Platinum Games is seriously on fire lately. Metal Gear Rising was a pretty excellent start, but to bring over Bayonetta and now Vanquish, I’m rather impressed, they haven’t missed a beat. As far as I’m concerned, every PC port they’ve done recently has been well optimized, visually gorgeous, and easily ported. I wouldn’t call them perfect, but they are certainly more than serviceable, and considering how excellent Platinum Games’ titles are, you’d be hard pressed to complain (it’s the internet though, people will complain).
Vanquish: PC [Reviewed], Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Developer: Platinum Games, Little Stone Software
Release Date: PC 25 May 2017 Xbox 360/PS3 22 October 2010
Price: $19.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
So how does Vanquish, ported over by Little Stone Software of Valkyria Chronicles on PC fame, stack up against the rest of Platinum’s library? Starting with the options menu it’s good enough if a little bit shallow. You have standard options such as texture quality, shadows, anti-aliasing, motion blur (thankfully), and options for HDR and UI changes as well. While nothing about the options menu exactly stands out above what traditional PC ports offer, it’s inclusive enough for some mild tweaking if by chance you need to turn settings down.
Vanquish can run at an unlocked framerate, although there’s a bug at the time of writing that causes high framerates to equal higher damage from enemies. The game runs very easily, although you should expect a title originally designed in 2010 to do so. The keys seemed fully rebindable with no real issues, and the sound options were satisfactory. Speaking of sound, I was unimpressed with the music. It’s not bad or unfitting by any means, but it has trouble standing out. It’s largely fast paced techno and electronic music, and during boss fights, the music serves well, but I can’t remember any of the tracks standing out. Again, Vanquish‘s soundtrack isn’t bad, but I think it could have used a bit more flavor.
Moving on to characters and story, Vanquish is absolutely absurd. I honestly couldn’t tell if the game was purposely written this way, or if it was really just trying that hard to be cool and bombastic (I’m thinking a bit of both). Either way, if the cheesiness doesn’t put a smile on your face, or at least cause you to cringe in the best way possible then you should save yourself the trouble and skip this title because it’s full of stupid one liners and literally a button during cover that causes your character to light a cigarette just to puff once and toss it away. The cocky guy in the cyborg looking suit, that sounds like Chris Haversam doing his ghoul impression, is named Sam Gideon, and he’s who you’ll be controlling throughout this wacky explosion-fest.
Sam is tasked with shooting off Russian forces who are under the control of a cartoon character bad guy named Victor Zaitsev. Their crime was taking control of a satellite that’s purpose was to harness energy for a quickly populating world, but the Russians instead turned it into a space laser that demolished San Francisco, with New York being the next target unless the US surrenders. This sends the story into one full of guns, destruction and nukes, and the absurd seriousness that’s being parodied here kind of undermines the possible consequences that the story portrays, and that’s really just great.
It’s not the most complicated story, but I also don’t want to talk too much because the straight-faced, gravely voiced narrative of the characters is quite amusing at times, and I frequently got the feeling that there was some underlying sexual tension between two of the beefiest men in the game that extended a bit more than a bromance.
But how could I forget to mention the real draw of this game, its insane gameplay. Now, I’ll admit, it a bit more grounded than, let’s say, Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising. However, it’s still packed with fast-paced action and over the top sequences, with your character sliding around, dashing through quick time events, and drill spinning so fast he glows with heat as he pierces into a giant robot. Though the majority of Vanquish‘s gameplay is simply shooting, the transition from a console controller to a keyboard and mouse is a welcome change, and the actual aiming and shooting does control very fluidly and feels fun to play.
The weapons aren’t the weightiest to use, and I think that has a lot to do with just how fast the gameplay wants to be, but they’re all functional and get the job done. I did have trouble coming to grasp the game’s sliding mechanic, which you’ve most likely seen in trailers and gameplay. It sort of counts as your sprint, and the more you use it, the more the single resource meter will drain.
If you aim while accompanying this maneuver, you will enter into bullet time mode and can precisely aim at targets as you grind towards them, but sometimes I simply wanted to keep sliding one direction while aiming and shooting behind me, but instead, Sam will grind in the new direction I was facing. I’m not sure if there was a way around this, but the sliding doesn’t feel as flowing and precise if you try to face any direction other than your initial movement.
I feel like the game was just a bit too eager to toss you into the action though since at the start you’re given a basic control tutorial (basically whether you want inverted aim or not) and then are shoved a long list of different mechanics for you to study on your own. It felt a little lazy to me since instead of crafting the game in a way that introduces the different mechanics to you as you play, it just says “Here’s all the stuff you can do. Read it yourself.”
To be fair, it’s not like Vanquish has too many brand new things that you can’t already learn from other third person shooters, but I did find myself a little lost on how certain aspects worked, such as the health system, or if there was a way to prevent the game from forcing me into slow motion every time I was at critical health but nothing was harming me at that point.
You could write this off as my own fault, and that’s fair, but no one really likes to sit through and reading tutorials for an hour before the actual game. I can’t argue that the game wasn’t an absolute joy to play despite that. Every time I thought to myself that I really didn’t think I’d feel like playing Vanquish today, it lured me enough to keep me playing because it was fun, and that’s all a game needs to do sometimes and that seems to be Platinum Games’ strong suit.
That all being said, I’d understand if the game wasn’t to everyone’s taste. It’s quite a silly game for how macho and serious it tries to portray itself to be, and that’s part of the point of it. I do feel confident in how fun the game is though, and if you don’t find the cheesiness of the game off putting I do recommend picking it up, especially on PC now that it’s available. I’m sure we will continue to see Platinum Games on the platform, hopefully having excellent PC versions released alongside their standard console releases rather than months or years later, as it’s evident they’re already skilled enough at it.
Kudos to both Platinum Games and whoever they hire to help port their games over to PC, you’re doing a fine job so far and making a lot of people happy. Vanquish is an awesome, fast paced shooter with characters so brashly badass that you kind of have to love them, and while it doesn’t explain any mechanics during gameplay, if you’ve played third person shooters before you won’t have a problem.