Even with the universal praise that Sega’s Bayonetta has already received, we remained sceptical about its overall goodness until we got to grips with it. After all, it’s only following the same slash ‘em up template as Devil May Cry and God of War. Or so we thought. It’s essentially this…
What it actually does is double-kick Dante and Nero in the stones and gives Kratos a stiletto to the gut. It’s a ridiculously slick action game that just keeps on giving from beginning to end. Admittedly, it’s not doing much you haven’t already seen before as you can tell by this video…
But what Bayonetta nails is the epic scale of everything that unfolds before your eyes and the manner in which it’s delivered.
Everything here is huge, and we’re not just talking about the heroine’s chest humps. Levels, bosses and finishing moves are massive in Bayonetta and it’s all stitched together with an incredible variety of ways to kick ass, which we’ll obviously tell you more about later.
Lost the plot
Right now, we’ll give you an obligatory rundown of the story – albeit a brief one as the script is bat-shit crazy, and only serves as an excuse to twat stuff anyway.
So Bayonetta’s an Umbra Witch – a clan who worship the darkness. She’s been at the bottom of a lake for 500 years and she’s understandably suffering from a bout of amnesia. What she does remember is that her arch enemies are Lumen Sages (read: Angels) and they worship the light, and are the unfortunate saps that are turned into a thin red paste by Bayonetta throughout the game. Other characters include Jeanne – another Umbra Witch, Rodin who provides you with the weapons via his shop in hell, Luka an annoying journalist chasing Bayonetta and Joe Pesci-a-like Enzo – who adds, erm, practically nothing but wise-guy cracks to the story.
Honestly, we’ve played through the entire game and the only time anything makes sense with Bayonetta’s story is right at the end. Thankfully, the superb action is a lot easier to follow.
Dual Wield? Pah. Quad Wield FTW!
Bayonetta’s unique style of death-bringing consists of the ace mechanic, which sees her use her hands AND her feet to wield weapons. The way she unleashes furious combos means she’s like a cross between a B-boy, a gunslinger and a high-class stripper. See…
You can switch your set-up so, for example, you can attach two shotguns to your heels while wielding a sword in your hands. Tap L2 and you’ll go to your second loadout.
Oh, that black cat suit she wears? That’s her hair. She can use her immense locks to not only cover her modesty but to unleash combo ending giant stiletto kicks or hairy punches. Even better, she can use these Weave Attacks – as they’re called – to summon mega beasts that will see off huge enemies via QTEs. Our favourite? The brilliant one where you bash up a golem in the shape of a sphere and then four hands form and play volleyball with it before dropping it, comically, and punching it to bits as you slam the buttons. Sweet.
To be honest, Bayonetta’s QTEs are rather hit and miss. Literally. They’re thrown in quite often during combat but miraculously manage to compliment the flow of the action rather than hinder it. Like the Torture Moves, where you can activate an iron maiden or guillotine to kick an enemy into and cause massive damage. But every now and then you’re instructed to complete them mid-cutscene to, say, dodge a falling satellite and the like. The problem is they happen so quickly that some times you’ll miss the prompt and have to re-run the whole sequence again, which is insanely frustrating.
Big screen hits
As previously mentioned, the bosses in Bayonetta are humungous. Most of them easily fill the screen but it’s not just the sheer enormity that’s impressive – it’s the way you have to take these things down.
One of the later monster battles takes place in the ocean. Bayonetta is surfing around the waves on a piece of aeroplane debris as this giant beast called Sapientia fires missiles and meteors and also springs attacks from under the water. You have to wear it down by smacking its legs then when you summon the Weave monster – a big spider – you have to steer the watery foe by its horns into your Weave’s mouth. Kind of like riding a scary jet-ski.
Some battles involve climbing aboard the giant creature, which is a little bit like Shadow of Colossus. They’re that big and then some.
With such enormous bosses you should expect enormous levels, right? But how about vertical levels where you’re running up a building, or spinning uncontrollably on a rock as you fight? They’re as superbly delivered as they are nauseating. And at times it feels like fighting in an MC Escher painting…
Plenty of character
Although it’s the silky smooth execution of Bayonetta’s ass-whoopings that will keep you breathless, a lot of respect must be paid to the witch herself.
She’s sexy, witty and can certainly handle herself in a fight. Three things we look for in a woman. Her charm shouldn’t be underestimated as she goes from care-free killing machine to a doting motherly figure seamlessly but manages to maintain the likeability factor throughout.
The humour is a common thread through Bayonetta. If big, bald arms dealer Rodin isn’t quipping things like “Hey, check this out ‘Whadya buyin’?! I heard that in a game once” then it’s Luka doing his best Assassin’s Creed impression by looking moody in an Altair/Ezio style hood. Cheap? Sure, but they get the laughs they set out to get. We really hope this isn’t the last time we see Bayonetta and co.
Bayonetta’s bulle – sorry – ‘Witch’ time works brilliantly and rewards you for timing a successful dodge move with nanoseconds to spare. And the amount of moves you learn along the way, to string combos together, will ensure that you can keep things fresh as you batter the hell out of enemies.
Platinum Games have really set a benchmark with their first next-gen (current-gen?) outing and it’s going to be interesting to see how Dante’s Inferno and of course, God of War III stack up against the style and non-stop action in Bayonetta. There's so much variety on show here that you’d be an idiot to miss out on it. It really does deserve the praise surrounding it.
Is it better than...
God of War Collection
? – Yes
This is a tough one. Sure, the original God of Wars have been out for ages already, so it’s no real surprise that Bayonetta beats them for both visuals and epicness. But these are the nearest comparisons until God of War III bursts onto the scene later in 2010, and no doubt that will be equally if not better than Sega’s sexy witch.
All the mega-bosses that Kratos had to battle in the original two games are made to look tiny by comparison with Bayonetta’s screen-fillers. And for our money, the weapons here are far more interesting than God of War’s too.
Devil May Cry 4? – Yes
In terms of style, DMC4 is still right up there with Bayonetta, but the win for Sega comes in the form of brilliant pacing and level design.
Where DMC4 forces you to retread old ground with Nero and Dante (we still haven’t forgiven you for this Capcom) Bayonetta keeps the new things coming throughout. Plus, it has a camera that isn’t permanently fixed to one spot, meaning you can switch views to see the enemies sneaking up behind you. Plus, Bayonetta is far more likable and interesting than Dante.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2? – Yes
There's a lot to compare between Team Ninja's slash-em-up and Bayonetta. Both are super-fluid in their hack 'n' slash gameplay, with multiple weapons, magic and upgrades. Both also feature golems, gore and groin shots.
But where Sigma 2 seems a tad disjointed and lacking in atmosphere, Bayonetta hits you with megaton scenarios time after time, with incredible variety of gameplay and spectacle. Not even SixAxis boob jiggle can tip the scales here - Bayonetta is just plain better.
Just for you, Metacritic
It’s an almost flawless exhibition of gaming greatness, which can effortlessly make even the most ham-fisted of gamers feel like they’ve got elite skills. Bayonetta is already an early contender for GOTY for 2010.
Dec 22, 2009