January 22, 2010

Bayonetta | PS3 Review

Chris Nitz says Bayonetta is quite possibly one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had on a console in recent months. Sure, there are plenty of over-the-top things in the game, but it does not shamelessly try to hide that fact. Bayonetta uses the Devil May Cry formula and to create an extremely enjoyable package. If you are still debating on this game, debate no longer, get it!

First, the bad things about the game. I played it on the PS3, which is my system of choice and the 360. After playing Bayonetta on both systems, the 360 does have the better visuals. The PS3 visuals are not horrible by any means; it’s just that the 360 has better color saturation and a much sharper picture.

Bayonetta also suffers from bad screen tearing. Moving the camera quickly often leads to several spots where the screen separates. The main culprit is often having a lot of enemies on the screen at the same time. Trying to do a fast camera swipe to take note of where all the monsters are is often met with these phenomena. After time, this inconvenience disappears into the recesses of your mind, but onlookers will notice it while they watch.

The biggest issue I have with Bayonetta on the PS3 are the load times, which are horrible. If you want to pause the game, you must wait 6 to 10 seconds, for a loading sequence. Now, most of the loading screens allow you to work on combos, but all I want to do is look at the options in the pause menu and I have to load that! This is just unacceptable in this day and age. I'd put up with a 20-minute install if I can just pause the game so I can skip a cut scene I have already watched.

Now, for the good stuff. This game shoots into the stratosphere in the gameplay department. The action is fast and furious. Though there are swarms of enemies to fight through, it does not feel like it is overdone or overly repetitive. The combat appears chaotic, but players will find it deeply satisfying. I was really amazed at how the game had me feeling so connected to all the action that was going on. You will lose track of time since you are having such a good time.

The controls are very solid. Combo-a-holics will be in heaven as there are a plethora of options here. Between the kicking, punching and shooting, there is never a dull moment. As you fight you will fill a magic gauge. This allows for devastating attacks. These attacks are fun little ditties like kicking an enemy into an Iron Maiden or setting up the baddie on a Guillotine and dropping the blade on their necks. This is all on top of the special hair attacks. Bayonetta will use her magical hair to stomp an enemy into the ground, or form a giant dog-like head and eat the enemy into submission. It all adds up to make one of the most enjoyable actions games out on current-gen systems.

Those who want to do all the combos, but don't want to learn them all right off the bat, have options available to them as well. Playing the game on Very Easy or Easy will rattle off the combos with nothing more than a mere set of button mashes. While this might be a bit of a let down on the difficulty side, it does allow for better timing, stringing combos, and full-button moves. Even though combos can be executed with nothing more than button mashing on these two difficulties, you can still perform the actual combos as the game does a decent job of distinguishing when you’re mashing and when you’re trying to perform a specific combo.

The music is going to be a love or hate situation. The soundtrack is heavy on the J-pop with a hint of jazz. I found that it fit the theme of the game rather well. I enjoyed it, though I would not pause the game and make dinner as the sound loop does get a bit old. I can't really complain though as I found the music helped make the game more entertaining.

Bayonetta is a game that strives on being over-the-top. Everything from story to characters (just look at Bayonetta herself) focuses around this theme. The story in Bayonetta exemplifies just how over-the-top the game can be. The story line is not going to win any Oscars, but its B-movie delivery just must might. The story is delivered in a mixture of cg scenes and stills that are portrayed as film strips. Over all it is ok, if not a bit odd at times as the game freely moves from CG to stills with no advanced warning.

The narrative through the voicing is highly cheesy. I often found myself laughing at the story delivery more than the actual story. It is not a horrible story, but the whole voicing with cheap one-liners makes for an interesting time nonetheless.

The cheese factor comes to a grinding halt when it comes to the enemies. Seeing how the whole game is a fight against heaven, the enemies come out with that holier-than-thou feeling. It works, and it works really well. There is a bit of mix and repeat in enemies throughout the game. For the most part though, the game does a splendid job of keeping the enemies feeling unique and interesting.

Bayonetta also has some of the biggest bosses I have ever encountered. There is a great feeling of size differentials here. The bosses only get bigger as the game progresses. The final stage is a real treat for those willing to partake.

One of the harder portions to get used to is the Witch Walk. This happens when the full moon comes out in the game. Bayonetta gains the power to defy gravity. It is a cool feature and really plays on the 3D world. Running on the side of a building feels badass and disorienting all at the same time. Luckily, this only happens in a few stages.

There are several weapons, booster items, and moves to unlock. This is one game that one or two mere play-throughs will not net you every item in the game. As for weapons: you can add shotguns, swords, rocket launchers and claws to your arsenal. The equipping of these weapons is limited to one item for the hands and one item for the feet. No, Bayonetta cannot kick ass with a sword strapped to her heels.

The last added feature to the weapon lineup is the enemy weapons. There are some enemies that will drop their weapons for Bayonetta to pickup. These weapons can be used for a short duration of time and provide even more great ways of angelic dismemberment.

The nice part about these new weapons is that it opens up a whole new set of combos. Fighting with a sword feels different from fighting with guns in your hands. The other nicety is that the animations also change. Overall, there is a lot to see and master in this deep, yet highly satisfying fighting system.

There are quick time events packed into this game. They are no God of War frustration events, but they exist none the less. The only times these quick time events got irritating was when they would happen with no real rhyme or reason. Most of these events can be foreshadowed, but some just happen out of the blue, and missing them will lead to your inevitable death.

The game can be beat in roughly 12 - 15 hours. That is if you play it on the easier difficulties and skip all the cut scenes. After the game has been bested on Normal, hard mode becomes available. The one advantage is that everything that was acquired on the previous play through will carry over to the second, third; fourth...you get the point. Those of you looking to make this game a bit easier, start out on very easy, move to easy, finish on normal and then try your hand at hard. If you find hard is not so bad there is another difficulty past that. Completionists will enjoy this run!

Though the game might come off as feeling there is a bit of free roaming at first, this is but a mere illusion. There is certainly a set path to go down. There are parts that help cover this up a bit, but there are set tasks and a set path to follow. I did not really find this at all hindering though as the action was constant and fun did not really stop.

I played this game twice within the first week. I have since started playing it again a fourth time. It is that much fun. Sure the PS3 version has its problems, but they do not deter from the overall sheer enjoyment of the game. I still stick by my advice of getting it on the 360 if you have one. Not having to wait to pause the game would be worth it alone. If you're looking for a hack and slash that nails the genre, then you need not look any further.