Bayonetta - PS3 - Review
When the world is threatened by an immeasurable darkness, one curvaceous, leather-clad super-babe will step forward, ready to fight for a better tomorrow.
On her journey through hell and back, she’ll run across walls and the sides of buildings as if gravity was not an issue. She’ll leap around her environment, using monsters as stepping stones, to attack from the air. She’ll use weapons – and most often her fists – to combat a cornucopia of carnivorous creatures. And, as if the Wachowski brothers were at her side, she’ll slow down time to defeat her beastly adversaries with ease.
Her name isn’t Trinity, and this isn’t The Matrix. Her name is Bayonetta, and she is the star of a glorious action game that is, unofficially, the next evolution in the Devil May Cry style of gaming.
The Bridges of Gaming County
Bayonetta’s most basic features and mechanics – such as the two-button, multi-hit combo system and the act of collecting items to purchase new techniques, weapons and other goodies – are very familiar. These elements, while nowhere near the freshness that they were nine years ago when Onimusha debuted, have become an essential part of every Devil May Cry-style game. Even God of War uses them to an extent.
With these features alone, Bayonetta would have been a fun rental. But this game isn’t a DMC clone, nor is it merely trying to reinvent the work of other developers. You’ll be certain of this the minute the first boss and sub-boss battles are introduced. One of them involves a giant two-headed dragon creature whose body looks like the face of a statue. His enormous size allows him to tower over the environment; his immeasurable strength allows him to pick up a bridge – which, at the time, Bayonetta is standing on – and slam it into the side of a mountain. He does this repeatedly, hoping to eliminate the agile fighter who, under the player’s control, can hop around and dish out numerous jump kicks to inflict damage while evading it yourself.
As cool as this may sound, my words alone cannot do it justice. The animations are extraordinary, and during this time – when the structure you are standing on is being tossed around like a bag of breaded chicken – the camera is intense, appropriate, and the controls are flawless.
Dante and Lara Croft have nothing on this gal. Bayonetta uses every part of her body to attack, and not just in the ways you’d expect. In addition to the numerous fist- and foot-based assaults that’ll make her monsters bleed, Bayonetta has two guns strapped to her high-heeled boots, allowing her to spin across the ground – Eddy Gordo-style – while firing off a few dozens rounds. Painful to receive but pleasurable to watch, Bayonetta can use her hand/boot guns to attack in a variety of ways.
When the big, bad bosses need to be finished off, players can tap the Y and B buttons simultaneously to go into an automated attack mode that unveils the deadly finishing animation. During this phase, the player will be asked to jam on the X button – a sign that will initially strike fear in any hardcore player (isn’t it time for games to get away from such simplistic actions?). To avoid the monotony that comes with these kinds of gameplay elements, Bayonetta’s developers had a smart idea: reward the player for their button-mashing efforts. The more you mash, the more halos – Bayonetta’s form of currency – you get. Now, when you’re told to press the X button, you will happily do so every time.
Your Best Friend
We’re told that dogs and diamonds are the best friends of men and women. Bayonetta doesn’t need either, thanks to her mysterious powers and a giant summon monster that follows her (invisibly) wherever she goes. Her unique powers come out in combos, unleashing over-sized, semi-transparent fists and feet that punch and stomp the blood and guts – and halos! – out of enemies. The monster comes out at the end of every boss battle, typically to take a bite out of the creature Bayonetta has nearly slaughtered. It’s a beautiful, grotesque sight that obliterates everything the recent crop of survival/horror sequels have attempted – and this isn’t even a survival/horror game.
Fire the Cameraman
Despite the brilliant camerawork during the game’s most cinematic moments, Bayonetta’s camera is its most prominent flaw. You’ll see lots of clipping – much more than should ever be seen from a game this beautiful – but it’s the camera that you’ll remember, and not for good reasons. When the gameplay intensifies, there’s no telling where the camera may end up. It may tilt away from the action or zoom so close that you can’t tell what’s going on. This is especially true when battling on solid ground, which is a bit strange – wouldn’t you think that the livelier scenarios (with moving platforms) would have been more difficult to create?
Bayonetta may fall victim to the camera issues of its unofficial predecessors, but if that’s the price I have to pay for the rest of the experience, I am more than happy to pay it. Bayonetta is one of those rare fantasy games that sounds crazy on paper but is absolutely genius in execution. Every level feels like a fresh journey through a hellish world – which says a lot for a game that is (believe it or not) a part of the hack-n-slash genre.
Review Scoring Details for Bayonetta
Top-of-the-line hack-n-slash gaming hampered only by a flawed camera system.
Gorgeous, jaw-dropping visuals that are positively stunning. But they come at a price: clipping is everywhere.
Solid voice acting and a catchy (but repetitive) score give Bayonetta some decent audio.
Nowhere near the cheapness of the last Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden titles, but still a very challenging game.
Bayonetta is not an entirely new experience. But its unique elements have made the gameplay style seem fresh again.
Bravo, PlatinumGames. You've made a game and created a heroine that gives Dante a reason to cry.