Friday, December 16, 2011

Vanquish

Rocket sliding at it's finest!
I've never played a game like this before. Boom, instant judgment on my part, I know. I'm well-aware that, upon seeing this game, that many of you could already say that this game is a third-person shooter, like many others in the market a la Gears of War. The only thing that sets it apart from most other third-person shooters is the awesome skating mechanic where you, Sam, the armor-clad soldier, could use your rocket-boosters to shoot across the battleground, take cover, shoot, "slow-down" time, or kick an enemy square in the face. But looking at the bare bones of this game, there's nothing much else to say about this game, and I have to somewhat agree, despite my inexperience with many third-person shooters.

Nevertheless, for the most part, this is a game that revels in its speed and its action, and yes, it does deliver. First time I saw the exclusive demo of this game at GameSpot, my reaction was as follows: Holy crap, this is awesome! He just rocketed across the screen. BAM! He backflipped and kicked that dude into a wall! I thought only Gene of GodHand could do that? Did...did he just jump onto that robot and punch the ever-loving, fealty-swearing mercy crap out of that thing? Well, damn, color me happy.

Yeah, it was amazing. And the first time you play this game, you'll feel the same adrenaline rush of hitting that shoulder button and zipping across the screen, annihilating things as you go. But like all games, the feeling will last only for so long, and it's up to the developer to keep you enticed for the whole way through. This game starts off with San Francisco getting blown up. Not literally, but the stereotypically evil Russia dictator clad in a gimp suit is behind the whole affairs. Perched on top of his evil Russian machine of death in space, he rained hell onto the city, and the US, in response, declared war on the Reds.

Not the most exciting plot, and despite the game's attempt to spice it up along the way, it really doesn't sink in. Yes, it's primarily because this game only gives a damn about the gameplay, and I will get to that. But it's hard to ignore this game's presentation sometimes. This game tries to throw some plot twists along the way, and despite its efforts, in the end, you only get the basic idea and nothing else because of how lackluster the storytelling is: You're fighting evil Russians. Destroy them.

You're only going from one place to another, defending one thing and destroying another. There's no real driving force aside from shooting the hell out of things. The characters involved don't help matters, either. One man appears for about a minute and disappears for about the rest of the game. The operator keeps you company over a distance, but she is hardly significant to the role of a character, per se. Soldiers are practically all redshirts, as to be expected, and Burns, the leading commander, is shown to be a gravelly-voiced ass and nothing else. Sam at least has some kind of personality, as he is empathetic towards others, but he turns out to be another gravelly-voice asskicker in the end with nothing else to back him up.

But nobody cares, right? Here I am whining about the story, characters, and presentation, when none of that matters in the slightest. Who plays a shooter for the story? Don't say Bioshock. Yeah, it does do well with the gameplay. Really well, in fact. The stuff that dude did in the demo? Yeah, you can do it too, and it has the same exact feel as you would expect. As you've donned a type of power armor, you'd expect to feel in control. This game launches you from area to area with countless waist-high walls for you to take cover behind. You're given a maximum of about three weapons you can switch between, plus grenades. Should you need to, you have an extremely fast, extremely powerful melee attack that does massive damage but will more than not drain all of your energy and leave you with no power to try out your other awesome toys. 

As you would expect, the gameplay revolves around you taking cover and peeking out from it every so often to shoot the incoming Russian drones in the face. The game tries to mix things up by throwing bigger, nastier robots, such as the Romanovs that use rockets, at you, so you'll need to maneuver around a bit more rather than keep in one spot. This changes up the game and keeps it from feeling too static.

But what makes this kind of gameplay fairly unique is two things: the ability to go into bullet time and the ability to rocket across the stage. You see, this game already feels face enough as it is, and it's this speed that gives you that adrenaline rush. Sam runs around briskly, he jumps out of cover and shoots quickly, and the chaos around you only contributes to this. Now, Sam also has the ability to rocket across the stage while shooting, making the experience all the fuller and more exciting. Nothing beats shooting from cover to cover and charging around the legs of a massive boss while blasting away at its weak points.

Along with this you have the ability to slow down time within the limits of your energy pool before you overheat. Does this really need explaining. Time slows down as you're using it, and with it, you could get yourself out of a bind or take better aim at your opponents for good measure. Really, this game's gameplay is immensely fun. It throws you into mindless excitement, a crazy thrill ride of a game with nothing to tell you to stop. It's destructive, it's fast, and it's a blast.

Problem is that it stops being a blast after about the tenth time you've gone through it. The game rarely attempts to change it up. Granted, the setting in which you're place changes ever now and then, but it always narrows down to shooting and ducking behind cover. It stays consistently fun, yes, but the feeling wears on you after awhile. Not a lot of variety in this game, to put it simply. There is a sniping section, a turret section, and a section where you're riding along the railways and must defend from the opposition - all are great, to be sure. But after awhile, it all just feels so, so, repetitive. 

It's not like you get new abilities - only weapons, but chances are you'll stick to the weapons that are most effective than try new and different weapons, unless the situation calls for it. The fact that your energy drains incredibly quickly before you overheat also takes away from the experience. Melee attacks are amazing, but the fact that you could only use it once or twice before becoming a sitting duck means you'll be limited in your approach. This game has great gameplay, some of the fastest I've ever played, but it buries in too much of the same content and doesn't give you the freedom to try something new.

Moving on from that, the art style of this game is gorgeous. Everything is colorful, although admittingly the world seems to be predominately white. Greenery and the heavy, dark machinery provides a pleasing contrast. Sam's armor gives a radiant sheen, and the enemy's red armor is bold against the backdrop. Everything is, well, shiny. It looks futuristic and sleek. at times it could be difficult, though, as the predominately white color could be tiring to look at after awhile, and in bright settings, such as daylight, it could be blinding and difficult to see in.

As for sound quality, there aren't any memorable tracks. This is probably due to the fact that the majority of sounds you'll hear throughout the game will be shouting and gunfire. Every now and then you'll get a grand orchestrated opening, but the tunes will fade away to the sounds of a battleground. As you can infer from my description of Burns' and Sam's "gravelly-voices" I'm not a fan of the voice-acting in the slightest. Not the voices themselves, but more to the point that their voices just sound forces. It sounds fake, as if the actors were desperately trying to sound tough but instead sounds like a child trying to sound like an adult. It just sounds unnatural.

This game is worth your time. Not in talking, no, but in the gameplay it'll offer you. The experience is nothing short of lackluster, and it's doubtful there'll be anything memorable in this game. But it's definitely worth a playthrough, and it'll be worth your time to experience and action that made this game fun.
NAME: VANQUISH
SYSTEM: Play Station 3, XBOX 360

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