The talented folk at PlatinumGames have proved themselves many times over as a powerhouse development outfit, and 2009 was the year they exploded onto the market. Of the four games developed by them that year, two went on to become certified classic games of the previous console generation – Vanquish and Bayonetta (Mad World was pretty awesome too). The two titles are wildly different from one another but both embody that unmistakable PlatinumGames signature of frenetic action and penchant for general quirkiness. So ten years on, these two legendary titles are being wheeled out again together in a single package with a fresh coat of 4K paint and a boosted framerate. But time can be a cruel mistress, so does this 10th anniversary collection turn out to be a bewitching bundle, or is it more ARS than class?
With development headed by legendary game director Shinji Mikami (who has games like Dino Crisis, Resident Evil 4 and The Evil Within on his resume), Vanquish is at heart a cover-based third-person shooter, but it borrows liberally from bullet hell-style games and prioritises a kinetic and aggressive approach to combat. It stars Sam Gideon, an American defense operative equipped with an Augmented Reality Suit (ARS) and a seemingly endless pack of durries. The story is a hilariously vague affair, but essentially boils down to stopping those pesky Russians from unleashing a superweapon on American cities. They do it once at the start of the game, and that’s just one too many. The moderately sleazy dart-punching smart arse Sam Gideon is still unbelievably unlikeable, and the characters are all ludicrous caricatures, but somewhere between completing objectives such as ‘reversing the polarity on the gain medium’, declaring you are not so different from the enemy, and starting a cigarette but never finishing it, Vanquish’s world develops a charm that is as odd as it powerful.
While Vanquish’s story and writing don’t exactly distinguish it as a Shakespearian masterpiece, its focus on action and clever mechanics put it in a class of its own. Your ARS allows to you to slow down time after performing certain manoeuvres such as a quick dodge, vaulting over cover and opening fire while rocket knee-sliding (which is as awesome as it sounds), and you’re encouraged to string these manoeuvres together to get the drop on the many waves of enemies and hulking bosses. While you’ll occasionally have to hunker behind cover to recharge your suit, in general the game wants to keep you constantly on the move and raining fiery death on your foes in the most stylish way possible.
Face meets laser
With the emphasis on fluid movement, the bump in framerate on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X suits the game well, effectively accentuating the feeling of pace in what was already a damn fast game. The animations and visual design are all extremely impressive, but don’t expect the 4K resolution to hide the fact that the game was indeed made a decade ago. Cutscenes are a bit stuttery, and if you care to look there are plenty of flat textures, but the game still manages to hold its own on the strength of its fast-paced gameplay alone. In terms of DLC, the original Vanquish didn’t really have any other than the pre-order bonus (how I loathe them both then and now) weapons, and they’re all here if you missed out ten years ago.
With the emphasis on fluid movement, the bump in framerate on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X suits the game well, effectively accentuating the feeling of pace in what was already a damn fast game
The Bayonetta series has long been one of my favourites and nestles comfortably next to the Devil May Cry series as some of the best hack and slash action going around. Bayonetta 2 was more or less my sole reason for purchasing a Wii U, and Bayonetta 3 will likely be my sole reason for buying a Switch. Compared to Vanquish, Bayonetta features a much more interesting world and lore to go with it, but the game is propelled to heavenly heights by the sheer strength of its titular anti-heroine. Despite her hypersexual nature and bottomless bag of sass, Bayonetta is quite simply one of the most powerful female characters in gaming. Our Umbran witch’s unerring wit and uncompromising attitude are as deadly as the guns adorning her high heels or the hair demons she summons from Inferno (the same hair that also doubles as her clothing apparently). While the narrative jumps around wildly and is fairly convoluted, it’s Bayonetta herself that anchors the wild ride as you are shuttled from one epic set piece to another.
You can have hair clothes or a hair demon, but not both
Like Vanquish, Bayonetta relishes in its electric pace, with the combo-heavy melee combat demanding extreme reflexes and dexterity if you’re going for those hallowed Pure Platinum ratings. In this way, the enhanced framerate on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X is probably the greatest and most noticeable boon, but once again the 4K nose powdering can’t really disguise the game as being of a bygone generation. Still, fighting cherubian monstrosities looks and feels phenomenal, and the game well and truly holds up visually thanks to an extremely strong art direction and sense of style that is as smooth and slick as the Monash freeway after a light rain.
As a bundle going for about $60 AUD, there’s a fair amount of to love. You’re getting two fantastic games for the price of one, and if you were itching to take a rocket knee-slide down memory lane than this is the package to do it with. On the other hand, neither games have any real additional bells and whistles unless you’ve got a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, and even then, neither title is exactly a visual revelation beyond their already impressive visual design that we experienced ten years ago. The bump in framerate is quite nice, but may not be worth the price of admission alone. If you’ve never played these titles, I can’t recommend this package enough, as the gameplay in both still shines bright and represents PlatinumGames in complete command of their craft. If you’ve already played them then this remaster doesn’t really offer too much new, but is still just as awesome as you remember and might well be worth indulging your nostalgia.
Reviewed on PS4 and PS4 Pro| Review code supplied by publisher