The story is set in the near future. Russia and the United States are vying for ownership of the world’s fast-depleting energy resources and the US has constructed a space station in order to harness energy from the sun. Russian forces capture this space station and divert its harvested solar energy into a blast wave that destroys San Francisco, aiming to force the US into a total and unconditional surrender. In response, the US tasks its armed forces with recapturing the space station before the Russians can annihilate their next target – New York.
The player takes control of Sam, a government agent kitted out with a futuristic battle suit.
The game was created by the team previously responsible for Resident Evil 4, including lead director Shinji Mikami; his first game under the Platinum Games brand. The game was in development since 2007; in January 2010, a full motion video trailer was released.
Mikami has stated that the game was developed with the PlayStation 3 as its lead platform, commenting that it was a "great success".
In the course of developing Vanquish, Shinji Mikami said that the game's graphics were inspired by the Casshern anime series.
The game was ported to PC and sold on Steam in 2017. This version supports all screen resolutions and has an unlocked frame rate.