|Release Date:||January 8th, 2010 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Son of a bi...witch. This game is awesome.
While I've never been one for hack-and-slashers, often finding them grindingly dull and repetitive, Bayonetta has converted even me, with its brilliant direction, endless improvisation and the enormous tongue in its cheek.
Telling the story of last surviving Umbran Witch, Bayonetta, the game is an adventure through the past and future of the feisty, amnesiac sorceress with an English accent, as she tries to figure out why she awoke 200 years after being put six feet under and is being pursued by the wardens of Heaven itself.
In the game's world, Heaven (Paradiso), Hell (Inferno), the human world and Purgatory (Purgatorio), are in balance and Bayonetta, who survived both the war between the Umbran Witches and their counterparts, the Lumen, and the witch hunts, is stuck in Purgatorio, trying to remember what happened.
Since her power is forged by Inferno, the Angels (which come in all shapes and sizes, and are not what you'd expect to descend from heaven- think halo-wearing jackals and huge beasties bedecked in golden cloth) are trying to kill her off.
Rather than give in, Bayonetta heads off to Europe to a city which is somehow the centre of the outlandish conspiracy, and gradually reveals the complicated history of the world, all the way back to creation itself.
The characters featured in the game are perfect. There's Enzo, a stereotypical whining gangster, and the uber-cool demonic weapon-smith Rodin, but the true star is Bayonetta herself, whose sultry English speech is full of double entendres and sexual innuendo. Even the cutscenes are the pinnacle of the art form, filled with humour and action, with no slowdown or dodgy graphics - the animation is pristine.
Take one of the first for example - after having resurrected Rodin, Bayonetta is taking on Angels while flying through the sky as the demon throws her pistols to restock her armoury. Reaching the bottom of the pile, he throws her a lollipop, which Bayonetta smoothly catches and slips into her mouth, before giving the screen a jaunty wink and descending into battle once more - brilliant.
It also helps that the game's soundtrack isn't all battle hymns - the music varies from pop numbers to an up-beat version of Fly me to the Moon - the game seems to revel in its sense of humour, and is brilliant for it.
But let's face it; the story isn't what attracts you to a hack-and-slasher is it? It's about the action, and Bayonetta has that in spades. The Witch herself comes with a gun attached to each limb, a selection of cursed weapons at her disposal (and an attitude that could sink a battleship), but her most deadly asset is her hair.
Bayonetta's raven locks serve as both her clothing (forming a skin-tight cat suit when not being used in battle) and is also a portal to the underworld. By pulling off any number of combos, of which there are literally hundreds, her hair can become a giant dragon, massive butterfly, huge fist or even a stiletto, which can kick Angels into the afterlife.
In the bigger boss battles, which are spectacular, her hair is used for the 'climax' (finisher), when the camera switches to a new angle to best show off the gore (while being sure to hide Bayonetta's naked form, as her hair flows off her to form the demon.)
Or, if kicking the enemy to death doesn't suit the situation, you could breakdance your way through the battle, do a headstand and use your foot-mounted weapons as a machine gun, suplex demons into oblivion, pick up abandoned weapons and use them as a windmill of death or torture your enemies, using summoned guillotines and iron maidens in brutal takedowns - the choices are endless.
Bayonetta can even slow down time by dodging attacks with the right trigger, a factor that the game actively encourages, allowing you to enter 'witch time' and deal out death while your enemies are frozen.
Or you could take advantage of the 'witch walk' and abruptly reverse gravity, leaping from the ground to the ceiling to continue the battle - It's unreal.
Now, while many games would struggle with such a huge move set, the innovative controls of Bayonetta make each fight a pleasure, allowing you full freedom to deal out justice without becoming clunky.
That said, the game's one weakness is the camera, which is slaved to a single viewpoint with very little play in the angles. This can often leave you at a disadvantage, but it's a minor niggle at best.
Along with the story mode, the game also features a complex alchemy section (which allows you to formulate various lollipops for Bayonetta to suck on), a huge number of powerups to unlock, an arcade-style minigame and a very cleverly designed loading screen - which doubles as a practice mode, complete with on-screen combo listings.
The game is also equipped with a comprehensive online leaderboard, so competitive players can upload and compare scores for each of the 16 chapters' 'verses', which are ranked each time you clear one - it's the complete action game package.
Bayonetta is not just an improvement on previous Japanese action games I've played; it's an evolution, revolution and riot all in one. While the dodgy camera is a very minor concern, the game's sense of humour and blistering action more than make up for it, and the plot has enough pizzazz to keep even me interested. It's the definitive action game of this generation so far, and one you shouldn't miss.
- Incredible combat
- Great graphics
- Likable characters and storyline
- All-round good fun
Not so good stuff
- Occasionally irritating camera angles