His latest game is Vanquish and the best way to describe it is if Gears of War and Virtual On had a love child in a Matrix program set in a futuristic Cold War. It’s a third-person action title using elements of cover with fast moving mech-suits and a little bit of “bullet time” thrown in for good measure.
I was excited about the title before the show and my hands-on time at E3 did not disappoint. Gameplay centers on the ARS (Augmented Reactor Suit) your character wears. Similar to Crysis‘ nanosuit, it bequeaths upon you some extraordinary powers. For example, you can use it perform some very slick sliding manuevers to quickly move from cover to cover. The ARS also allows you to slow down time when you’re sliding around or vaulting over obstacles. As “played out” as time-slow abilities have been in recent games, trust me, you’ll be glad to have them in Vanquish because there will almost always be a crapload of things happening around you. It can get pretty challenging to aim and fire from the hip while zipping around a level willy nilly at 100 mph.
Which brings us to a defining feature of Vanquish – its sense of speed. The game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. This game is fast. Within moments of picking up the controller you can easily tell the game is no mere Gears of War clone. Rocket propelled sliding will bring back memories of adrenaline rushing while jetting across a map during a dizzying Virtual On match. It’s almost become a signature feature of Japanese action titles to incorporate 60FPS as we’ve seen with Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. (Interesting note: Mikami has had his hands in both of those titles as well) It makes me wonder how awesome a 60fps Halo title would be, but I digress.
In addition to providing you with fun powers, the ARS also acts as your defacto “life bar.” There’s a shared meter between your time slows, slides, and shields. This introduces an interesting strategic dynamic into the game. Do you slide out, John Woo style, attempting to take out all the enemies at once, but leaving yourself to being killed if you’re less than perfect? Or do you take it more conservatively, but risk getting overwhelmed while under cover? It’s an interesting trade off, allowing the more gung-ho to make gutsy moves while not making strategy trivial.
If all of this sounds like a lot to take in, well, it sorta is. I admit to being a bit overwhelmed once the friendly Sega rep handed the controller over to me. Like Tony Stark taking his Mark-1 Iron Man suit out for the first time, I stumbled my way across the battlefield initially. I slid when I meant to take cover. I jumped when I meant to slide. There’s definitely a learning curve to this game. It’s no Ninja Gaiden, but it’ll definitely take some practice before you’re sliding and shooting with the grace of a gun-toting ballerina. I can’t say i figured it out completely in the fifteen or so minutes I played the game, but I most assuredly envisioned a short-term future in which I was Optimus Prime starring in Hard Boiled.
Vanquish practically begs for a cooperative and/or an adversarial multiplayer component. Unfortunately, the game is single-player only. Still, it won’t prevent me from including the game from my most anticipated list of 2010. I’m all for developers concentrating on making polished games and if that means omitting potentially half-assed components, then more power to them.
Japanese game designers may have been slow over the years in “getting” how a proper first/third person action shooter works, but you’d be hard pressed to remember those days after some time with Mikami’s Vanquish. Definitely look for this original title when it comes out this fall on 360 and PS3.