So there I was, waiting in line at E3 to get a chance to play some game or another (I think it was Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood actually), idly glancing around at the screens around me when suddenly Sony's big screen caught my eye. Now, by the time mid day 2 had rolled around most of the trailers were old news to me, but this one caught my eye simply because it was just so damn fast. It showed a man in a metal suit moving through levels like a race car with NOS coming out behind him as he slammed into cover. Curious, I asked one of the guys I was in line with what I was seeing. He responded "Oh, that's Vanquish, it's at the Sega booth." Needless to say after I finished assassinating some Templars I made a beeline for the Sega booth and got a chance to play Vanquish. After getting the chance to demo this unique game, I must say, I was quite pleased with Platinum's latest outing.
Vanquish puts you in the shoes of Sam Gideon, an American soldier with a futuristic super suit designed for kicking ass. The Americans need Sam because the Earth's resources have become scarce in the not so distant future. As a result, when America begins to harness the energy of the sun, nations begin to wage war on a massive space station to get what is left of the resource pie. This choice of setting greatly influences the art direction of the game, as instead of foliage and dirt, most of the areas you see will be vast metallic structures within the space station.
The sense of scale in Vanquish is impressive at times
The game is, at its heart, a cover to cover shooter, and the bread and butter of every cover to cover shooter is its cover mechanic. Luckily, Vanquish does a great job with this. I never had an issue with trying to get to cover and not having it work, thanks in part to a Gears of War-like mechanic where you can slide into cover of all heights. This means that most anything, from a couple of beams on the ground, to a full wall can become temporary protection. I say temporary because some cover is destructible, which will require you to keep moving even if you think you're tucked safely behind some boxes. You can also mantle over or swing around cover with ease just by tapping the x button.
Another really cool feature, and one of the things that makes it innovative, is the ability to boost. This is done simply by holding down the left bumper and moving in a direction. Boosting moves you into hyperspeed mode, quickly moving you from cover piece to cover piece far quicker than any sprint. It is also incredibly easy jump into cover while boosting, making it ideal for when you're in the open and need to get out of enemy fire quickly. You can't boost forever though, as doing so fills up a meter down in the bottom right of your screen, which, once filled, causes your suit to overheat and temporarily disable both boosting and the AR targeting mode.
By entering AR targeting mode, enemies weak points will be exposed and time will slow down for you, allowing you to take out enemies with ease. However, should your health fall, AR will activate automatically, giving you precious seconds to get out and find cover before Sam dies. So, waste all of your energy on offensive moves and you'll find yourself in quite the pickle should your health become low. However, balance its use correctly and the AR system could help you really shred some enemies.
As for how the actual game plays, two words describe it best: fast and intense. The game is VERY arcadey in how it plays, meaning you are going to be running and boosting from cover to cover like it is your job, taking out enemies as you go along. For the most part, this type of speed and intensity is a very good thing, as it keeps you glued to the game by making it exciting. However, there are times when the game can get just a little too fast and you begin to lose your bearings temporarily. This problem certainly wasn't present all the time, but it did pop up on occasion, especially during the ending boss battle, when boosting occurred quite frequently.
The weapons that we saw seemed pretty standard FPS fare, with a machine gun, shotgun and an assault rifle. There are also a variety of grenades, of which you can carry two at once. In the demo that we played there were both standard and EMP grenades, with the latter being very useful in slowing down the mechs which the enemy had at their disposal. Of course, once you disabled the mechs and took out their pilots you could commandeer them for yourself, raining using your enemies weapons against them. Should you get tired of blasting your enemies from afar, a "variety of martial arts moves" are available in melee combat.
As for multiplayer, the developers said they were only creating a single player experience, so you won't be boosting around on Xbox Live or PSN anytime soon. However, there will be a rating system in place which "will rate players on a variety of statistics, rewarding them for quick reflexes and strategic thinking". To us, this suggests a sort of leaderboard system could happen, although that is pure speculation.
Overall the time spent with Vanquish was quite enjoyable. I had some issues with the AI, which at times was not the best, but other than that, flying around the demo level was an absolute blast. Vanquish may just be the game that turns the third-person cover-to-cover shooter genre on its head when it is released this October on the PS3 and Xbox 360, so keep an eye on it.