Action games of this ilk are notoriously tough, but when quizzed about catering to the masses in terms of adaptive difficulty, producer Yusuke Hashimoto simply laughed and shrugged off the idea. “If you’re having problems, just start the game over and set it to Easy,” he suggested. This is a game designed very much with hardcore Devil May Cry fans in mind; scoring systems, fighting tactics and even post-kill collectibles – this time they’re halos instead of red orbs – are all extremely reminiscent of Capcom’s Master Blaster.

In swoops the weapon-changing skills introduced in Devil May Cry 2, letting you define preset equipment combinations and swap them out mid-combo. You could take all four pistols and use them to juggle an enemy in the air before taking to the skies yourself with a quick flap of the wings and pulling out a broadsword (from where?) to follow it up with some slice and dice action. And when the angel’s about to crash down to earth a couple of blasts with your feet-mounted guns should halt any chances of it evening the score with a retaliatory strike.

More weapons can be purchased as the game progresses, placing added emphasis on earning moolah by scrapping with style. Thankfully it’s easier to follow the onscreen action than it was in Devil May Cry 4. Every move you pull off is listed onscreen. Multipliers are also flashed up when you fulfill set requirements, listed separatelyfrom the cumulative total to tease you with the promise of mega-points when you’re done. The system means it’s easy enough to decipher which moves gained which points, letting you plan the ultimate attack next time around. Predictably enough you’ll not succeed by sticking to the same few moves every time – the AI will become attuned to any obvious patterns in your attacks and your score bonuses will decrease every time.

With its eye-watering balletic combat, tough enemies and emphasis on learning combos, we can’t promise Bayonetta will be ideal for everybody, and the unmistakably Japanese style is likely to turn off just as many as it turns on. But even after the visual highs of Gears of War 2 and Far Cry 2, few can fail to be wowed by its set pieces. Bayonetta’s definitely the prettiest girl at the party, and if Kamiya’s past record is anything to go by there’ll be adventure to come.

Jan 15, 2009