Imagine you’re playing an action/FPS game.  You’ve done the recon, saved the hostages, and found the enemy stronghold.  All that’s left is the final assault.  Vanquish is that final assault — complete with explosions, transforming robots, and bullet time — just not the best one you’ve ever seen.

Sam, meet giant robot. Giant robot, Sam.

  • TL;DR: Inconsistent difficulty and lack of variety, but some pretty cool, unique elements.
  • Platform: Xbox 360
  • Score: 6.4
  • Hours Played: 8
  • What I Played: Main campaign
  • Recommended: Only if you’re looking for a very quick, non-AAA game

Sam Gideon is the main character in Vanquish, which came out back in 2010.  San Francisco is attacked by a rebel Russian force, the Order of the Russian Star, and it’s up to Sam, some military grunts, and the Augmented Reality Suit to save the day.  You’ve also to the help of a woman named Elena back at DARPA who has cameras all over creation to help be your eyes.

The suit is equipped with boosters, allowing you to slide around the battlefield in all manner of coolness.  If you hold down the aim button while dodging, you’ll activate slow motion to help you line up your shots.  I’m guessing, as it’s never explained, that is the “augmented reality” part of the suit.  Both boosting and slow motion use the same energy meter, which slowly recharges and can overheat if you use it all the way.  I found shooting while sliding to be a bit of a pain, mainly because you enter and exit slow motion at such a rapid fire pace.

An accepted fact in shooting games is that the main character can hold more guns than should be possible.  In Vanquish, you hold a single weapon that transforms into one of three guns you can “carry” at one time.  You’ve got the standard fare, like assault rifles and shotguns, as well as some fun stuff, like the lock-on laser or the EMP gun.  Each gun transformation is satisfying to both watch and listen to.  Imagine the close-up scenes from Michael Bay’s Transformer movies.

Wonder-gun powers, activate! Form of … assault rifle!

Vanquish plays like an old school shoot-em-up on the ground level.  There are an insane amount of explosions and torrents of gunfire.  After each level, you’re given a score that tallies up as the game goes on.  There isn’t anything really nifty about this score, aside from an online leaderboard.  Killing multiple enemies in one shot gives you a slightly more points than killing them one at a time, but the arcade score doesn’t really do anything.  Ammo can be scarce at times, especially after a particularly hard fight.  If there isn’t any ammo on the ground or new guns to apply to your Autobot-gun, you’re SOL.  I had to let a few bosses kill me so I could respawn with ammo.

The difficulty of Vanquish is also frustrating.  You’ll be plodding along, beating mission after mission, until all of a sudden BOOM — you hit a wall.  You end up dying 3,5,10 times before you finally get past a certain fight.  And now you’re steamrolling through missions again.  Not to mention that all of these missions are “proceed to the next checkpoint” missions with a light seasoning of “kill the waves of enemies in this area.”  There are no allies to rescue, suit upgrades to find, or skill tree to progress through.  You can upgrade a gun by picking up the same gun when you have full ammo, but these upgrades are only for more ammo (until you get about 20 of those in a row, then you get a slight firepower increase).

It’s also tough to get a read on the true tone of the game.  Sam travels with a small group of miltary grunts and their leader Corporal Burns.  The level of dialogue and flip-floppy relationship from foes to coworkers to BFFs can make your head spin.  Even after playing through the game, I’m not sure if it was supposed to be serious or satirical.

Also, there’s a dedicated button for taking a smoke break. What the hell?

Vanquish is a full-throttle experience right from the rip.  As such, it can only sustain that pace for about 7-8 hours.  Difficulty can be frustrating at times and the missions are both bland and repetitive.  But, zipping around the ground in a rocket-booster suit and spin-kicking robots with your Transformer gun is a fun enough experience to warrant playing.  Just don’t expect anything that will set the world on fire.

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