Shinji Mikami doesn't stray too far from his comfort zone with Vanquish. Luckily, his is a comfort zone stuffed with genre-shaking classics.
Viewtiful Joe, Resident Evil 4, Devil May Cry, God Hand and Killer7. They're all his - and they've all caused invention-starved critics to excitedly babble like Paris Hilton on her way out of the ladies. (Allegedly).
Come to think of it, Mikami's comfort zone's probably not very comfortable at all - just a bit cramped. So, does his latest effort deserve to be squeezed in alongside this exalted library?
It's not the kind of game to wait to be invited.
Vanquish is an overwhelming cacophony of bullets, sparks and explosions; seemingly created solely to destroy a player's senses.
IF LOOKS COULD KILL
It's a visually astounding game. Although the art style isn't exactly unique, the attention to detail and execution of its futuristic aesthetic is close to amazing.
Vanquish takes place in a world that looks like it was handcrafted by the design team at Apple. Environments feature the 'sterile white' iPod gleam combined with neon-blue tubing - all nicely balanced out by gothic architecture and environment furnishings that wouldn't look out of place in a Gears of War game. We told you it had balls.
During the few moments, where the environments aren't completely engulfed by a hail of bullets, it's hard not to take the opportunity to pan the camera around a bit and enjoy the concept art-esque presentation.
Rather cruelly, few environments in Vanquish retain their obsessively polished look for long. Mere seconds after entering into the first area of the game, we were cowering behind cover, pinned down by dozens of soldiers going trigger-mental with futuristic guns, as towering mechs made an eerily slow but menacing advance on our position. A barrage of explosions put an end to any bold ideas of venturing away from our polished slab of metal cover.
This is when Vanquish looks its best; the volley of bullets being launched back and forth and the enemies completely filling the screen, with detailed particle effects such as sparks and stone chippings swarming the few spaces that aren't occupied by bullets.
Initially, the sheer amount of on-screen activity left us at an utter loss. For years we've been trained to avoid open areas, stick to safe zones and use brief moments of calm where the enemy may be reloading to reposition and fight back. Standard stuff, right?
Time to re-programme. In Vanquish there are no safe zones; no moment of reprieve to make your move. It's just gunfire and explosions - constantly.
Eventually, when the robot forces started to get bit too close for comfort, we were forced to make our move - and this is when it all came together.
Vanquish is undoubtedly inspired by Gears of War; the cover mechanic and over-the-shoulder shooting in the game is a straight-up clone of that used in Epic's much-copied classic. This created certain expectations. We expected protagonist Sam Gideon to be similar to the Gears in his movement - slow and methodical, especially as he's wearing a very heavy looking exoskeleton.
However, the initial dive over our metallic-saviour shattered our expectations. Gideon is ludicrously quick on his feet and comically agile. Having discovered the advantages a futuristic exoskeleton afforded us, we were tearing around the environments dispatching unsuspecting Russian forces.