Despite boasting a video game roster that includes games like Bayonetta, Madworld, and Nier Automata, my heart will always belong to Platinum's less discussed, but no less outrageous third-person, sci-fi shooter Vanquish, which just announced a PC port.
Vanquish to me is peak Platinum, a definition that took several years to fully pin down given the wide breadth of games the company developed. As it stands, recent successes like Nier: Automata and Metal Gear: Revengeance feel more like successful collaborations more than full-throated Platinum offerings like Vanquish, Bayonetta, and Anarchy Reigns. And between the teasing fanservice of Bayonetta, and the strange, baroque shooter which allowed players to take control of a character I can only describe as a ballerina tank, then there's no contest. I was hooked the moment I laid eyes on that first luminescent teaser that debuted in 2010 (seen above).
Vanquish feels like the kind of post-modern blockbuster I've come to associate with Platinum. That is, a game that delivers larger-than-life setpieces, but with a knowing wink that the Hollywood-style spectacle is intrinsically dumb. It exists in Bayonetta, but it swims all throughout Vanquish's, let's be honest, dumb plot of an Iron Man-esque DARPA agent named Sam Gideon as he fights a rogue, separatist Russian militia and their commie meches.
While Vanquish received okay reviews at the time, plenty of reviewers knocked the strength of its story. To be perfectly frank, Vanquish could have been about a man looking for his missing goldfish, and I still would have loved it as long as it played the same.
However, as the focus on Platinum's stories have begun to take a rightful backseat to their OTT gameplay, I just dwell on the fact that I still haven't played a game like Vanquish, something that feels as good as it is dumb..
Vanquish's gameplay hook rests on two things: slowing down time, and lots of powerful guns, marrying the two in a perfect union. Combine that with a booster ability that lets Sam slide around space in the world's best feeling lounge simulator, and you get a game that gives you the firepower of a small army, but the momentum of a rollercoaster.
The first time I hit the AR (Augmented Reaction) mode, which is what Vanquish calls its bullet time mode, I knew I was in. There was something that just felt good about going from 100 mph to 0 with the press of a button. And as the AR mode proved to not only be cool, but downright necessary to beating the game's outrageously, oversized bosses, Platinum demonstrated just how cool it also thought the AR mode was.
I was also surprised that this game came from director Shinji Mikami, who pioneered a new kind of third-person action with Resident Evil 4, which I love but plays like a far less graceful tank. And as the clunky Evil Within proved, Mikami's experimentation with third-person action could sometimes go astray. But atop his oeuvre of third-person action games, only God Hand comes close to Vanquish's sheer feel.
Now I know what some of you are saying, "But Bayonetta! Bayonetta 2! Nier: Automata!" And yes, all of those games are good. But where I consider Nier more of a Yoko Taro effort, and Bayonetta as a game whose eccentricities sometimes overshadowed the wonderfully complicated gameplay, Vanquish feels like a pure experience. Like a well-tuned sports car.
As game design goes, Vanquish feels like a perfect version of several contradictory concepts: a blend of speed and poise, firepower and dexterity, and a 3D world streamlined to feel like a linear 2D experience. I can't help but thank Vanquish for giving me one of the most pure gaming experiences of my career as a video games enthusiast.