Posted by John on January 3, 2012

Vanquish (PS3)

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Elizabeth Martin
Reviewed by Elizabeth Martin
January 03, 2012
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Last updated: January 03, 2012

With Vanquish developers Platinum Games have taken a standard macho third person cover shooter and injected it full of Japanese flamboyance and panache. Instead of shooting waves of mindless grunts in a grey/brownish landscape, you are confronted with waves of laser-death spewing robots in a cacophony of noise and colour. Fights are fast and intense, requiring you to move rapidly around the battlefield by sliding along the ground in your jet powered suit.

At first you are encouraged to play the game like a standard cover shooter, and to compound this you are given a percentage of your time spent in cover during any given section. This number may be, at first, over and above 40% but by the end this will reduce to practically (if not exactly) 0% as you gain enough confidence to zip around shooting down enemies in style without a care for your personal safety; in the end it is simply safer to keep moving than to hide behind a flimsy piece of scenery.

It is a shame that in many ways the game fails to get out of its self inflicted cover shooter rut, even if you take them to be intentionally making fun of the genre. The story is flimsy (up until the slightly unexpected ending), the characters are laughable stereotypes and the weapons are simply generic (if effective) versions of assault rifle, heavy machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher and sniper rifle with a handful of oddities thrown in.

In other ways however, the game really stands on its own. Weapon upgrades are handled interestingly and rather unusually. Each is upgraded if you pick up a weapon of the same type as one you hold which is currently full of ammo. This encourages you to not use your favourite weapon in order to upgrade it and to experiment with others in the meantime. It also cleverly means you are constantly kept in game instead of retreating to menus as you can upgrade simply by picking up a weapon in the field.

What also makes it stand out is that it is, in true Japanese style, liberally peppered with repeated boss encounters. There are many huge and varied bosses to face, each of which require you to discover and exploit their weaknesses before they can be dispatched. It is at this point that the game unsurprisingly falls into the old genre cliche of glowing weak points, but in one particularly memorable boss battle the game pokes fun at its own reliance on this mechanic in a fight that simply reduced me to fits of giggles. I can safely say it is the funniest, cutest and yet simultaneously terrifying boss I have ever faced off with.

However you look at it, the game itself is impossibly enormous fun and intoxicatingly empowering as you zoom across a level to slide between the legs of a towering robot, seamlessly evade to slow down time and empty a clip into the glowing weak point embedded in its back. As with the glorious Bayonetta before it, it is simply impossible to not feel cool while playing this game.

Accessibility issues:

1. Visual 6/10
The game visits a variety of settings during its course, a few of which may produce issues for people. It starts out in gleaming white cityscapes but a few short sections (out of 29 in total) of the game are very dark, one set in a tunnel and one requiring you to snipe out search lights as you travel along a dark train track. The brightness level is adjustable, however which may help in these sections. Also, one later section is in a park meaning it may be difficult to see red parts of the hub on the green background. There can be a massive amount happening on screen at once so if you do have any issues distinguishing features it would cause you problems playing the game.

On the plus side, the on screen hub information is presented in red and turquoise which are hopefully distinguishable, and weapons on the battlefield are helpfully highlighted with the name of the weapon written above it so they can easily be identified during fire fights.

2. Hearing 7/10
There are no necessary audible cues that I have found and the game is passably subtitled but there is no closed captioning. There are a few helpful audio cues, such as being able to hear your suit recharging and when a defeated enemy might explode near you but there’s nothing that would make the game at all unplayable when playing with no sound.

3. Subtitles 6/10
The game is subtitled, you even have the option of what language you would like voice and subtitles in, so you can have French voices and Japanese subtitles if you’re feeling adventurous. The voices in game are also accompanied with a picture and the name of the person speaking to help make things clear. Although occasionally you are given information and new objectives during fire fights (when you’re too busy to listen, let alone read) it is mostly given in periods of downtime. If you’re not sure of your objective at any time it is given in the pause menu.

Unfortunately during cut scenes the subtitles are given at the bottom of the screen in white font with no box meaning they’re often presented on white/grey background making them difficult to read. There’s also no indication of who is speaking other than what is happening in the scene at the time.

4. Precision 7/10
The game requires aiming but you can slow down time to do this carefully if your suit has enough charge. There is also an auto-casual option which will automatically take your reticule to the nearest enemy when you hold down aim. It will track the enemy you are centred on and simply by holding down aim and fire you can quickly take out many spread out enemies with minimal effort.

5. Controls 3/10
The controls take a little getting used to in play as they are not your usual TPS fare, but there is a good tutorial at the start which goes through everything with you and there are some button prompts in game.

There are two sets of controls to choose from but they seem to be personal preference and not very helpful, and they cannot be re-mapped. The game often requires you to hold several buttons at once, in particular L2 to start sliding across the map, L1 to activate slow motion and R1 to fire. These all must be held constantly at once to produce the effect whilst also using both analogue sticks to move and aim. So unfortunately one-handed players will not be able to play this game with a standard controller.

The game has a few QTE sections, normally (and unsurprisingly) at the end of boss battles. These involve button mashing one key or twizzling one of the analogue sticks. They don’t require very fast reactions but they do require quite fast mashing.

6. Difficulty 8/10
There is a wide range of difficulties to choose from, from casual auto to god hard. This can be altered at any time but you will register a score for that section on the lowest setting played.

There are a few harsh difficulty spikes during the game, but as stated above you can reduce the difficulty and the game has quite generous checkpoints so you should not have to replay long sections.

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