PlatinumGames has a very high pedigree of quality titles, and when it comes to action, they’re one of the best in the business. They’re a company that fully understands how to deliver over-the-top action in a stellar package. Back in 2017, they remastered two of their classic titles for PC, Bayonetta and Vanquish. Now, with the help of Armature Studios, they’ve decided to remaster the two games for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well. Vanquish happens to be one of my favorite PlatinumGames titles, with director Shinji Mikami at the helm before leaving the studio. Even with its cult status among some gamers, does it hold up to the test of time?
In Vanquish, you play as Sam Gideon, a soldier from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He’s granted access to the Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS), essentially making Sam a one man army. A militant group known as the Order of the Russian Star takes control of a space colony known as Providence. Using a sort of super weapon, they attack America, and they threaten to launch another attack not long after. That’s where Sam and his Bravo Team of space marines come in. Using the mission as a test drive for the ARS, Sam fights an action-packed battle against an army of killer robots. His mission is to stop the attack and defeat the those responsible for the attacks. The story isn’t anything groundbreaking, but the true star of Vanquish is the gameplay.
As a third person shooter, players will take cover behind walls and fight hundreds of robotic foes. The suit is able to transform weapons with the Battlefield Logic Adaptable Electronic weapon system, known as BLADE. Players can carry up to three weapons at a time, as well as two different types of grenades. If a player picks up a weapon they have equipped with full ammo, it gets an upgrade. Players can even obtain upgrades from defeating enemies. Upgrades can vary from magazine increases to higher damage output. If the player dies, it downgrades their weapons, creating a sort of challenge to keep your improvements. With roughly a dozen weapons to choose from, there’s a solid variety of weapons players have access to.
While the BLADE system is a unique approach to weaponry in a game, that isn’t what makes Vanquish fun. It’s ultimately the way the player controls Sam in the ARS, fluidly performing badass feats across the battlefield. The suit has the augmented reaction mode, where a player can slow down time to improve their reactions. Bullets will fly by and players will have more time to get more accurate shots. Of course, this feature can’t be abused, as the system will overheat the suit and leave Sam vulnerable otherwise. The original game released when bullet time was pretty big, so it was a huge gameplay feature at the time. It’s not as popular now, but this is one of the better games that does it.
Aside from the augmented reaction mode, the suit will also power a couple other functions. There are boosters that allow players to slide around the war zone at high speeds. These boosters can be combined with powerful melee attacks as well, giving physical combat quite the punch. Physical attacks do come at a cost though, as they will use the energy of the suit and require a cooldown after each use. All of these features combined make an adrenaline rush of arcade action that’s easy to pick up, and a challenge to master. In a lot of ways, it feels reminiscent of light gun shooters in the arcade, giving players a sort of risk/reward system. It’s also a game you have to see in action to truly appreciate.
With the game being ten years old, there are some features that are starting to show their age. Quick time events were another common gameplay feature during the time of the original release, so of course they return for the 10th anniversary. Various boss fights will utilize quick time events, as well as certain moments during the campaign. Luckily they don’t happen enough to cause many complaints, but they almost feel unnecessary now. Despite the outdated gameplay features, the game still keeps a solid pace and maintains a high level of energy. Like the PC version, the 10th anniversary edition is capable of 4K at 60fps, so the action looks and plays great.
While the gameplay runs smoothly and looks fine for a remaster, there are some areas that don’t transition well. The cutscenes particularly, did not age well at all. The remaster presents them as pre-rendered movies, which unfortunately doesn’t allow for much quality improvement. The frame rate also drops during cutscenes, which is disappointing considering the game itself performs perfectly fine. There’s an audio issue from the original game that shows up in the remaster as well. The music and sound effects during many cutscenes tend to overpower the dialogue, drowning it out almost entirely in some moments. Fortunately, the dialogue isn’t a selling point, so players aren’t missing much.
The campaign isn’t very long, as it can easily be beaten in roughly four to five hours. There are some tactical challenges that unlock after completing each act, not to mention several difficulty modes. They won’t take long to complete as long as you maintain your skills. The game is intentionally short, as it’s meant to be replayable. Each mission earns a score and there are several bonuses players can get for doing well. It really capitalizes on the arcade feeling, encouraging players to improve each time they play. Unfortunately, the only incentive to do well is to hold onto weapon upgrades. Nothing really unlocks in Vanquish aside from the challenge modes and an extra difficulty mode. It would have been nice to see some additional content for this release, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Fans of the original may love to stroll down memory lane again. You might not show up for the story, but you’ll at least stay for the gameplay. The high-octane feel of the ARS is still a blast to enjoy and it makes for a great part of the 10th anniversary bundle with Bayonetta. It’s still one of my favorite action games, even if it is starting to show its age. While it doesn’t add anything significant, it’s just nice to have another chance to play Vanquish again. You never know, maybe we’ll get a sequel if PlatinumGames sees enough interest in the original.