Pure entertainment: that's Vanquish in a nutshell. This speedy and thrilling third-person cover-based shooter is all madness, overwhelming you with gigantic robots, flurries of gunfire, and explosions so powerful and colorful that you might think you feel the heat. There are a lot of things to love about Vanquish, but its most impressive feat is that while it uses mechanics you've seen in other shooters, it feels nothing like them. The focus on speed, the relentless pace, and the fantastic boss fights give Vanquish a feel and style of its own, while its good looks and buttery-smooth frame rate ensure you're always swept into the action. When you walk away from the campaign, buzzing with the rush of adrenaline, it won't be the excruciating dialogue or the forced voice acting you remember most, but the joy you felt when zipping around the battlefield, gunning down metallic transforming scorpions and evading the barrage of bullets vomited by a dozen hardy turrets.
6281718Once the action starts, it never stops.None
In Vanquish, like in so many third-person shooters, you can take cover behind various objects and peek out to take potshots at your enemies. But any comparisons made with games like Gears of War and Army of Two are superficial ones. Vanquish is all about speed and flow, and to that end, it uses two features that turn the predictable rhythms of other shooters upside down. The first is the ability to use the boosters on your fancy armored suit to slide about the battlefield at a high velocity. The other is AR mode, which allows you to slow time down to a crawl. Sliding and slo-mo can be used in tandem to create awesome moments of your own making in which (for example) you leap over cover, boost toward a group of enemies, and activate AR mode, gunning down a raft of robots while bullets whiz past your head. You're meant to stay on the move rather than to rely on cover to provide unerring protection, and many of the game's facets contribute to the scurrying pace. Enemies flank you, bots sporting hoverjets loom above you, and jumbo cyborgs fire rockets that turn cover objects into dust. There's a weapon upgrade system, but enhancements are applied on the battlefield instantly, not in menus. When you get close to death, the game automatically triggers AR mode, giving you more than a fighting chance to stay alive by temporarily slowing things down. All of these facets keep you always in battle, and always on the move.
Vanquish's reliance on its two primary mechanics leads to the faintest sense of staleness here and there. However, these brief glimpses at repetition are momentary hitches in a game that constantly pushes you ever onward. Any given Vanquish level might be considered a high-energy set-piece sequence in another game. You rush across a collapsing bridge while fending off armored foes; battle inside a cylindrical construct in which the entire inner surface exerts a gravitational pull; and gun down huge armored vehicles outfitted with intimidating drills. Other levels give you short but welcome breathers while letting you focus on Vanquish's other impressive elements. A calm section involving sniping a series of spotlights lets you take in the game's intricate futuristic environments and attractive lighting. A dimly lit escort mission beneath the ravaged urban terrain tones down the speed but ramps up the tension. The basic mechanics never evolve, but the game still keeps you engaged by switching up your enemies, playing with the environments, and subtly adjusting the tempo of battle.
This is one of Vanquish's milder explosions.
A number of powerful enemies and boss fights further fortify the action. Standard enemies include tall walkers with bulbous bodies, robotic grunts attacking en masse, elephantine automatons that shine death beams on you, and plenty more. A typical level tosses multitudes of foes at you at once, forcing you to slide in and out of cover and use all the weaponry at your disposal. As it happens, you have only one weapon, which can metamorphose into one of three different forms at any given time. You still get the traditional ability to gather ammo and weapons (or in this case, weapon configurations) from the battlefield, but in Vanquish, you get the added benefit of the weapon's always-cool transformation animations.
Another plus: regardless of its form, that fancy gun is a blast to shoot. Familiar but effective configurations include machine guns and shotguns, while more unusual ones have you firing spinning discs and shock bubbles. Hard-hitting sound effects and great animations give every shot that lands a rewarding feeling of oomph, and each weapon form has its uses, particularly during Vanquish's larger-than-life boss battles. The colossal robot that serves as the first boss is but a taste of the battles to follow. A shimmering figure reminiscent of Iron Man, a soaring angel of death, a gruff villain who wasn't aware that steroids should be taken in moderation--these antagonists all look and behave differently, but each requires you to slide about and activate AR mode in varying rhythms, which makes each of these encounters fun and exciting.