REVIEW: Square Enix's VANQUISH Play Arts Kai
Gamers Rejoice: Sam and Bogey Have Arrived...
Square Enix's Vanquish Play Arts Kai action figures are IN-STOCK and available for order now through Square Enix's Online Store.
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Cool video games deserve cool action figures. Square Enix knows this. After all, their line of Play Arts Kai have been wowing collectors for years now; the series setting the gold standard for premium 9-inch tall video game action figures. Hyper articulated and loaded with sculpted detail, Play Arts Kai has evolved beyond its humble in-house Final Fantasy origins to incorporate many other studio properties, such as Konami's Metal Gear Solid, Bungie's Halo, and Rocksteady's Batman: Arkham Asylum. In late 2010, Platinum Games' sci-fi title Vanquish joined that list. While the figures have been nearly two years in development, the wait has been well worth it.
I'm a very passionate Xbox 360 gamer, but even I have only so many hours in a day. So many cool games... so little time. That said, I've only managed to play the demo for Vanquish. However, what I played can best be described as a sci-fi third-person shooter on crack. Its hyperkinetic gameplay sets it apart from the pack, its sliding-boost mechanic both original and intense. Released this summer, Sam Gideon and Bogey slow down the action so collectors can admire the fine details, each figure priced at $69.99.
In Vanquish you play as Sam Gideon, part of a future U.S. task force sent off to stop the evil future Russians. There's obviously more to the plot than that, but the main hooks of Vanquish are Sam's jet booster equipped Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS) and his experimental Battlefield Logic ADaptable Electronic Weapons System (BLADE). The high-tech combo gives a whole new meaning to "run and gun" and are the defining "cool" features on the Sam Gideon action figure.
While hard to tell in my photos, Sam's armor is painted a pearlescent white lending it a very slick, metallic luster. Trimmed in black, the plated armor design really pops with the use of neon lime green and shiny gold accents. Crisp print details, such as "ARS" on his chest and "DARPA" on the shoulder pads, further give Sam's suit a sense of realism. It's a beautiful figure that stands out as one of Square Enix's most colorful creations.
Complimenting Sam Gideon's wonderful paint work is the jaw-dropping sculpted detail. Sci-fi power armor is nothing new - it's the clothing of choice for countless space marines, having been visualized over a million different ways in games. To the uninitiated, it all looks the same (just ask my wife), but to the well-trained eye of a sci-fi enthusiast, each power armor interpretation is a thing of beauty. The designers of Vanquish brought their own unique vision to the table with Sam Gideon's Augmented Reaction Suit, and while my wife still thinks it looks like a white Master Chief, I can assure you it is anything but. The "spine" of the ARS is particularly awesome, while the teardrop shaped helmet and chunky shoulder pads are other favorites of mine. It's sleek, yet fortified - like some future samurai given a gun.
Speaking of guns, Sam's BLADE System comes in the Assault Rifle mode and looks fantastic. To hold the weapon, the figure includes interchangeable hands - which like all Play Arts Kai figures - pop on and off via a peg and hole. This has always been a hit or miss system for Square Enix where some figures feature nice and tight peg locking and others come loose. Sam Gideon is a case of the latter, the hands on my figure popping off easily enough for swapping, but not staying on very well when posing. When fiddling around with a rifle firing pose, the constant disconnect can get frustrating.
This brings me to Sam Gideon's articulation on a whole. Like all Square Enix Kai, Sam Gideon is loaded with an abundance of useful joints; many are ball-socketed (head, shoulders, thighs and waist) and many are ratcheted (elbows, knees, feet) for solid posing. Some joints, such as Sam's upper forearm cut joint, were too firm and had to be firmly pressured to move. My Sam's thigh joints, on the other hand, were on the loose side, Sam prone to doing the splits while standing (super glue trick to the rescue). Sam Gideon's articulation is again a marvel of figure engineering, but the mixed bag of loose and overly tight joints on my figure is perplexing. I have had this experience with Kai figures in the past (a few of my Halo Reach), and while it appears to be a random event where some figures are just fine (my Vanquish Bogey is perfect), I would have hoped that Square Enix had ironed out the QC issues by now.
Back to Gideon's gear, Sam gets some humanity with an "unmasked" alternate head sculpt. It's a nice looking extra that swaps easy enough, though I'm fonder of his more mysterious helmeted visage. Sam also includes three grenades, though unfortunately these are part of the sculpt and are not removable. Lastly, Sam Gideon receives parts to create his deployed jet boosters on his legs.
Here simply pull off (mine took a little prying) the "closed" armor section already on his thigh and replace with the booster and "open" plates included with the figure. It takes a little bit to figure it out, but you'll soon get it - just look for the corresponding pegs and holes (one side has three, the other two). Once on, Sam Gideon is ready to zip into action against his Russian foe...
...Bogey, another advanced Augmented Reaction Suit controlled by Vanquish's main antagonist, Victor Zaitsev. Where Sam Gideon is almost angelic in his white power armor, Bogey comes across as a red winged demon. There's a great visual contrast between Sam Gideon and Bogey - both in color and design - making each figure a unique purchase. If torn to choose just one, Bogey would be my man, but honestly they look best displayed as a pair. Where Sam's ARS is more angular and plated looking, Bogey wears an ARS that's more form fitting and biological. There's more of an underlying garment exposed on Bogey, almost appearing like muscular chainmail.
Like a giant flying bug, Bogey sprouts two large jet boosters from his back. Each booster is attached and fully articulated on a ball-joint, allowing them to move all around. They are also hinged and can be opened up for full-throttle booster attack. Numerous rocket engines - one on each leg, four on his back - give the figure an even greater aerodynamic appearance. Like Sam, fine printing and pops of red really heighten the realism on the predominately maroon figure. Maroon... not a color you see on a figure that often, but it looks killer (and evil bwahahaha!)
What I really like about Bogey is his helmet - a smoked glass visor with respirator hoses running along the sides. What's really, really neat is that you can see what appears to be a skull face beneath the visor. It's all very Giger Alien-ish... and you know how much I love my Alien.
Unlike Sam, articulation on my Bogey figure is spot on. All his joints are nice and firm (not overly tight) and reliable. Even swapping his included alternate hands is the complete opposite - they pop off with a little force and stay on when attached. I should point out that the articulation joints on Bogey are identical to Sam's, except for the added back boosters.
For gear, Bogey packs this massive laser rifle... and there's some irony here. Sam's rifle uses BLADE, a weapon's system that is able to shapeshift and replicate other weapons in the game. However, the figure includes a gun stuck in Assault Rifle mode, it does not move. Bogey, on the other hand, includes a rifle full of fun transforming gimmicks. First, by removing a section of the gun beneath the barrel, you can attach a massive blade. Bogey can hold the weapon like that as if the gun had a huge bayonet attached to it OR you can flip the handle back so it forms what is essentially a gun sword. Sam Gideon look out!
Video games. There are so many cool ones that deserve action figures. Thankfully we have a company like Square Enix that appreciates these awesome digital characters. Play Arts Kai continues to be the definitive action figure to this collector. Their size - 9-inches tall - is just fantastic to hold and play with, not to mention how phenomenal they look on display. Kai figures can move (some too well) and their sculpts - such as Sam and Bogey - are out of this world. Aside from the occasional hiccup, Play Arts Kai are everything I could want in an action figure. Vanquish Kai delivers.
Sam Gideon and Bogey are available for order now through Square Enix's Online Store, each priced at $69.99.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of Square Enix