Format: XBox 360
Developer: Platinum Games
This is the game which kicks off the 2010 January to March rush of games. Cast your minds back to near the end of last year; with Modern Warfare 2 looming on the horizon, many game publishers took the decision to push their games into 2010 to ‘avoid the busy holiday season’. Now we are in the beginning of 2010 and it feels much more like a November normally would in terms of game releases. So can Bayontta stand out in this ‘busy non-holiday season’?
I’m sure by now you have seen at least some of the promotional material for the game and are fairly familiar with the character of Bayonetta. I won’t lie, I was worried when I saw the heavily sexualisation of the character of Bayonetta. It seemed to pander to an audience of spotty teenagers who have never seen a real woman in their life. But the sexing up actually fits in with the general mood of the game; both retarded and awesome in equal measure.
The game in no way takes itself seriously. It knows it is ridiculous and runs with it, and the character of Bayonetta is a reflection of that tongue-in-cheek attitude. The graphics look really good, with a great sense of style; reflected throughout the entire game. All the animations are smooth and the whole game has a very unique visual style to fit it’s overall over-the-top nature.
Bayonetta is a 3rd person action game with a heavy combat focus. You play the part of one of the last Umbra Witches, an order who are locked in combat with the Lumen Sages, but you have no memory of who you are or your past. Throughout the course of the game you attempt to regain your memories as you battle through the realms of Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso, killing plenty of Angels called down by the Lumen Sages.
The story is a bit convoluted and thin, however you can look past this as the story is just a mechanism to show off really awesome set pieces. This is where Bayonetta really excels. What this game does is constantly show you really cool stuff happening on the screen. Whilst it’s generally unclear why what is happening is happening, but you can see that everything that is going on is amazing. Without wanting to go down spoiler territory, among all the fights on motorcycles, insane attacks using your hair and throwing cars at enemies, the game still finds time to out do what Assassin’s Creed 2 has done before and give you a fantastically twisted ending.
As this is a combat focused game, you’ll be happy to hear the combat is excellent. There is a great speed and fluidity to all of Bayonetta’s moves: when you press the button she does the move pretty much instantly and, for the most part, almost seamlessly in a beautiful looking combo. Many other games in this genre put too much importance on how the moves look; slowing down the action and not letting you interrupt with dodges, letting you see the stylish moves at the expense of playability. Bayonetta however, whilst having awesome looking moves, allows you to interrupt most moves by pulling the right trigger; an essential move to allow awesome combos and make the game a lot more playable.
The idea of playability is something the developers really wanted to bring to Bayonetta. Previous games such as Devil May Cry have been pretty brutal in terms of difficulty. Not only were enemies really tough, but the timing required to pull off a good combo was so incredibly strict, it pretty much became inaccessible to any newcomers to the series or genre. Bayonetta has tried to rectify this by offering five different difficulty settings. In theory, you can find one that suits you as well as making the moves easy to pull off.
However, offering more difficulty settings doesn’t completely remove all issues of accessibility. The Easy and Very Easy difficulties basically play the game for you, whereas normal mode can get really hard in some spots. It would have been nice if perhaps there was a new setting to bridge the pretty wide gap between the easy and normal difficulties.
Bayonetta does also share some of the issues that most other 3rd person action games do; namely the camera. In tight areas the camera copes poorly, often obscuring your view a great deal and leaving you unable to see where enemies are attacking from, though these situations are few and far between.
For this review, the game was played on the Xbox 360, with it fully installed to the Hard Drive. There are many reports as well as compelling evidence to suggest that the PS3 version of this game is significantly worse, has vastly increased load times and regularly choppy animation which detracts severely from the game. If you have the option, definitely get this on 360 as opposed to PS3.
Overall the game is truly amazing. The characters are likeable and fun, the story, whilst a little hard to follow at times, is very tongue-in-cheek and enjoyable. The graphics are good, animations fluid, though the screen can certainly get a bit busy in the later levels, obscuring the action. The controls are excellent and if you can get through a couple of spikes in the difficulty then you will fall in love with this game.
There is a lot of content in this package, so if you want to unlock every move, buy every costume and fully complete this game it will last you many many hours. It’s just such a shame the PS3 version isn’t up to snuff. Oh, and please put more than 3 songs in the soundtrack, as after 30+ hours you get pretty bored of the ones included.
Graphics: 4/5 – The game is smooth the entire way through, graphics are good and art style interesting, though it does end up repeating areas a little bit.
Sound: 4/5 – Has good voice acting and a cheery upbeat soundtrack that works with the mood of the game, however it would be nice to have more variety in the soundtrack as listening to the same 3 songs throughout can get tiring after a while.
Gameplay: 5/5 – The controls and different control options are absolutely spot on. It is easily accessible to newcomers and provides enough options for veteran players to really get stuck into the combo system. This, along with plenty of difficulty options, makes it a game that is really easy to get into.
Longevity 5/5 – If you are the kind of person who wants to collect and unlock everything, you will have a lot to do here. If you only want to play it through once then it still holds up as a pretty lengthy game, though it is designed for numerous play throughs.
Overall 4/5 – I spent a lot of time wrestling between 4 or 5 stars. Whilst this is a truly brilliant game, it is aggressively Japanese in style and mentality which I know can be a huge turn off for some people. If you love these kinds of games or even just Eastern videogame design, it could well become one of your favourite games.