It's an odd feeling watching the first gameplay footage of a new PlatinumGames title without being immediately blown away by the carefully crafted over-the-top violence and irreverent humor. It's an even odder feeling making it through the entire demo without coming across either of these Platinum trademarks. During our behind-closed-doors session with upcoming sci-fi shooter Vanquish at E3 2010, we took a closer look at the game's combat and asked Sega why things have suddenly become so serious.
Vanquish is the last title in the four-game deal between Sega and PlatinumGames, following MadWorld, Bayonetta, and Infinite Space. Directed by Resident Evil director Shinji Mikami, the third-person shooter is all about fast-paced, frantic action and a little something called the Augmented Reaction System (ARS).
The hands-off demo began with an introduction to the game's hero, Sam, a US government agent sent to wrench back his country's space station from the hands of some pesky Russians. Decked in a full-body battle suit and backed by a team of US agents, Sam immediately launched into action, shooting down a group of Russians (also in power suits) in what looked like a power station. Interestingly, players will not have to waste time manually picking up weapons as they progress through the game--Sam's suit allows him to scan the weapons he comes across and then replicate them directly in his hand. A weapon gauge on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen will let players know which weapon Sam is currently using and allow him to switch among four different types (during our demo, we saw Sam using a standard shotgun, assault rifle, and a sniper rifle). When scanning a weapon type he already owns, Sam will instead receive extra ammo for that weapon and eventually an upgrade.
In the second environment Sega showed us, we saw Sam immersed in a heavy firefight with several enemy aircraft while riding on a moving platform. It was at this point that the action became frantic: Aircraft approached rapidly from all directions while Sam began a frenzied attack of gunfire and grenades until the screen resembled a large, moving blur. After a minute of this incomprehensible craziness, the full power of Sam's suit finally kicked into gear--on occasions where battles become too frantic or Sam is attacked by too many enemies, his suit will automatically turn on the ARS and temporarily slow down time to allow Sam to either destroy his opponents without being attacked or retreat to cover.
The system can also be triggered voluntarily by performing either a power-slide boost move (which sees Sam surge forward in one rapid, fluid movement) or jumping over cover. However, all these moves are controlled by a heat gauge on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Performing power-slide boosts and melee attacks, as well as using the ARS will deplete the gauge, so Sam must either take cover or shoot himself out of a tricky situation.
The last environment of the demo saw Sam on his way to fight one of the game's midlevel bosses, a giant human-controlled robot standing atop a hill overlooking a sprawling metropolis. Here, we finally got to see the game's cover system in action. While making his way up the hill, deflecting fire from both the boss and swarms of Russians, Sam used some strategically placed metal crates to jump and slide his way from cover to cover while continuing to dish out a never-ending stream of bullets. While the cover system appears to work quite smoothly (especially when coupled with the power-slide boost), Sega told us that the game will reward players who are a bit more brazen in their combat technique (which means no cowering behind cover and letting your AI buddies do all the work). While Sega admitted that you can play the game this way if you wish, it was quite clear that it's not the way it was meant to be experienced.
Our demo ended there. Fielding questions about why PlatinumGames took the aggressive combat approach with Vanquish, Sega told us that Mikami wanted players to explore the battlefield as much as possible, making use of everything available to emerge victorious and earn rewards for being bold and taking risks. The publisher also made mention of the fact that Vanquish's story will include some aspects of quirky PlatinumGames humor but refused to comment on whether the game is geared more toward a Western audience following the lackluster reception of the studio's last three titles outside Japan.
Vanquish will be released in October 2010.