Platinum Games has an impressive library of heavy-hitting games. The original Bayonetta put them on the map, then they continued their Wii U dominance with The Wonderful 101 before releasing the long-awaited Bayonetta 2, which was critically well-received and remains a fan favorite. Then, of course, earlier this year, they achieved even greater success in the mainstream with Nier: Automata, which, except for some poor difficulty scaling and sub-par environments, was a smash hit.
So, if you’re a fan of any of those games who’s also a PC gamer, you’re in the middle of a Spring-time Christmas, as PC releases of Platinum Games titles have been coming off the assembly line at a rapid pace. First there was Nier: Automata (admittedly just a few weeks delayed from the main release, but still), then the port of the original Bayonetta, and now a lesser-known cult classic of Platinum Games has made its way onto PC: Vanquish.
Platinum Games’ sci-fi third-person shooter likely got buried under all of those other big-named titles back in 2010, but its port to PC has shown not only that it can work in the modern day, but also that it truly belongs here.
If you’ve already played Vanquish in any capacity, this is likely the area to which you will pay the most attention. You already like Vanquish, but will it vanquish your rig? The happy and simple answer is no: Vanquish not only looks great, but it mostly runs great as well, even on a middle-of-the-road PC.
While Vanquish didn’t get completely re-supplied with a wealth of graphics customization options, they did allow some unsupported features to make it into the finished product. Using Steam’s “Set launch options” feature, you can type in “-unlockaspectratio” and “-fov [number]” to set your own aspect ratio and increase (or decrease I suppose?) the base field of view, which is set to 80 at default.
Beyond that, the visuals in Vanquish look inexplicably better than they did on console, even though the textures themselves are largely the same. Many of them have been slightly upgraded, but this isn’t the typical remaster. How Platinum Games upgraded Vanquish was more about improving the lighting. More hawkeyed gamers will immediately notice the increase of ambient occlusion in places it wasn’t before, increasing its feel of realism.
As someone with an upper-middle class PC, so to speak, I was still able to maintain a solid framerate in gameplay segments, which both looked and performed better than the last-gen console versions of the past. This is particularly impressive when considering how many massive explosions and other visually stressing effects occur on a regular basis. That, and the aforementioned addition of more dynamic lighting could easily cripple less-refined PC ports.
Oddly enough I experienced worse performance in the form of frequent framerate drops in the game’s massive movies, a phenomenon I only experienced for the first time recently in Injustice 2. Looking at the game files via the Steam folder, you can see that these cutscenes take up a whopping 16 gigabytes of the game’s 18+ gigabyte filesize. So Platinum Games definitely put a lot more into them, making them look much smoother overall, but this didn’t seem to improve their performance at all, as you’ll get a max of 30 frames per second during these scenes with drops much closer to 20.
Boosting Ahead Other Third-Person Shooters
When I think about today’s landscape of science fiction third-person shooters, and even that same landscape of seven years ago when Vanquish originally released, I don’t see a single reason why Platinum Games’ take on the genre should be forgotten. Its gameplay and themes are easily compared to other third-person sci-fi shooters such as Gears of War and Mass Effect, but I’d so much rather play Vanquish.
While they each have their similar aspects, the addition of the sliding-boost mechanic into Vanquish completely changes the way these games are played. It’s such a simple addition, but it makes all the difference. As Takaaki Yamaguchi, animator for Platinum Games said, “Director Mikami was very clear that he wanted to make a game that felt fast, in contrast to most other shooters where you’re always running around for cover or trying not to let the enemy see you. Director Mikami, to be honest, was never very fond of those types of shooters.”
That led to the invention of the boosters, allowing you to slip and slide away from, toward and under fire, and during this slide you can slow down time to get a better shot allowing for a visceral and cinematic experience that other games in the genre just don’t create with as much frequency.
Despite those fast-paced elements that give Vanquish a place in the modern generation, certain smaller aspects still feel decidedly last-gen. Mostly with respect to traversing the environment, Vanquish still manages to show its age despite the better efforts of Platinum Games.
I noticed it first when climbing up a set of stairs without a railing. I was being shot at once I got to higher ground, so I wanted to return quickly to the low-ground. I moved toward the ledge to drop down, and I was blocked – not by anything actually in the environment, but by something in the game’s code prohibiting me from moving off the ledge.
The reverse is also true, in that getting to higher ground is much more complicated than it should be. You play as a man who gets to zip around the level in what we now know as an exo suit, yet you can’t be bothered to climb up a ledge a few feet above my head? I don’t buy it. It becomes especially comical when actual objectives Vanquish has you undertake have you clear the path to a higher spot that should be accessible just by jumping a little, or moving a crate over and using it as a step.
For a game that treats fast-paced movement as its main-selling point, it sure can be unreasonably restrictive, and that’s an issue newer games in the genre have worked through these past seven years.
Vanquish is likely one of the smoothest all-around PC ports in recent memory, limited framerate in cutscenes notwithstanding. Sporting features I wish similar modern games had, Vanquish now has a firm place in today’s generation. Should Shinji Mikami and Platinum Games feel so inclined as to revisit this title and make it into a series, I would be the first in line.