September 9, 2010

Demo Report – Vanquish

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 8:46 am

While the demo of Vanquish ends as quickly as it begins, it doesn’t take much time for Platinum Games to dangle another title mixing tight controls and sensory overload. This time around, Shinji Mikami and Atsushi Inaba seem to be catching up on the robot bashing Mikami expressed an interest in creating long ago, a void since left to be filled by cult favorite Gamecube title P.N.03 until now.

It has taken more than a few run-throughs, but Vanquish seems to use elements of P.N.03’s dance moves to create more of a hyper bullet ballet, though not in the ways I might have originally imagined when the title was first announced.

Speed is a hard thing to gauge in a videogame – even racing games use a variety of tricks to deliver a sense of speed – and there is no speedometer on a third-person shooter. When the eye feels overwhelmed and someone says “wow, that’s fast,” it’s usually the way several elements come together – the particle effects of a boost run across the screen, the spread of AI opponents and their ability to take positions that not only keep players pinned, but work to kill them before they can plan a line of attack, and even the way the screen fills with bullets.

Vanquish uses this and more to give a sense of speed utterly lacking in the heavier footsteps of Western equivalents. There’s nothing subtle about how it accomplishes this, boosting across the screen in areas filled with bullet spewing boxes that keep the shells hitting the ground and occasionally make me forget I can actually rocket punch through robots as well.


I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the marketing. A passing glance at Vanquish shows plenty of the familiar – including a set of exploding barrels. Bayonetta’s circus of traffic-stopping oddities gives way to anime robots and several mentions of Casshern as an significant influence on the design.

Sega’s challenge is a familiar one in simply getting people to sit and give the game a try. If and when you do, and you really should, I believe you’ll find that the familiar is there to serve as a foundation for creating an arena battlefield – the don’t think, just shoot agenda that isn’t about anything deeper than your tactile input meeting the challenge of creating the visual output that makes Vanquish work.

I had sometime to think about this while pinned down by an AI that seemed reasonably intent on getting a deadlier angle of attack. A quick tap of the trigger caused Sam to puff on a cigarette before tossing it in one direction to draw fire and taking advantage of the short distraction to hijack a walking turret.

It wasn’t until another Editor mentioned the probable absence of plot that I even considered that side of the title – it never occurred to me that Vanquish needed a plot to be honest. If Vanquish overdoses on the genre trappings at hyper-speed while stepping on a few cigarette butts along the way, I’d consider it refreshing compared to Western shooter delusions of a more dated narrative substance. Story is where you find it, and maybe it’s overdue that we occasionally look for it in our own tales from the battlefield.

An augmented reality feature that speeds up Sam by slowing down the action on screen is a sticky note however. Even the slickest suit can’t alleviate the feeling that we’ve hit a wall here, and even if doing it all again faster passes the time, it doesn’t bode well for defining it.

Luckily you can check out the demo for yourself on PS3 and 360, so give it a go. Seriously, why on earth are you still reading this?

1 Comment »

  1. I’ll be downloading the demo tonight. Still have to eventually track down a copy of P.N. 03 on Gamecube as well.

    Comment by EdEN — September 9, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

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