.
So if you’re like me and have grown a bit tired of cover, shoot, move forward to cover, shoot, rinse, repeat, do yourself a favor and pick up Vanquish. It’s fast, it’s crazy, it’s challenging, and it is by far one of the best shooters I’ve ever played.