(Note: Many of you are already familiar with Jarrod’s Import review of the game on the PlayStation 3. My impressions of the game are based on the domestic US release of the Xbox 360 version, so things may differ slightly, but you can always refer to the import review for gameplay knowledge).
Bayonetta is one of the best action games ever made, if not the best one so far. I’ll just come out and say it. Based on my impressions so far (I’m about 6 hours into the game so far), it’s an amazing experience that pays respect to many older action games but completely beats them in ridiculous style and fun gameplay. At its core, Bayonetta will remind you a lot of Devil May Cry–it is after all the creation of Hideki Kamiya, the man behind both games. It’s a third-person action game with a focus on combo attacks and style. There is an insane amount of customization availability for Bayonetta, with a variety of techniques, weapons, combos, juggles, etc, at her disposal. She’s easily the most powerful action star ever–yes, more than Kratos or Dante. Playing Bayonetta is like going on a power trip, and every time I did something in the game I just had to make some kind of verbal reaction like “Whoah” or “What the..?!” That’s not to knock Devil May Cry or God of War (or Ninja Gaiden or any other of the elite action games out there)–they’re amazing. The surprising thing here is that Bayonetta can still get that wow factor out there even after gamers have been desensitized by stuff like, well, God of War. Bayonetta has raised the bar even higher.
The story follows Bayonetta, an Umbran witch who was found in a casket at the bottom of a lake 20 years ago. She doesn’t remember her past, and is stuck fighting off angels in order to stay out of her herself. The opening cinematic of the game tells the story while the player can fight, so it’s a little distracting, but that’s the nature of the game. There are always quick sections of cutscenes, then crazy action and gameplay, then another short cutscene, and so on. The game actually does seem to have a lot of story to it, but it moves by incredibly quickly. The loading times are great on the 360 version of the game, I hardly had to wait at all for anything, and the experience felt very streamlined. The cutscenes do vary in style, with some utilizing the in-game engine, and others using an interesting “camera-effect” where they show a sequence of events on a line of film. It’s pretty cool to watch. Sometimes though, I felt like I was waiting to fight and watching the story a little too much, which I don’t like doing in an action game–I just want to fight and cause havoc. It never got overbearing though, it was usually as the thought crossed my mind that the game kicked in and I got back into playing. The story and writing is unapologetic in its crudeness, so if you don’t care for it, then don’t play this game. It takes its premise and runs with it, having all kinds of fun along the way. Let’s just say that the game certainly earns its “M” rating.
The action is always fast and frantic. You basically chain together punch and kick attacks to do combos, but can add gunshots/weapon attacks, techniques, and other insane means to change things up. There are so many different attack combinations and animations that it’s mind blowing. Bayonetta can attack with weapons attached to her hands and feet. At the start of the game, there are just handguns, but after unlocking new weapons you can use things like shot guns or katanas. Also, she can do special techniques after unlocking them, or by using her magic power, she can use torture attacks. Torture attacks are basically mini-events where you have to mash a certain button or rotate the thumb stick in order to punish an enemy. Sometimes doing a torture attack will even let Bayonetta use a weapon on other enemies. For example, after cutting an aerial enemy in half with a chainsaw, Bayonetta can keep using the chainsaw for the duration of the fight. You can also pick up weapons/claws that enemies leave behind. There isn’t much downtime in between fighting sequences either. Getting to the next area only takes a second, and usually there are quick time events that keep the action going–running on walls, jumping from building to building, avoiding any disaster coming your way, etc. It feels like there are so many ways to defeat your enemies that it never gets old. Each level also feels unique, and you never get tired of it.
I know with some action games, I get tired of some things—like I expect a fire stage, or a driving stage, for example. And while Bayonetta does include these things, I never found myself dreaded it. I welcomed every challenge and wanted to see what else the game would throw at me. It keeps raising the craziness to higher and higher levels, and sometimes it made me a little dizzy. For instance, in one flashback sequence, you have to fight Jeanne while climbing up the walls. It is a constant race too, it’s not like you can wait, so the perspective keeps switching around, making your head spin. There are a few instances of problem solving, like accessing the new area, getting a key, or activating a switch. These are usually very short and are there to give you a momentary pause from fighting. Several puzzles/obstacles require you to activate this sort of hyper speed mode called Witch Time (which is used often in combat in order to get the upper hand on enemies). Basically, you have to activate a statue, dodge a bolt of lightning, and then run across whatever is in your way. For example, using this hyper speed mode may let you run across the water or cross a door before it can close on you.
This game is insane, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It also runs quite well on the 360—the framerate is solid and it runs smoothly. I haven’t noticed any major problems at all, and the loading time is rather short, even without installing it to the HDD. I’ll be completing this one shortly and getting the full review of the domestic version.
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