Vanquish has that Bayonetta thing going
on: you watch someone play and it's a bewildering display of lights, colours, and sounds. Your eyes can't take it all in and your brain can't anticipate what will happen next. It's an assault on your senses like no other third-person shooter before it, but pick up the controller and it all makes sense.
The gamer's brain is a remarkable thing, able to process dozens of threats and prioritise them in seconds. When you're the one in control you see through the chaos like Neo reading Matrix code - that blizzard of missiles aimed your way can be avoided with a quick dash; the two dozen bastards on screen can be quickly sorted into low and high-priority targets; and the biggest, screen-filling machines have patterns you can process in seconds, making sense of the nonsense and turning the game into a hyper-kinetic dance.
Bayonetta and Vanquish are two sides of one very Japanese coin with far more in common than there first appears to be. Vanquish is all aggressive sci-fi and Bayonetta is all sexy fantasy but the two do look similar - with dozens of characters and flying objects on screen, tangible and distinct environments, and all of it moving at a silky-smooth framerate courtesy of the Platinum Games engine they share. They feel similar too. While most shooters make you feel heavy and sluggish Vanquish makes you as nimble as Bayonetta - turning on a penny without ever sacrificing the solidity of robo-suited hero, Sam. They're both filled to bursting with screen-filling bosses and both dump you into the thick of it right from level one, as Vanquish floods the opening area with cannon fodder, all blasting away with more firepower than Gears of War's entire Locust army. Vanquish is to shooters what Bayonetta was to scrappers but in spite of its brilliance Bayonetta was no huge seller so we're going to have to find another comparison; another way to explain the sheer bloody insanity and total bloody genius of Vanquish. So let's try this...
VANQS A BUNCH
Third-person shooters haven't changed a great deal since 2006. When Epic released Gears of War they set the standard every other developer would follow for the next four years. Look to the likes of Dark Void, Dark Sector, Blood on the Sand, and Spec Ops and you'll find that same Gears formula. The controls fall on the same buttons, the camera sits inches behind your right ear, and the cover systems are more Gears than anything used in GRAW, Splinter Cell, or Killswitch - early pioneers in making hiding behind big grey things fun.
Gears lifted many ideas from Resi 4, itself something of a saviour for third-person shooters. Before Shinji Mikami rebooted Resident Evil, third-person shooters tended to place the camera far from the protagonist and give you a large wandering cursor to machine gun through foes. Early games like Tomb Raider were clumsy and restrictive, but even later games like Max Payne would cling to conventions of the past.
But Resident Evil 4 innovated where it mattered, and Gears took those ideas even further, perfecting them so that Capcom themselves would need to borrow Epic's ideas for Resident Evil 5. Sure, third-person shooters keep getting bigger and more bombastic but the rules stay the same, and they're Gears' rules. But here's the thing: in a world without innovation, Shinji Mikami has found room to innovate.
Like Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War, Vanquish is looking very much like what shooters do next. It's a third-person cover-based shooter unlike any before it - faster, more aggressive, and more exciting than anything in either of the Gears of War games or the series' many imitators. It's a third-person shooter which, like Bayonetta, has absolute faith in the player and absolutely believes you're capable of
handling a third-person shootout busier and more chaotic than anything before it. Vanquish is set to change everything, and to set the standard everyone else has to follow.