SEGA hasn't done badly out of its four-game deal with Platinum Games, certainly not in terms of variety. We've had a score-chase playground for sadists in MadWorld; Infinite Space gave us a space-RPG for obsessive-compulsives; Bayonetta is an action heroine as gloriously over-the-top and under-dressed you could possibly hope for; and Vanquish, a third-person shooter set on a space station in the grip of a future Cold War, is nothing like any of them.
Its burly space-soldiers call Gears of War to mind, of course, as does the cover-based shooting, but it also carries faint echoes of Lost Planet. Ordinary movement and shooting has the same heft to it, and the giant transforming robot that appears at the end of the demo suggests that it might have some impressive bosses up its sleeve, too.
But Vanquish twists those solid, tried-and-tested third-person shooting mechanics in with oddly balletic, slow-motion close-up combat. It's a weird mix, but and far it looks like a successful one.
Vanquish's E3 demo opens with a dynamic menu that zooms around the inside of a sizeable space station, spinning slowly in the void. It's not all burnished aluminium - there are trees, too, suggesting we won't always be fighting in sterile P.N.03-style environments.
The Americans are fighting the Russians for control of this space station, which harvests energy from the sun; we play Sam Gideon, a battlesuited American 'operative', shooting his way through wave after wave of robots (Russian robots, presumably) in a 10-minute demo level.
It begins in an underground base. Sam's white-grey future-suit has a nifty transforming arm in place of different weapons, folding out into a shotgun, heavy machinegun, rifle and anything else he can pick up.
He's surrounded at all times by similarly outfitted soldiers, but they're largely non-interactive - they're just there to draw fire, really, which presumably wasn't a prominent clause of their sign-up papers. You can keep these handy bullet sponges alive by dashing up to them when they're in trouble and injecting a syringe of Magic Video Game Cure-All into their shoulders, but there's no penalty for ignoring them.
It kicks off when we move Sam and the squad up to the surface, where an army of robots is making an almighty din and a lot of mess. It's all juddering machineguns and exploding robots, bright white structures and enemy dropships depositing more and more droids into the field. They can't take much fire before blowing up, but nearly-dead robots glow red and run towards you in a suicidal explosion if you don't finish them off.
A press of the D-pad switches the grenades on Sam's belt to EMPs, which we can use to disable and take over AT-ST-style enemy walkers, vaulting acrobatically into the platform and showering the remaining robots with laser fire. After a while, a much-tougher-than-usual mech comes stomping down some stairs, helpfully blowing away a barrier that lets us at the mounted guns overlooking the level.
Bigger enemies drop new weapons, or upgrades for your existing ones; smaller ones just drop ammo. You have to hold a button to pick them up, though, which stalls the otherwise-fluid action somewhat - particularly when you run out of ammo in the middle of a boss fight and have to take a speedy tour of the arena, bending over periodically in the midst of gunfire to pick something up off the floor like a thrill-seeking environmentalist.
Ammunition seems quite strictly regulated, forcing you to change weapons or pick up new ones quite frequently, and make optimum use of mounted guns or hijacked walkers.