Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Bayonetta - 360/PS3

The battle between Heaven and Hell is hardly a new plot device in videogames, but never has it been conveyed quite like this.

Bayonetta, a sassy leather-clad witch with super-human powers, is on a one-woman mission to reveal the truth about her past in a game that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Devil May Cry series. The story is somewhat absurd and at times is almost impossible to comprehend, but that doesn’t stop Bayonetta from being a flashy and highly polished rollercoaster ride.

From the guns on her ankles to the panther-like way she nimbly outflanks her opponents, Bayonetta is one of the most striking videogame characters of recent times. Her ice cool demeanor in the face of some truly jaw-dropping foes marks her out as the most recognisable female protagonists this side of Lara Croft.
Although the game is a largely linear experience, it’s the fluid combat which sets Bayonetta apart from other hack and slash titles. Button mashing is effective, but getting the most out of Bayonetta requires careful study of the game’s rich and deep combo system.

Bayonetta’s every move is beautifully choreoagraphed and as you would expect from a game featuring a sultry vamp who conjures giant stilettos from thin air to pummel her foes and summons demons from her jet-black hair, every aspect of Bayonetta is deliciously over the top.

From running up the walls of a towering structure and leaping through dimensional portals, to messing with the flow of time and battling gargantuan celestial beings, Bayonetta oozes quality throughout the 12 hours you’ll spend in her company on the first play through.

Combat is further refined by the addition of Witch Time, activated when Bayonetta successfully dodges an enemy attack at the last possible moment. Slow motion kicks in giving the bespectacled protagonist precious time to unleash a devastating series of strikes. It helps, of course, that the control system is beautifully implemented. Each press of a button gracefully moves Bayonetta into action, making the game a joy to watch and play.

While it's easy to heap praise on Bayonetta, it's not the perfect game some would have you believe. While the heavenly hosts you face in battle are impressive, many of the same creatures pop up throughout the game. This lessens the impact and leads to some monotonous trawls, as Bayonetta smacks down the same enemies time and time again. The game's visuals are eye-popping, but occasional slowdown and screen tearing spoil the effects, while the cut scenes tend to drag in places.

Checkpoints are well placed, but you can only save to the hard drive after every level, something which caused me a bit of grief in latter stages.

There's nothing game-breaking here, but there's just enough to blot the copy book. Still, the good outweighs the bad by a considerable margin and even after completing the main quest there are still plenty of unlockables stashed away to entice you back.

Bayonetta is simply a brilliant title. Play it for an hour and she'll have her hooks in you. Time flies by as you zone into the action, becoming one with the controller as your thumbs effortlessly press in button combos to unleash deadly attacks. A magnificent title that falls just short of being an all-time great.

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