Vanquish, Shinji Mikami's latest blaster, is a textbook study in why videogame maths doesn't always add up. On paper, PlatinumGames' sci-fi epic combines the ring-world setting and gurning bombast of Halo with the cover system from Gears of War, the gruff-protagonist-who-likes-a-crafty-fag from Metal Gear Solid and the sterile plastic-fantastic armour stylings of the secretly brilliant Capcom money bomb PN.0.3.
The end result, however, feels completely original: a zippy, score-obsessed blend of particle effects, techno music, and elaborate multi-stage bosses delivered at a speed that makes it all feel new. In other words, it's looking pretty good.
Using a low-orbit weapon that leeches its energy from a space station storing solar power for the entire planet, it seems that the Russians have microwaved San Francisco. What's more, they will be doing the same to New York unless America surrenders immediately.
Rather than wave the white flag, however, the US of A kits out wise-cracking handsome-dan scientist Sam Gideon with a nifty suit that turns him into a kind of deadly rollerskate. Gideon is then rocketed up to the massive cylindrical platform into which Russia has hijacked its nasty gun so he can bust some heads.
The suit has been designed and built by DARPA (if you're interested in the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, incidentally, may I recommend Michael Belfiore's entirely decent book, 'The Department of Mad Scientists'). It's called ARS. Obviously DARPA's better at inventing things like the internet and the GPS network than naming stuff.
Throwing in notions like global energy resources and international terrorism, Vanquish is pretty topical. If DLC provides a side story in which a lady jams a cat in a wheelie bin, this could potentially become the timeliest videogame ever.
None of that prepares you for the pace at which PlatinumGames' latest actually plays, however. If you're expecting Mikami, the director of Resident Evil 4, to take a fairly stately approach with his new game, you're in for a shock.
Vanquish's signature move illustrates this point quite nicely. Burst out of cover! Jet-boost into an enemy! Melee the enemy and go straight into a backflip! While backflipping, trigger slow-mo (the ARS's second-most enjoyable power) and shoot the enemy up for massive damage! Go and have a lie down.
It's great to watch and even better to pull off, but for the first 30 minutes of play or so, it may prove a little too much to get your head around. Vanquish gives you so many tools to be getting on with – and throws in so many enemies – that a fair bit of acclimatising is required.
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