It’s about total freedom
By now you should be considering the various levels of cool that can be unleashed by combining all three of the suit’s main powers in freeform, improvised combat. And the reality won’t disappoint. All of Sam’s abilities are responsive and slick, meaning that in no time you’ll be hurtling through and around huge arenas, radically changing your direction and angle of attack on the fly. There's no gradual, linear crawl through funneled cover here. You can zig-zag through 360-degree carnage like a jigsaw blade.
Above: Taking cover and shooting is just one option in Vanquish
You’ll switch between weapons and tactics on a second-by-second basis, sniping from cover one moment, then shotgunning through a previously-distant mob a quick boost-dash later. Then you’ll lob an EMP at a nearby mech, drop-kick its face off in slo-mo, and immediately boost away to a spare cover location you just spotted whilst in flipping through mid-air. You'll vault, pummel and blast in every direction as you tear along the ground towards it, and along the way you’ll notice that another mech has fired a missile, so you’ll catch that missile and throw it back without breaking your flow for a moment.
Above: Punch. Crump. Head. Exploding.
Vanquish makes you more mobile and more versatile than any cover-shooter has ever dreamed to before. It feels as much like a third-person fighting game as a shooter, and as much like a racing game as a third-person fighter. It’s tough to get a handle on things at first. Between the ferocity of what’s going on around you, the speed and responsiveness of Sam’s handling, his sheer number of options, and the all-out sensory overload, it’s even a little intimidating.
But take a deep breath, take your time learning how things combo together, and above all, throw away all preconceptions of what you’re capable of in a cover-shooter. And before long you’ll be having an absolute riot. The only limitations on how you can win a battle in Vanquish are the ones you assume exist.
It’s stupidly beautiful
Above: Wait 'til you see that train moving. Your eyes will burst with joy
You know this already, but I need to reiterate it. Vanquish is a sparkling eyeball feast. It might feature a lot of cold, hard metal within its space station environments, but never once during my play time did they feel sterile or dull. There’s enough flair in the visual direction and more than enough gleaming beauty in its execution to keep your peepers engrossed despite the lack of fleshy organic matter on show. Sam might be fighting robots, but the attention paid to the way they move, spark and explode when shot makes taking them down as visceral an experience as setting off a cluster bomb in a blood bank.
Above: The odds look stacked. They probably are. But not in his favour
Not that it will be metallic environments all the way. Vanquish’s setting is an impossibly vast Halo-style ring, and is home to countless millions. Scanning its inverted horizon I saw industrial areas mingled with cities mingled with huge swathes of grassy parkland. I’m told that we’ll get to explore a wide spread of environments as we shoot our way through the installation, and having had a brief taste of the station’s overall ambience while tearing through it on a dizzyingly fast train ride (while being mercilessly attacked, naturally), I’d say that the visual mix of gleaming pristine technology and lush verdancy is a unique and atmospheric winner.
The west has been evolving the third-person shooter for a whole generation now, but with Vanquish it feels like Japan could be bringing us the first real revolution in a long time. And that makes sense. The last time it did that, the game was Resident Evil 4, and was headed up by Capcom's Shinji Mikami. Vanquish is headed up by a very similar looking man of the same name at Platinum Games. So trust me. You really need to be watching this one...