War really is hell. Specifically, bullet hell. Back in 2010, Platinum Games penned a deliciously randy love letter to the likes of Gradius and Ikaruga with a shooter that had a lot of bullets. Hell, it had all the bullets... and rockets... and missiles... and laser death beams. With infinite virtual ammo at its disposal, the perennially brilliant (and slightly mad) studio went about crafting a cover blaster that didn’t just rewrite the established shooter rules, it burned the bloody book, then shot it sky-high into a space station swarming with robots. Welcome to Vanquish.
Sam Gideon is the perfect poster boy for the saying, ‘clothes make the man’. Actually, in this case, it’s ‘Augmented Reaction Suit completes the dude’. While Sam himself may be a tiresome military cliché, all square-jawed hubris and dim one-liners, his clobber takes Vanquish to deliriously exciting heights.
Not only can Gideon get his Matrix on with a sublime example of bullet time, he’s also the proud owner of an absurdly kickass pair of rocket shins. Thanks to the AR Suit’s fancy propulsion system, Sam can break out a sliding boost that’s part flashiest goal celebration ever and part incredibly useful evasive manoeuvre.
While the core cover shooting is undeniably granite-strong, it’s Vanquish’s wonderfully fluid control scheme that really elevates it over the rest of the gun-toting pack. Just about every encounter on the O’Neill Cylinder space station looks to overwhelm the player through almost cheaty levels of Russian robot hordes. The only way to even the score: constantly dash about at 140mph courtesy of a robo knee slide. Didier Drogba’s ruined shins would be so proud.
Vanquish is beyond graceful. In full flight, it’s one of the most obscenely hypnotic games that’s ever been – those firefights are an exhausting trance of bullet-spewing beauty. As Sam constantly contorts to flummox and finish his metallic foes, Vanquish builds up a mesmerising rhythm that you simply can’t tear your eyes from.
If battles play out like a brutal dance, then Vanquish’s guns are the belle of a particularly violent ball. Technically speaking, that’s a bit of a fib – there’s only really one gun in Vanquish. Of course, when that one firearm is a Battlefield Logic Adaptable Electronic Weapons System – damn – which is capable of morphing between a heavy machine gun, assault rifle and shotgun, it’s hard to overly complain. Not only can the BLADE shapeshift at the drop of a dime, it looks exquisite. The Transformers-style animations that greet a weapon change are bordering on sexual. Naughty, BLADE.
It doesn’t even matter that you only really have five or six hours to play around with Sam’s glorious knees or his gleeful gun. Despite its length, Vanquish manages to pack in more exhaustingly exuberant moments than almost any other shooter on PS3. Whether its shoving a rocket down Argus’ throat (a robotic abomination who makes Megatron look like Johnny Five) or a helter skelter freight chase, Vanquish leaves nothing on the table. Indeed, the latter sits alongside Uncharted 2’s thrilling choo-choo chapters as one of PlayStation’s greatest ever transport- based shooter sequences.
Even though PS4 is choked to the gills with last-gen remasters, we’d be tickled all kinds of pink to see an HD Vanquish. On PS3, it sold a little north of 600,000 copies, so it’s unlikely Sega is beating down Platinum’s door for a revamp. Still, the prospect of seeing Sam zip about at 1080p/60fps continues to fuel our shin-scraping fantasies. Gideon most definitely has game.
This article originally appeared in Official PlayStation Magazine. For more great PlayStation coverage, you can subscribe here.