Devil May Cry, God of War, Dante's Inferno these are all competing for the hack and bash/slash crown. Then along comes a new kid on the block, with a tongue-in-cheek overtly sexualised theme and heroine. Welcome Bayonetta, a campy action game from the creator of Devil May Cry.
The story is gloriously hokum, totally over the top and completely crazy. It has numerous twists and turns and can leave you reeling from the sheer madness of it all. It's told with cut-scenes in the form of in-engine cinematics, sepia-toned, film-grained and laced with numerous curse words. This is not a story or a game for kids, people. That said, I am not saying anything about the story except that it is worth playing to see the madness unfold.
It's Devil May Cry evolved, Bayonetta takes the immensely successful formula from Dante's adventures and applies it to a whole new character, this isn't a clone though, it's a whole new brand of game with some devious puzzle-like boss fights and some eye-bending 60fps battles that leave your thumbs in a wreck as you pull off combination after combination tying your digits in knots. Bayonetta is a nimble minx and she moves from attack to attack with fluid ease, the combinations take some getting used to and whilst some are easy to learn, they're also tricky to master.
There are timing specific dodges that trigger a slow-motion effect known as Witch Time. During Witch Time you can execute Bayonetta's attacks and pummel your foes into next week or oblivion if you prefer. Bayonetta has a variety of weapons, guns for her hands and feet and in a nod to Equilibrium (the movie) she can even perform a sequence of rapid attacks that are definitely based on Gun Kata from said film. Though I don't think Cleric Preston ever used his feet.
There are also some other weapons unlocked by an in-game shop, you can buy alternate versions of some of these as well as a slew of upgrades, including new combination attacks, new forms for Bayonetta to shift into and a variety of other surprises that I'm not going to spoil. The typical health recovery items are stacked alongside the classic smart-bomb style items and so forth; fans of DMC will recognise these kinds of things immediately.
You'll find Angelic Hymns as you play and battle monsters, break open Witch Tombs and search around the various big levels. Some of these will be intact; they'll open up new weapons, swords, whips and so on. You can have two of these equipped at any time and switch between them at will, including during combos to perform even more brutal attacks.
In some cases Bayonetta can perform torture attacks, just press the on-screen button prompts and a devastating effect will be applied to your angelic foe. Ranging from being put into an iron maiden or crushed beneath a spiked wheel, they're mind-blowing and cool to watch in action. Bosses and mini-bosses can be assailed with a Climax Attack; these attacks are the big ones. Bayonetta's hair comes alive and forms a massive monster, with a single rapid button press you can put the hurt on your enemy and tear them into little bits of angelic salsa.
All of your attacks earn Halos; Halos are used to upgrade your arsenal. It's just like souls from DMC.
Bayonetta can also change forms, an agile panther-style shape that allows her to run fast and jump further, and a crow-like form that lets her glide/fly for a while. These can be combined with some of the game's slow-time puzzles to allow her to cross gaps she normally wouldn't be able to.
For those of you who just want to play the story and can't be bothered with timing, button combinations and tactical dodging to activate Witch Time, Bayonetta has Very Easy Automatic mode - this mode pulls off effortless dodges, combinations and everything else with just a rapid press of the attack buttons. It lets you focus on what's going on around you and makes the game excellent for someone with just a little experience in the DMC style genre.
Finally, Bayonetta awards you trophies in-game based on how you do from the medals you collect in each special sequence known as Verses. Do really well and you'll get a Pure Platinum medal, get lots of those in a level and you'll earn a trophy based on the material you have the most of. Pure Platinum being very hard to get.
The game uses a series of check-point based saves.
The game also likes to spice things up with some non-DMC style game elements, but rather than spoil them, I'll leave those for you to discover.
In an industry that's usually dominated by Gears of Brown or Halo palettes, when a game like Bayonetta comes along that uses bright colours and flashy effects, your eyes start to bleed. That's the best way to describe the game, its eye-bleeding gorgeous graphically and it's such a breath of fresh air to see a game like this, as much as you can see it. With the blistering pace, the amount of attacks and enemy characters on screen it can be hard to keep up with the graphical goodness of the game at times. It has a slick colour design, bright palette and some truly smooth lighting effects for the levels. Special effects are likewise extremely good and the level design works well with the various elements. There's no texture tearing or pop, or anything and for once the 360 version outperforms the PS3 counterpart.
One minor niggle: the camera, the camera has a habit of putting you out of shot behind a non-fading foreground object.
Fast and fluid is the order of the day here. Bayonetta's animations are excellent, with the characters and the enemies doing some amazingly cool moves as they battle. Bayonetta is a superbly animated character, part warrior, part pole dancer and all 'attitude'. The boss characters are fantastic, varied and extremely well put together with numerous minor animations crossing the whole character since many of them are multi-part enemies. The final boss is a wonderful design and animated to near-perfection.
The AI in the game is a good challenge; it uses a variety of special moves, works as a pack to get you off guard and can trigger some devastating combos when you're facing similar characters to the protagonist. It does what it needs to do on the tin, nothing more, nothing yes.
In some of the vehicle based sections, the physics is a little off in some places but it's not too bad. It's nothing that detracts wholly from the game, doesn't happen all of the time and it's usually fairly solid.
It's a solid sound suite for Bayonetta, from the character's guns to the various ambient and spot sound effects, there's nothing more to say.
Bayonetta uses a bright and fairly energetic soundtrack; there are a few remixes of Fly me to the Moon to battle along to now and then. It also has some classical pieces for the Angelic Hymn records. All in all it's a great juxtaposition of musical choices that have been chosen to fit the moment.
Voice and Dialogue
The voice work is solid enough, there are a few grating performances and Bayonetta is a lot easier on the ears than the previous Dante was. As for the script, it's camp at times, hokey at others and basically what you'd expect from a Devil May Cry style game... don't go looking for originality in the writing and be warned it's packed with cursing.
For a new IP it's refreshing to see that whilst it's based on the DMC idea, it doesn't try and clone it. Bayonetta feels fresh, with a lot to do and see in game as well as specific unlocks for the next playthrough. There's enough here to keep you coming back, hoarding and spending Halos on the next special item and so forth. With numerous levels of difficulty the game is pitched as a challenge for all kinds of gamers.
The first play is likely going to take you around 8-10 hours depending on how much you explore and how many times you go back to grind up the things you missed, better medals mean better rewards after all.