Video Game Review: Vanquish [Xbox 360, 2010]

Vanquish [Xbox 360, 2010]

Vanquish
System: Xbox 360
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Platinum Games
Release Date: October 19, 2010

Imagine Gears of War on crystal meth.

Vanquish is intense. Really intense. This game just oozes testosterone. There are muscleheaded freaks, massive explosions, big guns and huge robots. Hell, there’s a button to smoke a cigarette. Best of all, there is never a dull moment.

You play as one of the aforementioned ‘roid abusers named Sam Gideon, a highly-skilled soldier with cutting-edge armor. After Russia — go figure — bombs the hell out of San Francisco, Gideon and several special forces are sent to fight the Commie bastards and save the good ol’ U S of A. Obviously, this is pretty basic stuff and it’s been done a million times before, but Vanquish is a type of game that is not played for its story. Come for the firefights, stay for the explosions.

Vanquish [Xbox 360, 2010]

As a third person shooter, Vanquish throws you right into combat and doesn’t let up until your mission is complete. The combat mechanics are what you would expect – cover, shoot, lob a grenade, repeat. However, as a unique DARPA soldier, Gideon has access to some pretty cool features. For one, he can slide ridiculously fast. This is perfect for maneuvering around large open areas, particularly during the frequent, massive boss fights. Sam is also able to slow down time for brief periods, which allows him to dodge bullets and get in some rapid fire shots on enemies. This feature is automatically triggered when Sam is low on health, and this is an excellent way to buy some time while he gets back to full strength. Gideon also has access to an impressive array of weapons, all of which can be upgraded along the way. It doesn’t get much better than throwing an EMP grenade to disable the enemy and then zooming in with a rocket launcher to blow them away.

It’s difficult not to get swept up in the frenetic pace that Vanquish thrives in. There is one problem with this, however: the good times end far too soon. I completed the game on Normal (which was still a good challenge) in about 5 1/2 hours. After completing the campaign, there isn’t much else to do. Sure, you could go through it again on a higher difficulty, but it’s all single player or bust. There is no co-op option, and online play is nowhere to be found. It’s really a shame that these features were excluded. Vanquish would be perfect for co-op, as it would be a blast to share this high-octane experience with a buddy. It’s almost inexcusable that there are no multiplayer options at all.

In essence, Vanquish is a quick shot of adrenaline that serves its purpose for the campaign’s 5-6 hour length. It is a gorgeous game with lots of pyro eye candy, and its fast pacing pulls no punches. A little more depth could have went a long way in this game, but it’s still a lot of fun for what it is. However, unless you are dedicated to multiple playthroughs to obtain maximum value, Vanquish may be best suited for a weekend rental.

7/10

Retro Game Review: Golden Axe [Genesis, 1989]

Golden Axe [Genesis, 1989]

Golden Axe
System: Sega Genesis
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Release Date: December 22, 1989

Golden Axe is a side scrolling beat ’em up game, one of many released during the 16-bit heyday. What sets Golden Axe apart from the rest is its medievil setting with memorable characters including the legendary Gilius F’N Thunderhead, a badass dwarf with an axe to grind. There are two other characters, a barbarian musclehead with a sword, and a beefy Amazonian babe who wears a tiny bikini. Played either solo or with a friend, these warriors have eight stages to hack & slash their way through, all in the name of saving the princess and slaying the EVIL Death Adder.

The game is simple enough, with the best method being to hack away and use attainable magic sparingly. Enemies are a dime a dozen as you fight through skeletons, knights and other annoyances. Every stage results in an epic boss battle, and they get increasingly more difficult as the game goes on. Occasionally enemies pop up riding on dragons and other beasts — these can be knocked off and used for your own gain. While pretty formulaic throughout, Golden Axe is very well-polished and still holds up today. There are some unique levels included, such as one that takes place on the back of a flying bird (falling off = instant death).

On top of the regular game mode, there is a beginner option for those looking for a quick and easy fix, as well as a Duel mode that pits you against rounds of increasingly more difficult enemies. But really, the coup de grace is battling through the adventure with a friend. Although Golden Axe tends to show its age today, especially with its laughable sound effects, its general gameplay holds up well. This is a classic beat ’em up with a well-deserved legacy.

8/10

Golden Axe