Vanquish is a game you'll want to love.
There's the Mikami factor, for starters: Very few game designers have had careers as prolific, and even fewer can claim to have created titles as impactful.
His fingerprints are all over Vanquish, from the new-age, super-mobile suit you wear to the breathtaking set pieces which shatter around you throughout. Every battle is an incomprehensible cacophony of whizzing bullets, distracting particles and schizophrenic missiles.
Then there's the way the whole thing looks: A superbly polished, stylised vision of the military's future - complete with stunningly rendered giant mechs and some of the prettiest explosions this side of Bonfire Night.
And yet, for all this charm, Vanquish doesn't come close to achieving what, in a perfect world, it so obviously could. In fact, its futuristic concept and visuals are in stark contrast to its drudgingly traditional mechanic - and, most painfully, its wholly outdated lack of progression.
The American cliché
Vanquish is a quintessentially Japanese attempt at creating a game that appeals to Western audiences - and falls into nearly all the traps that rather generic description might conjure.
First, there's the perfunctory story. The game takes place in the far-off future, where the human population has reached overwhelming heights and energy consumption has exploded. The US has resorted to harnessing solar power to keep up with demand - launching a space station for this purpose.
Russian Ultranationalists - led by gender-confused Victor Zaitsev - have overthrown their government, hijacked the space station and used it to destroy San Francisco. As DARPA operative Sam Gideon, you are tasked with supporting the efforts of war veteran Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Burns and his marines, as well as rescuing the kidnapped scientist Dr. Francis Candide.
It's a forgettable plot; the sheer lack of originality makes it feel more like it was written to facilitate the visual style, rather than to involve you in its narrative.
It also contains a woefully derivative cast of characters. Vanquish assembles an all-star cast of gaming's most overused archetypes and gives them an injection of equally played out Japanese idiosyncrasies.
Burns is the worst of a bad bunch. He's a melting pot of typical anime/space marine character quirks haphazardly shaped into a supporting character. Face scars - check. Massive metal arm - check. Huge gun - check. The physique of a body builder (despite being an elderly war veteran) - you bet.
Dialogue in Vanquish is also uninspired - both in its writing and voice acting. Gideon and Burns represent two distinctly different departments of the US military, often resulting in personality clashes. Gideon's efforts to get Burns' acceptance is an interesting opportunity for relationship and character development - but is ultimately squandered thanks to ham-fisted execution.
The back-and-forth conversations between them consist of cheesy one liners ("I liked you better when you were dead!") and are interspersed with emotionless "hooah!" cries and random (but frequent) F-bombs.
'quish of the day
Not all of Vanquish is so resigned to mediocrity. The concept of Sam's ARS suit (yes, ARS, snigger) adds a really nice twist to the traditional cover-based shooter. It gives the player three abilities: A dodge roll, a time manipulation ability and a rocket-slide - which is best explained as an over-the-top thrusters-assisted roadie run.