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Gaming Review

'Bayonetta' (Xbox 360)

By
Released on Friday, Jan 8 2010



Also available on: PS3
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Platinum Games
Publisher: Sega

The New Year is upon us, and a new batch of games are ready and waiting to give us gamers something to salivate over and excite us in equal measure. One such game that has been on the radar for eager hardcore gamers for some time is action title Bayonetta, which will be familiar to anybody who knows the work of Hideo Kamiya - the director of Devil May Cry, among others.

But with so much hype, and a director of such high-calibre heritage, the danger is that Bayonetta will ultimately disappoint; however, fortunately for gamers who have been tracking this one for a while, it doesn't. In fact it manages to surpass expectation, and easily become a contender for game of the year, even at this early stage of 2010.

Bayonetta sees players control sultry sexy witch Bayonetta, one of the last surviving Luman witches, who happens to be handy with a blade and deadly with a pistol. Bayonetta has been out of action for 500 years, and has no recollection of her past, save for some hazy flashbacks that only really make sense towards the end of the game. With the help of a number of comical supporting characters, Bayonetta sets off searching for an ancient artefact, which she believes will help her piece together the fragments of her shattered memory. The plot is fairly nonsensical, but proves to be quite compelling towards the end, largely due to the cast of characters, and the stylish cutscenes, which have a tendency to go on a bit but are highly entertaining for the most part.

The action takes place in the fictional city of Vigrid, which hosts lots of stylish European architecture, as well as huge towers and stonework dedicated to ages gone by, a hectic highway, and some nice forest areas for good measure. Also, with Bayonetta able to switch between dimensions of light and darkness, the locations at times become rather hellish and heavenly (more often than not) from time to time. However, the real joy of playing Bayonetta isn't from its locations, cast of characters, cutscenes, or plot, it's exactly where it should be, with some razor-sharp action gameplay.

The gameplay will be a fairly standard affair to anybody who has played something like Devil May Cry, but raises the bar so high that you'll begin to look on similar efforts with disdain. The action is viewed from a third-person perspective, with Bayonetta able to utilise guns, fists, kicks and melee weapons, combining them all into seemingly endless combos that have as much depth as they do style. Pressing the X button uses whatever firearms our heroic witch has equipped, while the Y and B buttons are used for punch and kick attacks, or to hack and slash if weapons are equipped; timing is of the essence to unleash the absolute multitude of combos available. In terms of weaponry, Bayonetta can pretty much pick up any of the weapons that her enemies use and subsequently drop, plus she is able to gain more ammunition after collecting LPs scattered throughout the game, which are turned into weapons by demonic barkeep Rodin.

The sheer number of combos available is jaw dropping, but it's the fluidity with which combinations are performed that really sets this game apart. Equipping different sets of weapons is achieved in the pause menu, and can be switched instantly by pressing the left trigger. The system really does make for some of the smoothest combat ever seen in a game, with the limitations only really coming from the player's imagination, or lack of it. There are also magic moves, which can be worked into the combos, and feature the use of Bayonetta's hair (which also doubles as her catsuit). Some enemies can be tortured, which can be triggered by pressing Y+B together when prompted, while other enemies can be finished off with a "climax" move, which sees huge dragons or birds conjured up from our protagonist's hair and devour the over-sized enemies in an instant.

The other big gameplay feature comes in the form of "Witch Time", which, if pulled off correctly, darkens the screen and slows down time, allowing for Bayonetta to unleash hell on her paceless opponents. "Witch Time" is a risk vs. reward system, as players are forced to press the right trigger at the very last moment before an enemy's attack hits. The safe bet is to dodge long before the enemy strikes, but the amount of damage you can do during "Witch Time" makes it particularly appealing, especially against big groups of opponents, or against a particularly fearsome screen-filling boss.

As soon as you begin to play Bayonetta it's clear that the developers have let their imaginations roam, and never is that clearer than with the gargantuan boss battles that take place frequently throughout the game. While some encounters see you simply destroy a foe and then finish them off with a gruesome climax move, others see you running along their bodies dodging debris, and hacking at their weak spots, while others see you tearing off limbs after countering potentially deadly attacks. The boss fights are simply one of the highlights of a game with many.

The only downside to Bayonetta is the occasional camera glitch, which are quite common in third-person titles. For the most part, and certainly against the beefier opponents, it's fine, but fighting a group of enemies can leave you vulnerable to back attacks if you're facing the opposite direction. Fortunately this is a minor issue, as is the fact that unlike most games of its ilk, Bayonetta is fairly easy to play through on the default setting. However, beating the game brings the harder modes, which really add replay value to a game you'll want to re-visit, as does the various awards that are on offer for every chapter completed.

Quite simply, Bayonetta is a game that will put a smile on your face. The fluidity of combat, the enemies, the cast of characters, the nods to Sega and Clover games of the past, the soundtrack, and the sheer quirky nature of the entire package, makes Bayonetta a game to add to your collection. It gets better every time you play, and genuinely could be in Digital Spy's 'Game Of The Year' list this time next year. In short, give Bayonetta a go - you'll be bewitched.


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