Vanquish is the type of game that wouldn’t get made now. In a world where every game strives to be the next big open-world experience, it’s hard to imagine such a straight to the point, linear concept would ever see the light of day. Developer PlatinumGames have started to delve into that mindset, with games such as Nier: Automata and Astral Chain having more expansive worlds than their backlog. Sometimes the simplicity of a linear adventure – packed to the brim with high-octane action – is enough to feed the brain enough dopamine. PlatinumGames knows this, and Vanquish showcases it.
Vanquish is the Starship Troopers game I always wanted, without the grotesque alien bugs and hilarious infomercials sprinkled throughout. Essentially, it boils down to a team of hard-ass Americans setting out to fight a greater evil, complete with a lot of shouting and an echo of “oorah’s!”.
All taking place in the future, Vanquish sees all four corners of the Earth fighting for a sparse amount of resources. The Russian Federation is betrayed by a faction of their own who seek to have dominance over it all. Playing as Sam Gideon, you and your team are tasked to infiltrate and diminish all rebellions the theatrical Russians are causing. It’s a cookie cutter plot with all the depth of a children’s paddling pool, but it services to push your character from set-piece to set-piece. The core principle you need to know is that Americans are good and Russians are bad.
All of this is a mere serviceable plotline that threads together high-octane action sequences after one another. The beauty of PlatinumGames is the combat style that embodies each of their titles – Vanquish is no different. Instead of retreading old ground with each of their games, they instead experiment and try new variations of combat, or take a different route entirely. Vanquish focuses on the cathartic pulse of gunplay, deviating from the hack & slash history of the developer.
Vanquish absolutely nails the feeling of each gun, which bursts with a satisfying blast of raining bullets. The campaign gives you all the tools fairly early on, boasting a small but varied selection of toys at your disposal. From basic assault rifles to the devastating fire of a laser cannon, there’s a weapon to fit a variety of playstyles. Alongside this, there are turrets to man and walking tripod-esque robots to control, alongside other death-raining capabilities you have at your disposal.
The gunfights start off thick and fast, and the campaign never lets its foot off the throttle. It’s relentless, with little to no downtime. Vanquish never gets the room to breathe and flesh out its world. Instead it’s more focused on pushing you from one combat encounter to the next. It’s pulse racing, but easily becomes repetitive in long play sessions. As a result, Vanquish is best experienced playing in smaller chunks, to alleviate any repetitiveness that the tiresome story can endure.
Some fights can also be tiring endurance tests, with towering monstrosities blocking your progress or a constant onslaught of enemies to lay waste to. These frustrating moments ruin the erratic race that the game is striving for. Some fights turn into trial and error encounters that bring the game to a screeching halt as you force yourself through the segment. Vanquish occasionally tries to break up the way it enforces enemy encounters onto the player, with tedious escort missions and generic on-rails gameplay. This distracts from what makes Vanquish so enjoyable in the first place – the gunplay.
Outside of general gunplay, Vanquish prides itself with supreme movement and fluidity to the combat. Sam is able to slide, roll and charge across the map, gaining an incredible sense of momentum. Sliding around the environment feels great and blends in well with the energetic gunplay. Another ability at your disposal is being able to slow down time. This can be activated in a variety of ways such as firing when sliding, or when low on health. The latter acts as an excellent tool at your disposal when in a tight jam.
Originally released on the Xbox 360, Vanquish makes the jump to the Xbox One with this remaster. Everything about what makes a great remaster is unfortunately not found here as Vanquish maintains the same look and feel of its original counterpart. Little to no effort appears to have been made to boost the visuals. Instead, this remaster focuses on performance, bolstering an upgrade to 60 frames per second, which really increases the fluidity of combat. But while this is a notable upgrade, it’s lacking that visual polish.
As a whole, Vanquish on Xbox One feels like a snapshot of the past. While the enhancements have done little to spice up the experience, the wonderful feeling of combat remains. It’s a punchy but hollow experience, but it knows what it is. It doesn’t particularly break any new ground, but it’s a reminder of the simple joys a linear based adventure can invoke. PlatinumGames has evolved a lot since Vanquish, and while they’ve crafted many titles that are better, there’s an undeniable charm to this title despite its many missteps.