Xbox 360 (Review Copy) PS3
Vanquish is an insane, debaucherous bachelor party that may possibly involve a dead hooker. Problem is, parties like that go supernova and always end too early. That's Vanquish in a nutshell.
The story will let you know what you're in for. In the near future, Russia uses a space-station microwave weapon to bake the inhabitants of San Francisco alive, and if the United States doesn't surrender in the next 10 hours, New York is next. Well, Russian is a hard language to learn, so fuck that. Instead, the United States sends Marines to the station to take it by force. Sam Gideon (that's you), the chain-smoking, super-armor-wearing, macho stereotype will lead the forces of "America! Fuck, yeah!" Marines into battle. Oh, and, for the most part, you'll be fighting robots. Yeah, that's communist super robots in the future. See where this is going?
At first it's easy to assume Vanquish is another third-person Gears of War clone. Sure, the conventions are there, but can the gears slide along the ground at super speed, slowing time to dodge enemy attacks, killing multiple targets, and finish it all off by drop-kicking a giant robot and ripping yet another one in half? Didn't think so.
Like the storyline, gameplay is over-the-top, with a heavy emphasis on speed. The problem is your enemies. Toward the end, instead of larger, more ridiculous commie 'bots, they just keep sending out previous enemies in twos.
Like Bayonetta before it, Vanquish perfectly marries an over-the-top storyline with satisfying and addictive gameplay. It's a fantastically frenetic experience that reminds you why you play video games in the first place. The biggest issue is it's too damn short, and replay options are light. A couple more hours of gameplay would have made this gaming perfection.
DJ Hero 2
Xbox 360 (Party Bundle Reviewed) PS3, Wii
Music games have had a rough go as of late. The hot gaming trend in the late '00s has fizzled as the decade closed. There could be many reasons for that, from the financial burden of having to purchase extra peripherals to play this genre to simple oversaturation, with too many titles that only offer a few new songs and zero innovation. The first issue will always be debated, but you can't fault the DJ Hero franchise for No. 2, as DJ Hero 2 improves on its forebear in practically every possible way.
The first noticeable thing is the music variety. Yes, danceable mash-ups are still king, but you'll immediately notice that there's much less repetition in the actual tracks themselves. That's a welcome change, since by the time you've finished the first game, you'll have heard most songs in at least four separate mixes. DJ Hero 2 has also learned from its mistakes: The confusing fader spike and directional scratch features are gone, replaced with the more intuitive "hold" feature. Also, freestyling and cross-fading have improved vastly, allowing you to actually mix between tracks. These changes and rewinds — alongside the already solid scratching — make the DJ experience feel more realistic. A weak story mode is also added, but it's purely cosmetic, a little structure to the single-player experience.
Multiplayer is upgraded too. The seldom-used guitar sections are out, replaced with the Party Mode made popular in the Guitar Hero series. In addition to dual turntable support, another player may sing and rap along with certain songs, being judged karaoke-style. The battle mode has also been beefed up, making versus play all the more viable.
DJ Hero 2 eschews the easy sequel route; instead of adding a few new songs, the developers went out and actually fixed the problems. Solid set all around.