Why Vanquish will make Gears Of War obsolete
A game that draws influence from Gears Of War without just cutting and pasting its most copy-able feature, Vanquish takes everything great about Epic’s cover-shooting blockbuster and addresses what’s wrong with it too.
First, a history of me and cover shooters…
I reviewed Kill Switch back in 2003, awarding it a 7/10 and coming to the same conclusions as most reviews at the time. The cover system was pretty cool, but the game didn’t really go anywhere with it. Kill Switch wasn’t the first game to have a cover system in it, but it was the first to do it well and to make it a core game mechanic.
Kill Switch, despite its innovation, didn’t set the sales chart alight and didn’t immediately spawn a wave of imitators. But someone was paying attention – Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski. The Gears Of War creator saw potential in the cover system idea, surmising that all it needed was some squad mates, a spot of co-op, bucket-loads of cinematic presentation, a wobbly, low-down camera whenever you run and some excessively gorey chainsaw kills and he would have a multi-million selling super-hit on his hands. He was right.
For my part, I like Gears Of War. It’s much more than the Kill Switch rip-off the “we’ve heard of old games that you haven’t heard of” brigade would try to have us believe, but for me it still isn’t quite there. It’s clunky, the context sensitive controls don’t quite work and you often end up in fairly static situations where all you’re doing is popping up, shooting, ducking ‘til your health regenerates and repeat…
The worst thing about Gears Of War though isn’t really Gears Of War’s fault. The worst thing is how its success has apparently made every lazy game publisher exec in the world think that the key to their next game’s success is a hurriedly shoehorned-in cover system. It wasn’t even the cover system that made Gears Of War such a great game, yet still we’ve seen a conveyor belt of shooters where you press the cover button to glue yourself to a slab of concrete sticking out of the floor for no apparent reason then press left trigger, aim, wait for the enemy to stick his head out, fire, release left trigger, reload and repeat. Pfff… yawn.
But I recently played a game that draws influence from Gears Of War without just cutting and pasting its most copy-able feature. Vanquish takes everything great about Epic’s cover-shooting blockbuster and addresses what’s wrong with it too.
There’s tons of cool stuff to talk about in Vanquish, but I’m not here to write a preview so I’ll try and condense it down to the one key difference that I think should see it take the cover-shooter genre to the next level. Where in Gears it’s pretty much always best to be in cover, Vanquish has a way of continually flipping the each battle on its head so that one minute it’s suicidal not to be in cover, and the next you have to go screaming across the battlefield on your knees then leap into the air and twist an enemies head off with your elbows in slow motion because if you don’t it’s game over, man, game over! It’s vital to understand the cover system, but knowing when not to use it is perhaps the biggest part of that. In this way, Vanquish guarantees never to fall into any of those popping-in-and-out-of-cover-forever ruts that all other cover shooters – yes, even Gears Of War sometimes – do.
So it’s already made Gears Of War obsolete in my mind, but I don’t suppose it’ll make it obsolete in any real commercial sense. It’d be nice to think it might, but let’s be realistic…