Vanquishing Story

I got Vanquish in from Gamefly earlier this week. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, which says a lot for the game’s core mechanics. That’s because other than the “game” part of it, Vanquish tries (rather aggressively) to make you hate it. The story is asinine, the characters are stupid stereotypes—Japanese interpretations of macho Americans—the dialog reads like middle school fan fiction and the voice acting involves very little acting. If you’re looking for an intriguing and thought provoking narrative, Vanquish is not your game.

If you want to shoot robots while zipping around in a crazy anime-like Iron-Man suit (and who doesn’t?), you’ll have as much fun as I’m having with it. The controls are sharp and the gunplay is satisfying. Unlike other Japanese developed action games (Lost Planet!), the character animations aren’t overly long and rarely get in the way. You can boost across the map, take cover, roll out in slow motion, blast a robot, and return to cover in a manner of seconds. It’s all quite exhilarating.

Playing Vanquish brings up an issue that I’ve been thinking and reading about a lot lately: does story matter? As a writer and a consumer of stories in any medium, I’m inclined to answer with a resounding yes. But games are different, they’re interactive. Sometimes story just doesn’t matter. Would a story with believable, likable characters make Vanquish better? Sure, but the absence of those things doesn’t make the actual game any less fun to play. It also helps that at seven hours, Vanquish is relatively short. Even with good gameplay, I’m not sure I’d like to hang around in Vanquish’s unlikable world much longer. So I’d say that story matters, but for some games, it doesn’t matter that much.

In the next few days, I’m going to post an entry on what I think makes a good game story, in terms of structure, not characters, emotions and all that. In the meantime, I suggest reading Kevin VanOrd’s excellent post Why Story Matters and the equally excellent follow up, Why Music Matters. Then after that, go read Seth’s blog about linearity in games.

Finally, I know I promised answers to your 3DS questions and I have them ready, but I don’t want to post it in writing. I’m working on a fancy video review of the system. I have the audio recorded, I just need to get my camera back from my friend so I can shoot on something other than a crappy webcam. So be on the lookout for that soon.