Vanquish: is this breakneck shooter way too short?

Vanquish is too short

I'm a huge fan of Bayonetta, so the prospect of getting my hands on another glossy megaton release from Platinum Games had me very excited, especially as the demo was so good. However, having finished it in around 6 hours, it does indeed feel short – especially as much of that time is filled with recycled content. I would go so far as to say that the genuinely unique content would probably only fill half of that time.

For instance, the technical accomplishment of having two of the Argus behemoths on the screen is phenomenal, but at heart it's still just the same enemy you beat at the end of the first level, only now you have to beat it twice. That's a very old method of making games longer – a throwback from the days when the technology limited the variety of enemies you could face.

This re-use of pretty much everything means the end of the game probably comes at the right time. It couldn't get away with another time around the table without looking cheap. So what is there to do once you've finished it? The £40 hole in your wallet demands more.

The idea is that you replay it for better scores, and to channel this Challenge mode gives you set scenarios to beat, complete with leaderboards. A nice idea, but again recycling content you've already become very familiar with. These challenges are absolutely rock hard, and after three or four more hours just trying to beat mission 1, I was so familiar with spawn locations and enemy weak points, my first completion was good enough for 47th on the global leaderboard.

At this point, the game changes from a test of your reaction and skills to a test of memory. Which weapons should you carry for each round, where you should stand when the next wave spawns in… that's making the game longer through repetition, not from actual new content. Compare it to MGS4, which has a similar level of graphical gloss and quality, but feels way more varied.

I'm whining, I know. I have no problem with the quality of the action, which has been condensed into a gameplay experience so pure it makes Killzone 2 look decidedly amateurish. Vanquish is clearly deserving of its high review score just because the experience and universe itself is so much better than almost everything else around. But I do question whether the actual length of time it takes to see all the original content is worth £40… especially when the demo contains all of the key elements and costs nothing.

Vanquish is not too short

Vanquish isn't over too soon. It finishes exactly when it should finish. It's a fast game. It plays fast and it's over fast. That's Vanquish. I wasn't disappointed when I reached the end. Not for one minute did the lightning brevity make me sad. I was too busy shooting the developer's faces during the credit sequence and relishing the prospect of playing through it again but harder to really give it much thought.

I don't argue that Vanquish is shorter than a lot of other games. But flying in the face of convention should not be considered a terrible thing. Quite the opposite in fact. I love that Shinji Mikami and Platinum Games and Sega have had the balls to release something that is such an unashamedly distilled gaming experience. No nonsense. No bullshit. No contrived half-assed attempt to tick all the precious marketing boxes.

Maybe I've been getting free games for too long, but I struggle to comprehend how any gamer could feel short-changed by Vanquish. It's an absolute thing of beauty. The world is nothing less than a work of art. Every aspect of the game feels as though it has been lavished and loved with the kind of laser-focused attention-to-detail that other games would do well to aspire to. I can't remember the last time a game's weapon-change animation actually gave me a boner.

Would such an all-over abundance of polish have been possible if the game was twice as long? I seriously doubt it. If the only fault of a game is that it's over too quickly, shit, give me that game to play over the stodgy, flabby, can barely support its own fat-ass 30 hour slog-a-thon any day of the week. Quantity is cheap. Quality is priceless. And Vanquish is quality.

If you've got Vanquish, join the debate in the comments and tell us what you think.

Oct 25, 2010