According to SEGA, Vanquish is a "sci-fi shooter of epic proportions with a fast, fluid and frenetic combat system, and an engaging and immersive storyline."
That's not actually all that rare these days, the same comments could be levelled at any one of half a dozen other sci-fi shooters released in the last couple of years. The real question here is what exactly makes Vanquish stand out from the crowd?
You're not likely to find the answer in the roll-call. Protagonist Sam Gideon works for DARPA, who military buffs and conspiracy theorists will recognise as being a research and development agency for the U.S. Government. He's the typical grizzled, dysfunctional hero we've all come to expect from futuristic space shooters, ticking most of the stereotype boxes across the board. Five o'clock shadow? Check. Sounds like Adam West? Check. Chain smokes? Well, that's perhaps more of a surprise inclusion, but it's there.
Sam has a problem. It seems that in this parallel futuristic world, the Russians aren't the affable, well-mannered and highly progressive people we know and love today. In fact, it would appear that despite comprehensively losing the war against capitalism and ending up so broke they've needed to borrow the annual UN membership fee from Latvia every year since, Russia has managed to rise again as a strategic military powerhouse.
In the distant future, resource management is taken particularly seriously. So seriously in fact, that the U.S. have built a massive space station to harness energy from the sun. Unfortunately, and somewhat inevitably, those dastardly Russians have taken over the space station (presumably by finding a spare key to the back door located under a welcome mat) and have destroyed San Francisco using a "solar wave". Next target? New York. It's up to Sam (and the rest of the strike force) to save the Big Apple, and ultimately the rest of the world.
For seasoned gamers, the phrase "directed by Shinji Mikami" will probably be enough to explain how Vanquish plays. For those not-so-seasoned, we'd have to add "Resident Evil" and "Devil May Cry" as qualifiers. From the outset, it's one of the most frenetic combat titles we've seen in a long time, with so much action on-screen it's like watching a Michael Bay film actually exploding. The preview code we'd been supplied with featured a mission that required Sam, along with his squad, to storm through the space station and eradicate the Russian forces, much like the WWII Battle of Stalingrad. If it had been set on a space ship. With robots.
Sam is equipped with the Augmented Reaction Suit, or "ARS" for short (oh, how these military types like to jest. "Hey, Dave, can I borrow your ARS for this mission? Mine has a hole in it.") which is a kind of lightweight armour that allows Sam to move with relative ease around the environment, and effortlessly keep up with latest fashion trends at the same time. Although as Sam can carry three guns at the same time, as well as three grenades, he could be kitted out in a frock and a cardigan we certainly wouldn't be mocking him about it.
The controls are pretty easy to manage, shooting/weapon select and movement are all straightforward. There's a cover system that allows Sam to duck behind crates and quickly leap over them, should the situation denote. So far, so predictable. One new addition however is a kind of rocket-propelled rapid transport mechanism that allows Sam to adopt a pose not unlike a baseballer sliding to plate, then fire rockets that propel him around the floor like a humorous industrial accident. It's a new, if somewhat perplexing addition, but it seems to fulfil its purpose of removing Sam from danger as quickly and as insanely as possible; two attributes that cannot be overstated in any good video game.
There are plenty of ways to slaughter your slippery Russian foes. There's the usual lead sandwich, favoured since time immemorial. Or you can get a bit creative and use the different melee attacks bound to each weapon, or just phone it in by carelessly lobbing a few grenades around and taking pot-shots at explosive barrels. The aforementioned rocket slide can be performed in conjunction with a melee attack too, if you'd like to get all showy about it.
Most of the combat follows along well structured lines - face incoming waves of enemies and kill them. Face enemies ensconced in defensive positions and kill them. Participate in a boss fight and kill it after figuring out its defensive weaknesses. If you've read this far, you'll know the drill, and are probably already likely to buy it, because hectic console shooters are your thing. And it doesn't get much more hectic than Vanquish.
Keep an eye out for the demo arriving in the next couple of days on PSN and Xbox Live, it's designed to act as a prequel to the full game and should give you a good idea as to the nature of the beast. We'll bring you a full review closer to the October 22 release date.