Pure entertainment: that’s Vanquish in a nutshell. This speedy and thrilling third-person cover-based shooter is all madness, overwhelming you with gigantic robots, flurries of gunfire, and explosions so powerful and colorful that you might think you feel the heat. There are a lot of things to love about Vanquish, but its most impressive feat is that while it uses mechanics you’ve seen in other shooters, it feels nothing like them. The focus on speed, the relentless pace, and the fantastic boss fights give Vanquish a feel and style of its own, while its good looks and buttery-smooth frame rate ensure you’re always swept into the action. When you walk away from the campaign, buzzing with the rush of adrenaline, it won’t be the excruciating dialogue or the forced voice acting you remember most, but the joy you felt when zipping around the battlefield, gunning down metallic transforming scorpions and evading the barrage of bullets vomited by a dozen hardy turrets.
In Vanquish, like in so many third-person shooters, you can take cover behind various objects and peek out to take potshots at your enemies. But any comparisons made with games like Gears of War and Army of Two are superficial ones. Vanquish is all about speed and flow, and to that end, it uses two features that turn the predictable rhythms of other shooters upside down. The first is the ability to use the boosters on your fancy armored suit to slide about the battlefield at a high velocity. The other is AR mode, which allows you to slow time down to a crawl. Sliding and slo-mo can be used in tandem to create awesome moments of your own making in which (for example) you leap over cover, boost toward a group of enemies, and activate AR mode, gunning down a raft of robots while bullets whiz past your head. You’re meant to stay on the move rather than to rely on cover to provide unerring protection, and many of the game’s facets contribute to the scurrying pace. Enemies flank you, bots sporting hoverjets loom above you, and jumbo cyborgs fire rockets that turn cover objects into dust. There’s a weapon upgrade system, but enhancements are applied on the battlefield instantly, not in menus. When you get close to death, the game automatically triggers AR mode, giving you more than a fighting chance to stay alive by temporarily slowing things down. All of these facets keep you always in battle, and always on the move.