Narrative Design in Vanquish


Filed: Community, Games, PGTV, PlatinumGames, Vanquish

Hi. I’m JP, one of the writers on Vanquish. Normally, I fill a role as translator; however, on Vanquish, I also wrote some scenes in the script, added in most of the naming/jargon, and tried to bring that PG flavor to the script.

Approaching the story to Vanquish was an interesting endeavor. It isn’t often that you sit in a room with the directors of Resident Evil and Code Veronica and get asked your opinion about the story. One of these points was the opposing force in the game. Our initial candidate was China, but ultimately we went with the Russians. I’ve noticed some people on the net claim that Russia is clichéd as an enemy force, but it really is the only logical conclusion. Vanquish is based on an extension of our current world into the future, so the original plan of a Chinese enemy makes very little sense. China owns most of the United States debt, and the US buys most of China’s manufactured goods. When there is money to be made, people tend to find ways not to fight. Russia, on the other hand, makes perfect sense. Over half of all Russian exports to the US are petroleum products, so in a resource crunch, the economic ties that bind Russia to the US would be severed, allowing them to attack. After all, all wars are essentially about resource control.

Another reason I really pushed for Russia as an enemy is because I really enjoy the pseudo-Cold War nostalgia that nation-on-nation conflicts, especially with Russia, brings about. It’s got that great G.I. Joe sense of good guys taking on bad guys, which plays directly into the style of dialogue we were going for in Vanquish. In essence, Vanquish is tinged with parody, but not the point of being overt. I read a review that said, “It’s hard to tell whether it is taking the piss or not, which in itself may well be the intention.” Many of the dialogue lines in Vanquish are way over-the-top, but then again, you are talking about a group of super-powered space marines attacking a colony the size of a small city in space. I think it would be incredibly strange if they played things overly straight faced, so why not have fun with things? Why not make the characters aware of not only the ridiculousness of the situation, but also the varied cultural influences that lead to the creation of a game like Vanquish. My intent, at least with the English script, was not fan service, but rather making sure the game never forgets what it is – a game. There are plenty of companies working towards the serious. We never forget we are making games. I love that. As that same review said, “We weren’t sure if we were laughing at it, or with it, but we were definitely laughing.” Perfect.

That being said, Vanquish is a bit serious. When I first went through the completed script outline, I realized that what Hiroki Kato, our lead script writer, had come up with was ultimately a morality tale on the frailty of one’s best intentions. All of the characters in Vanquish are rough around the edges, with motivations that conflict with the idealized world they are striving to create. If you read into it a bit, it draws many parallels with the attacks French philosopher Voltaire launched against fellow philosopher Gottfried Leibniz and his concept of optimism. While I don’t think Kato-san explicitly set out with Voltaire in mind, it was nice to be able to strengthen these parallels in some of the naming and situations in the game. I hope you all have fun trying to find these references.

Finally, a bit on the English voice acting in the game: I was incredibly privileged to work with top notch people across the board on the English script. It is always fun to be the dumbest one in the room, because you have so many people to look up to. From my editor on the script, Alexander O. Smith, to our voice director, Kris Zimmerman (of Bayonetta and Metal Gear Solid fame), to our incredibly talented cast, it was an awesome experience working with everyone. It isn’t often you can bring Gideon Emery (Sam), Steve Blum (Burns), Marc Worden (Zaitsev), Kari Wahlgren (Elena), Lee Meriweather (Winters), and Benito Martinez (Candide) together on one project, but we were able to pull it off, and got some amazing performances as a result. We also realize that many of you want to play in your native languages, so we’ve included Japanese, French, Italian, German, and Spanish voices as well. I know there are plenty of fans with a preset bias towards the Japanese language track for whatever reason, but I really urge you to set aside your biases and try out the game in your native language. English was the lead language on Vanquish, but all of the languages were equally important to us, so don’t dismiss things as a “dub”, because you will just end up missing out on some great performances by some really talented actors. Mikami-san has already spoken about how much he loves Gideon’s voice as Sam, and I am a huge fan of Japanese voice actor’s performance for Zaitsev. For a little bit of fun, here are my favorite outtakes from the studio:

I’m really looking forward to hearing what you all have to say about the game, so say hi to me on Twitter (@pg_jp) or hit up our message boards at and let us know what you think!

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11 Comments Add Your Own

Dixon Francois Posted on October 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Awesome story. Awesome Game. Wish you guys put this in the PS3 version :-)

MArlon Posted on October 25, 2010 at 3:02 pm

It’s sad how after reading this I would have given vanquish an extra point on my mouth to mouth review for the story.This post made me rethink the way people review story on games.Let’s get our fact straight next time.

Fooda Posted on October 26, 2010 at 12:19 am

Aww I love this stuff. I wish there could have been a behind the scenes in Vanquish, as well as in Bayonetta. I don't want to get off track now, but just saying how much I enjoy the making of the game as much as the actual game. It's so fun experiencing the joy of creating a game.

FAUNA Posted on October 26, 2010 at 3:21 am

This is the first game where you literally truly are playing an anime, which wouldn't be right without the Japanese voice track option (THANK YOU SO MUCH!!). Gideon does remind me alot of a super futuristic Solid Snake. So awesome….

ListenUp Posted on October 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm

This game is awesome! PG please make DLC to let us play as Crystal Viper, and flying bogeys.

Alessandro Posted on October 26, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I haven't the game yet but i'm gonna get this soon cuz i really enjoy your creations! Greetings from Italy!

amit Posted on October 26, 2010 at 4:35 pm

PLEASE tell me there's a hidden cinema outtake with duck voices

Douglas KC Posted on October 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I really appreciate the article and the outtakes. The video of the voice actors made me realize how much I am enjoying the characters. I'm having a blast with the game, and am finding the story to be a lot of fun. It's campy and over-the-top, but it's clearly intentional. Plus, it never gets too long winded or takes the game off-balance. It works nicely. The gameplay is smooth, intuitive, and addicting. I have to admit that I'm not a huge shooter fan, but I bought this game due to the past work of people involved with production. I don't regret it! I expect to play through this one many times. Keep 'em coming, PG!

SonicTHP Posted on October 28, 2010 at 12:24 am

Thank you for keeping the game aware that it is indeed a game. That's something I wish I saw more often.

SixtyHertz Posted on November 24, 2010 at 11:50 am

Personally thought it was a GREAT story, and i mean of course it was a cartoon at points and i love that exaggeration… when the one marine is like "go on without me" or something like that, i mean come on, thats obviously a chuckle moment… it's a shame that we have people judging stories in our industry that really are not qualified to judge story, but the masses will still listen to them.

i wonder if they missed burns "thank god i'm an atheist" line which i thought was one of the best lines of the decade.

also the story has shades of 9/11 and pearl harbor conspiracy – i'm not a subscriber to these theories but most conspiracy theories survive because they are damn interesting, and so is the over all plotting.

The soldiers that are getting tortured, say the most hilarious thing, perhaps the critics read too much into they game, they know it's made by japanese so they figured that they couldn't have done the crazy dialogue on purpose????

anyway sorry for the rambling, just voicing my support for the story. good work!

Marcos Posted on February 24, 2012 at 10:05 am

Hi Platinum Games,

I really hope the next Vanquish 2 to push the game forward and to do so, please give us a more extensive game with more campaign hours and DON'T FORTGET TO INCLUDE ONLINE MODE.

If you do so.You will have in my opinion one of the best third-person-shooter.


Marcos (Portuguese BIG fan).

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