Vanquish isn’t like Gears of War. It isn’t like Halo either. You need to know both of those things right now, and you need to remember them. Because whatever the surface impressions might suggest, Vanquish is something you have not played before.
It’s harder, faster, slicker, and more gloriously, mind-punishingly insane than either of the above comparisons can ever hope to convey, and the time has come to start getting excited very about it. I know this because I’ve recently played it. And now I’m going to tell you all about it.
It’s a ballet with bullets
There’s cover to shelter behind. There are enemies to shoot. But Vanquish is not a cover-shooter as you know it. Cover-shooters let you pace yourself. Force you to, even. They do not drop you into the middle of a multi-directional bullet-hell of rockets and lasers big enough and furious enough to make Ikaruga proud, and then let you tear it all apart from the inside.
Above: Moving so fast you'll be there before you left
They do not let you charge through waves upon waves of enemies in order to take down the big guy at the back, before allowing you to make it back to safety unpunished (if you’re fast and agile enough). They do not let you tear around football-pitch-sized battle arenas at Mach 27, leaping, vaulting and high-kicking like an Olympic figure skater. They do not allow you to make mid-air chain combos out of drop-kicks and shotgun blasts. Vanquish is no clone of Gears. It’s the cover-shooting cousin of R-Type and Bayonetta, and it changes everything.
But it’s about more than shooting
It’s that power suit that does it. Far more than Platinum Games’ aesthetic attempt to appeal to the western market (though it’s that as well), the pristine cyber armour worn by government boffin hero Sam Gideon evolves the cover-shooter into a brand-new beast. Affording insane speed boosts, gravity-defying acrobatics and a reaction-time booster that creates an impression of slowing events to a chronological crawl, it’s a genuine game-changer.
Above: You don't climb over cover, you hurtle over it, raining down death
Tap a trigger button and Sam drops to his knees, firing rockets from his feet and zipping forward like a kid full of cake on a wedding reception dance floor. A couple of seconds later and he’s a couple of hundred metres away, and you’re wondering what the hell just happened. Tap another button and time will fall away, allowing clean aiming at a more sedate pace as the world seems to move in slow mo. Given the tornado of neon gunfire swirling around you, you’ll need the help.
Above: One of those tornadoes. Kansas. We are not in it
Use a melee attack and the effect will change depending on what Sam is doing. Standing up close he’ll unleash a sustained flurry of body-shattering machine gun punches like E. Honda taking lessons from a pneumatic road drill. Vault a piece of cover and it’s a gracefully arcing smash to the face for anyone hiding behind it. Boost first, and you’re looking at a back-flip and kick which can either stun or launch enemies for a brutal bullet-based juggle.