The month of July is the most important of the year by sheer virtue of the fact I was born in it.
Before you ask, yes I am a Leo.
A tradition of mine during my birthday month is revisiting some of my all time favorite movies, games, and comics. Partially to spoil myself, but also to see how my relationship with these works have changed as I’ve gotten older. You, dear reader, will also reap the benefits of my decision to spoil myself, as for the next few weeks I’ll be putting you on game to some all-time bangers. So, let’s talk about one of the greatest action games to ever do it: Vanquish.
Let’s rewind back to 2010. I was a freshman in college who, when not spending his time playing games and making silly student films with his friends, was shoveling popcorn at a local movie theater. Usually after payday I would go into the Gamestop across from my job and see what cheap heat I could come across. One fall evening in 2010 I was browsing the pre-owned section when a commercial came on the TV.
It was one of the coolest things I had ever seen.
I couldn’t hear what was happening on the screen, but I didn’t need to. The image of a dude in a mechanized exosuit power sliding while shooting, kicking off the chest of enemies and then shooting them in mid-air, and going toe-to-toe with giant fucking robots was enough for my 18-year-old, anime saturated brain.
So of course I bought the game right then and there.
I easily beat it over a weekend, but I immediately knew I had finished one of my favorite games of all time. Fast forward to present day and without hesitation I can safely say that Vanquish still holds a place in my personal pantheon of gaming greatness.
The thing that makes Vanquish such a special game is the simple fact no game has even tried to get on its level since. The closest we’ve gotten is the Bayonetta series, which is also developed by Platinum Games. Most action titles tend to focus on swordplay, with guns being used more as a way to extend combos. It’s the bread and butter of the Devil May Cry series.
Vanquish is unique in the way it manages to bring a level of fast paced, over-the-top, anime inspired madness to the third-person shooter. It’s technically a cover-based shooter, but if you play the game just going cover to cover, you’re not going to have a good time. Each level feels like the game is challenging you to do the absolute most as you take down wave after wave of enemies.
The game’s mechanics are all built around the Augmented Reaction Suit. The suit is what allows you to boost around levels at high speed, slow time down to get shots off, and fist fight giant robots. You have to be mindful of how hard you push the suit as overheating it will leave you more vulnerable to enemy attacks.
Boss fights in this game are also next level, almost always pitting you against some massive monstrosity that in any other game would probably just be the final boss. There is sincere thrill in power sliding around a level as a massive, Transformers looking-ass robot fires a barrage of missiles that narrowly miss you.
The plot of the game exists, but it’s honestly not why you’re going to be playing. I’m usually a big advocate of watching the cutscenes in games—it’s literally where the story is at. I’ll make an exception for Vanquish, as the B-movie storytelling gets in the way of that sweet, sweet action.
As action games have moved away from over-the-top spectacle and into the measured difficulty perfected by the Dark Souls series, my love of Vanquish has only grown. There simply aren’t many games like it, which has only made it more special to me.
The game received a 4K remaster last year, which you can currently get for half off on the PlayStation store. While it still looks like a PS3 game, the gameplay more than makes up for any graphical shortcomings you may find. If you’ve ever watched the end of Ghost in the Shell and thought “damn, I wish there was a game where I could do that,” then Vanquish is the spectacle of your dreams.