Vanquish is kind of a late bloomer when it comes to the environment designs, but that aside, it's a stunner from beginning to end. Sam Gideon's Augmented Reaction Suit is simply fun to watch, even when he's not doing much at all. I found myself having fun simply switching to different weapons. All of the weapons are integrated into the suit, which seems to disassemble and reassemble each of them (in Sam's hands) in a matter of seconds.
When in action, the game looks even better. Shifting into Augmented Reaction mode gives the screen a bluish tint. You'll gain a better perception of your environment, and you'll see an assortment of tiny mechanisms on the ARS doing Lord-knows-what. When you overheat the suit, the heat sink purges itself via a localized jet of hellfire.
Characters aren't really much to look at. Sam's intel partner Elena is not much more than a pretty face and a skimpy skirt, and Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns is a scarred-up badass who seems to be afflicted with Permanent Scowl Syndrome. And the villain, well... let's just say I don't have the heart to describe him in detail. As I mentioned, it may take a while for you to fully appreciate the environments. At first, it may seem that all you'll have to look at onboard the Providence is a lot of steel and concrete, but eventually, you'll start seeing some much-needed variation. I'd go into it with more detail, but Sega has kindly asked us not to.
Vanquish's voice cast turns in a universally campy performance; unfortunately, this rarely works to the game's credit. For starters, Sam talks as if his throat is lined with sandpaper. That's not surprising; his chain-smoking habits would have Rob Reiner demanding his head on a silver platter. Incredibly, Burns is even worse; he sounds like he's trying to vomit his own lungs. Let's just say the villain is a walking, talking stereotype, and his voice follows suit. The music and sound effects more than make up for the poor voicework. Vanquish is lightning-paced, and a steady techno beat keeps your blood flowing. And, as far as futuristic sound effects go, Vanquish is a top-of-its-class kind of game. AR mode slows down time; triggering it cuts the soundtrack off temporarily, but it also drops the pitch of everything you hear.