Platinum Games sure finds itself in an enviable position. The newly formed company, which is comprised of some of the best talent in the gaming industry- including the masterminds behind games such as Okami, Resident Evil and Devil May Cry- seems to strike gold every time it sets out to create a new game.
And why not? After all, every single one of their games so far has defied conventional wisdom and bucked the popular trend. So we have had Madworld on the Wii, a highly stylized and incredibly violent beat em up that was probably too much of a niche title to be much of a success; Infinite Space on the Nintendo DS, a sci fi themed military RPG for the Nintendo DS, that found much acclaim in its homeland in Japan; most recently, we’ve had Bayonetta, the quirky company’s unique take on the fast stagnating hack and slash games genre, with its cheesy plot and its over the top and exaggerated visuals.
But with Vanquish, things are different. From whatever we know of the game (which isn’t all that much), it seems to be more of the same- a third person action game, set in the near future, with a storyline that, while certainly intriguing at some level, seems to be a new twist on the flogged horse of two ultra powerful factions battling it out. Why should we be excited? Aren’t there loads of similar games on the market? Don’t we already have Gears of War and Uncharted that are already top of the line third person shooters, with many more, like Enslaved, on the horizon? Why care when several first person shooters like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, The Conduit, and many more are based on the same general premise? Why should we care about this game, then? True, it comes from a development team known to have created some of the most unforgettable titles in history, but then again, all of these sad titles were ground breaking at the time of their release. Vanquish seems to be playing it safe.
Can it be that Platinum Games’ streak is coming to an end? Will Vanquish be just another run of the mill addition to an already saturated genre? Or will Platinum weave their magic again to give us a truly outstanding title?
An excellent question. You see, there seems to be a major, unsurmountable hitch we all run into whenever we’re discussing Platinum Games’ upcoming title: we know nothing about it. The developers and the publishers both have been unusually coy about what should be a major high profile release, with little to no media releases (that means no screenshots, no trailers, no nothing save a few). In fact, go look up Vanquish on Wikipedia. We’ll wait. It shouldn’t take all that long.
See what do we mean? We know nothing whatsoever about Vanquish. It’s a third person shooter, yes. It’s set in the near future when Russia and the US are at it again. But that’s about it. You’d think that the recently released demo would leave us with some idea as to how the final game will be, but it doesn’t- whereas we now have a rough idea of how the game should play, we still don’t know what the actual game itself will be like, since the demo isn’t a level, or a part of a level, that is included in the actual game, but rather serves as a sort of a prequel. So while we are now in a position to judge the game somewhat better than before, we still only have the broadest of strokes.
What we do have isn’t very encouraging, unfortunately. The demo demonstrates some extremely polished mechanics, and some expertly mapped controls. The graphics seem to be great, the sound design appears to be immersive. However, it is in the meat of the game- the level design- where it seems to fail so far. Whereas we understand that the demo isn’t a part of the actual game, and is only supposed to serve as a mini playground where players may test the mechanics of the game, the level design in the demo is incredibly bland and boring, and generally very uninspired.
While that may have been a fallacy that we would be willing to overlook, due to the demo’s status of not actually representing the final game, there seems to be an issue with the core mechanics of the game as well. Oh sure, they’re incredibly polished, and there can be no doubt that they are the ultimate refinement of the genre. But that is the problem- they do nothing new, nothing that would actually set the game apart from the crowd. In an age when third person action games are becoming increasingly commonplace, each game needs a draw that truly makes it stand out. Vanquish seems to lack that something special, and it’s especially baffling, considering the pedigree of its developers.
However, I think that we might just all be panicking after all- again, it must be remembered that next to nothing is known about this game, and that there is a great chance that Platinum will wow us with something totally unexpected that might blow our socks away- will it be a great story? Are we talking about some insane new weapons that make this game a blast to play? Or maybe just the overall level of finesse of the game? We certainly don’t know yet, and we don’t seem to have any reason to be optimistic. But, we’ll play it safe and, going by the developer’s heritage, say that there’s probably more to the game than meets the eye.
So then, here’s the question that needs to be addressed, and one that we’ve touched upon in this article before this as well- is there anything at all about Vanquish that might compel you to buy it? Anything that might set it apart from its peers in its crowded genre to the extent that the game becomes a must buy?
The problem is, too many action games these days degenerate into nothing more than a poor man’s Gears of War clone, and that’s just sad- we’re talking about a market infested with low quality, over the top games, which lack the level of finesse that made Gears the standard, or the innovation that would make these games truly worth it.
What about Vanquish, then?
Well, I would here ask you to have a look at this:
Uh huh. Yeah. Saw that? No, I’m not talking about the graphics. Nor the soundtrack, or the voice acting. Nope, I’m not talking about the pre order mumbo jumbo either. Watch the darn thing again.
Watch it carefully.
You see that? The guns? The weapons the trailer is highlighting? The Laser Cannon, Anti Armor Pistol and the Boost Machine Gun? Did you see the in game footage that demonstrates each of those three being used? Noticed something, apart from the fact that it all looks incredibly pretty and awesome?
That’s right: if implemented properly, the kind of weapons, with the set of strengths and weaknesses that this trailer seems to imply, would lend this game with unprecedented strategic depth for a game in its genre. Considering the obviously fast run and gun nature of the game, that would call for some quick critical thinking and tactical strategic skills, certainly leading to an experience like no other.
And here, then, is what could single handedly make or break the game, from whatever we know of it: its weapons have the potential to lend it with unprecedented depth, and therefore, that ‘something’ that sets it apart from the crowd, or they may all be the same, save aesthetic and cosmetic differences, meaning this game becomes yet another well made, but highly unremarkable, action game.
Which will it be? We have no way of knowing- a theme running throughout this article has been that we have no frigging clue as to what this game is- it’s all a surprise. Whether the surprise is a ‘good’ or ‘pleasant’ surprise, or whether it’s a nasty shock, however, remains to be seen. And we have roughly one month to go before we find out.