Vanquish Review (PS3)

I'm on my knees, sliding as the plume of small jet engines ripping the air like a curse as I'm thrust along the floor at speed. Bullets fray the air and I narrowly miss the hulking robotic behemoth that threatens to crush my very existence by squeezing under its stamping foot. I snap out of the slide, acrobatically leaping into the air before throwing grenades in quick succession, awaiting the crackle of an EMP discharge before I dismember the surrounding robots with acute precision.

The Russian-built monstrosity continues to bark out plasma, throwing marines into the air like bloody ragdolls as its white-hot firepower collides with my ARS suit. Time slows to a murky-red standstill and as I dive out of the incoming missiles I unleash fury into the machine's Argus core, slowly filling its empty heart with burning cordite and overloading it into oblivion.

Power-sliding on the road to victory

As I take cover and watch the sparking pieces of machinery take to the air like fireworks I pull out a cigarette, hearing the wheeze of my overheating suit venting hot air into the carnage. I wait for everything to become calm. It never does. Vanquish never stops.

That moment encapsulates almost every minute of Vanquish's 7 hour running time. It's an intense and exhilarating ride through one of this years most spectacular and enjoyable titles. From the start Vanquish leaps out of the gate and never lets up from an intense, fast and furious journey into bullets and robotic mayhem.

The hook to hang all these superlatives on comes in the form of the ARS suit. It provides the rocket-propelled power slide that allows you to skid across vast distances quickly, enables devastating and acrobatic melee attacks and comes with the requisite bullet-time mode. These features marry so well into the general game experience that the design always feels fluid and natural. Taking down large numbers of enemies, moving from one end of the battlefield to another and dispatching a mechanical colossus are all possible - if you judge the use of the ARS suit wisely.

The reason for this tactical approach comes down to a very simple design decision - the use of just one energy bar for everything. All the features, whether power sliding, bullet-time, melee attack, all use the same resource so each encounter becomes a test of strategy and focus - not quite the messy carnage that the on-screen fireworks might portray. There's much more here than just kicking arse and chewing gum.

Yep. Definitely going to need a bigger gun

Playing as DARPA agent Sam Gideon, the story hams up the level breaks with some ultra-serious cut-scenes designed to hit all the right clichés in all the right places. There's nothing terribly overt about it all (except perhaps the ‘gonna need a bigger gun’ line) but it's all disposable and deliberately overdone to make light of all the po-faced space marine shooters that we've come to expect from this console generation. Gears of War and Halo look positively clunky and childish in comparison to this precision-built marvel that has enough class to make fun of itself as well as other games.

Gleefully filling its boots with corny one-liners and gravelly-voiced heroes you'd be forgiven for thinking that Vanquish would be all mouth and no trousers. Aside from thrusting a parody-laden narrative into the face the technical achievements of the game are just as satisfying and even more amazing.

There's not a single game I can think of that puts moment to moment set pieces together so effectively than Vanquish. Each encounter leaves you breathless but the high points are also complimented by some subtle sections that are less explosive but surprisingly creepy. Escorting an armoured tank through a murky tunnel is a tense affair and serves as a great respite from the mayhem that resumes topside.

What makes those aboveground encounters so impressive is the scale and majesty of their implementation. There's no other word I can use other than epic to describe how the scenery comes out of the background and interferes with play. Frantically sliding off a crumbling highway, chainsaw-like enemy troop transports that burrow out of the ground and a monorail section that sees the world turn literally upside down. It's not unlike Split/Second with its dramatic scripted moments and the chaos and strategy of battle combine to make some pretty unforgettable instances of gameplay.

The constant mayhem and large enemies will always test your skills

During these moments Vanquish never stutters or drops in frame-rate. Considering the size and scale of the enemies you face and the number of robot grunts around you this is a display of technical prowess. Everything you do, whether it's blasting off the heads of a dozen enemies and watching them explode in succession, or taking down a boss that fills the screen with glowing weak points and immense weaponry, Vanquish never stops.

That's the core of this amazing experience. While other developers pursue more realistic experiences, Platinum never loses sight that it's making a videogame. And that's what Vanquish is - a pure, unadulterated ride that's packed with enjoyment and leaves you wanting more. It's the nearest embodiment of “Hell Yeah!” or “Come Get Some!” you’re ever likely to play.

Top Game Moment: Taking down a giant boss only to be sprayed with thousands of missiles as it transforms into an even bigger monstrosity.