If you change the W to a B for the word “Witch”, you will find this review more comical, and entirely true.
So take this witch Bayonetta. She’s got guns for heels, a faux British accent, she’s voluptuous (and titular, according to every journalist who’s seen her. WE GOT THE PUN IN 08!), and her hair plays the role of clothes and ultimate weapon. Besides the complete seductive nature of this playful and fairly tall witch, what’s to like? Fast paced Japanese-style hack and slash gameplay.
Brush aside the looks and witty charm and Bayonetta is a constantly accelerating combat zone, with angels battling to take over the world and end the witch’s existence. An almost non-sensical and clearly delusional story begins with the amnesiac Bayonetta as top-ho to Rodin, essentially a high-class demonic bartender/arms dealer. He, along with Joe Pesci and a disguised Bayonetta, are at a funeral waiting for heaven’s angels to come for the newly deceased, and then Bayonetta strikes. Yes, this is the opening sequence.
After this, the plot goes all downhill, bringing cliche after cliche and using every odd trick in the book to carry the story forward. For dedicated gamers, it won’t matter because the gameplay is what makes this title exciting. However, I can’t understand why we’re forced to play it on consoles, and how it’s been made so easy that the fun is so easily removable.
Why should it be on PC? Devil May Cry 4, a console title later ported to PC, ran fairly well on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but ultimately a very fast-paced game like DMC4 suffered because of the restricted 30 frames per second (with occasional slowdown) and fewer enemies on-screen. On the PC, not only can the game run at least twice as fast, it can be made harder by including more enemies on the screen at any given time. And for a hack and slash of this class, Bayonetta would be improved tremendously with such a speed boost, but the option isn’t available. Shame Sega!
Rant said, slowdown did occur and gameplay felt sluggish, albeit I completed DMC4 on the hardest difficulty at 80FPS the week prior to Bayonetta’s release in preparation. Difficulty settings past normal are locked, which is hugely annoying for more advanced players, though worse is the disparity between easy and normal difficulty. Easy has automatic combinations on, so the game does much of the grunt work for you, while simultaneously being very, very easy (the very easy difficulty seems meant for children. The game’s content, however, clearly isn’t). Normal, however, is fairly difficult, so both easy and very easy modes are meant specifically for casual gamers.
Which is odd, of course, considering such Japanese-styled hack and slash titles are made specifically for hardcore gamers who love the genre. Following this train of thought, there are some very clear rules broken that slow the game down to the extent that such players would lose interest in the game after a short time. First, witch time (or bullet time) literally slows down gameplay, which makes it much easier (even though some enemies are horrifically difficult). Fewer attack combinations are included, but newer and varied attacks come from different attainable weapons, though not all weapons can be in use simultaneously. Even accessing items when in need of a health or magic boost requires more button presses than is acceptable for this type of game.
The addition of weapons is unnecessary, but interesting. I had one whole playthrough on normal without using weapons until the very end, when I was forced to fight the same bosses previously fought over again in a row. For less advanced players, taking the time to learn and understand these weapons may be more work than it’s worth.
A completely overpriced store also enters the fray, begging the question “WHY THE HELL?!” because it takes at least three playthrough’s to purchase half of the good items available. This makes players feel poor throughout the entire game because it’s impossible to earn enough money to buy anything, ever. And by the time you do earn enough, one lone skill can put your bank account to zero in seconds.
how we score
Bayonetta is a fun game, but this witch isn’t the best we’ve seen in the genre. It clearly combines several key elements every game should have, but only the gameplay comes off relatively strong. I don’t know that we’ll remember Bayonetta in a few weeks, let alone at the end of the year looking back, but I don’t doubt for a second it’ll have a cult following. If you find the gameplay worthwhile, keep it. If not, there’s nothing wrong with a week rental. I’ll wait for the PC version.