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Yahtzee reviews Vanquish.

TranscriptEdit

It's been a long, confusing journey, hasn't it, PlatinumGames, which, funnily enough, also describes most of your fucking releases. There have been some strange turns: Bayonetta 2 exclusive to Wii U springs to mind; that was like a fucking modern art installation being exclusive to the Etch-A-Sketch. But PlatinumGames has finally joined us in the sun; first, Bayonetta 1 gets a Steam release and everyone went "Oooooo-kay, bit weird. Wouldn't particularly mind that being a console game 'cos it made it slightly easier to furtively hide when our mum burst into the room."

Why don't you bring out a Steam version of that shooter you made? The one that became a bit of a cult hit and that's now also hard to find? "What, you mean Anarchy Reigns?" Ha ha ha ha ha ha! No. Obviously, we're talking about Vanquish, which is highly suitable for release on PCs partly because it's a high-octane cover shooter, and partly because the main character spends the entire game wearing one. Obviously, no one told the Vanquish dude not to wear a pure white suit of armor to a grimy battlefield; by rights, it should have ended up looking like the floor of a sharehouse bathroom.

The plot of Vanquish concerns Russia being evil; it was a little bit quaint at the time the game first came out, but has since somehow come back around being relevant again. They take over an orbital death ray station with an army of death robots and blow up San Francisco in a humanitarian effort to combat rising housing costs in California. But America take it the wrong way, as always, and refuse to surrender, dispatching a bunch of marines to the death ray station to take it back. The main character is not a marine, but an employee of DARPA wearing a very expensive, DARPA-developed suit of armor, 'cos it's not like DARPA develops tech to be used by the military. No, that's why every tank and fighter plane has to be piloted by the nerd who developed it.

Shush now, everybody! The thing is, we're not actually supposed to be taking this plot seriously, so it is a shame that the Russia aspect has gotten itself all inconveniently relevant. There's always an undercurrent of irony in PlatinumGames' stuff, although it's admittedly slightly subtler here than it is in, say, Bayonetta, the woman who routinely has to clean small children out of her armpits after they mistake her for a roller coaster.

The main character smokes constantly, to maintain the stereotypical "grizzled badass" image, but I think he only does so so he can dramatically flick cigarettes away when he's about to do things, 'cos I don't think he ever got through more than a quarter-inch of one. He's partnered for most of the game with Robert Burns, famous Scottish poet and author of "Auld Lang Syne", here reimagined as a nine-foot shaved bear of a man who's so grizzled, he can peel potatoes by rubbing them on his chin, and as for badass, his ass is so bad, it denies the Holocaust and fraudulently uses disabled parking spaces. So the two of them spend the entire game having an incredibly insecure grizzle-off; the flashy, young newcomer in his go-faster stripes versus the cynical old-timer wearing an entire double-decker bus, down on their knees, competing to see who can suck the most gravel into their throats. There's also an attractive female support character, and whenever she's onscreen, the camera always seems to be one flicked cigarette away from pointing right up her skirt. It's all immensely silly stuff, and par for the PlatinumGames course; what makes Vanquish interesting is the combat mechanics.

So obviously, Vanquish set out to make a cover shooter, but after looking at what those were, it asked, "Do we really have to plop ourselves down behind little walls so much? We exclusively make fast-paced games, 'cos we have the attention span of a moth at a fireworks display." Then, after they were firmly told that, yes, plopping down behind cover is a pretty essential part of a cover shooter, Vanquish went, "Could we maybe have the character break-dance behind cover rather than plop? Oh, and, weird idea: rocket skates!" Yes, apparently, DARPA's jetpack research went nowhere, so they repurposed the tech to let you scoot along the ground, like a fast-forward video of a dog with an itchy bum. And most of the combat takes place in big, wide-open arenas, so the emphasis is less on plopping down and more on dodging, changing position, and managing your suit energy.

Here's a little tip I discovered: if you switch weapons midway-through a reload animation, the first weapon will be reloaded when you switch back to it, in accordance with the principles of homeopathy, I think. Whatever; it keeps the pace up, but speaking of pace, one thing I could do without is the way you automatically go into slow motion when you're near-death. Yeah, I know it's to get yourself out of danger, but once you are, there's no way to turn it off again, so all you can do is let your suit energy run out, then pop a plop while you wait for it to come back. It's a bit of a pace-killer; I thought we were avoiding plop. The last thing you want is for your game to become ploppy. I very much enjoy saying the word "plop". Plop aside, though, Vanquish's combat is generally a speedy and interesting take on the genre. What else has it got? "What else?! Dammit, we weren't prepared for this part of the interview! Quick, spawn 500 million identical robots!"

Yes, sadly, like a severely poorly-maintained harp, the game's kind of one-note. The entire thing takes place in the same environment, a probably oversized space station city that can't be bothered to so much as throw a carpet down every now and then, and you fight 10 million copies of the same robot that looks like a Transformer that turns into a pink dildo. Everything that passes for a boss fight happens again at least twice, the story somehow gets from A to B while standing completely still. I sort of grasp that Burns doesn't care about individual soldiers dying and the main bloke does, but demonstrates it another six or seven times just to be sure. At least he cares in cutscenes; not in gameplay, 'cos he's busy plopping. But hey, don't worry that the game doesn't evolve much, 'cos it's also really short, so it won't bother you for long.

All in all, if you're planning to buy Vanquish, then make doubly sure you don't need the money for anything really important, like medicine or a donation to the Republican party, 'cos it kind of feels more like a proof of concept than a complete game. A concept proved, certainly; you can have a fun cover shooter while you glide around on your back the whole time like a prostitute on a highly-polished dance floor, but the time to develop the concept into something a bit meatier has long since passed, and now the game only exists as a sort of glimpse into a parallel universe where triple-A shooters remember that video games are supposed to be fun.

That aside, Vanquish is also a PC port of a last-generation game, so let's take a moment now to share our favorite bugs! That one where you took double damage if the game was running 60 fps must have been a nightmare for hardcore PC gamers, for whom playing at 30 fps is apparently like trying to breathe with a plastic bag on their head. The measure I was given to correct the bug added a whole bunch of exciting new ones, like in one level, I kept falling through the floor and dying before the screen had faded in. Loading screen, pause, hideous dying scream, reload, repeat; it was like playing a blunt dramatization of stillbirth.

AddendaEdit

  • Wearing a dustbin: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Not sure what the power source is for the suit of armour in this game but I suspect it might be friction burns
  • So why doesn't anything in this game get vanquished
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II

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