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Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Review- Bayonetta [PS3]

Publisher: Sega
Developer: Platinum Games
Released: 8th January 2010
Other Formats: Xbox 360

There are few games that boast such over-the-top action and outlandish characters than Bayonetta, an action brawler with a sexed up, shape-shifting witch as protagonist that kills with her hair- right then... From its opening moments of awe-inspiring action, the pace simply never lets up. This is a game with set piece after glorious, gruesome set piece, and enough boss iteration and flair to sink some of the best that the combo-action brawler genre has to deliver.

The vivid, colourful art style and natural beauty that irradiates from every nuance of its design lend a suitable platform to the visuals- a deft mix of motion blurred colour swipes and beautiful back-drops with more visual flourishes than a Zack Snyder movie. From the stark purple hue that overlays the screen as the “bullet time” mechanic is introduced (a result of a last-minute dodge that reduces time to a stand-still, giving apt time for combo glory!) to the ferocious, kinetic cinematics present within its cut scenes. The comic book aesthetic, with the use of still film cells, helping to further propel its narrative and character interaction- amongst which, love interest “Luka”, rival “Jeanne”, and distinct arch-enemy “Balder”, all adding gravitas to the somewhat confusing and largely ignorable story. The music also does its utmost best to match the gorgeous visuals- a blend of arcade-inspired musical twangs and synth-pop backing tracks laying foundations to the brutal, yet sassy action on display.

The team at Platinum Games can be applauded in crafting a dynamic assault on the 3D action brawler of old, delivering enough variety to keep the pace of the game consistent within its 10-hour or so play through. The suitably stunning and epic boss battles (each of which are memorable and differentiated from each other to keep things feeling fresh and exciting and finished in the suitably titled “Climax” QTE), have been dealt in accordance in bringing a grandiose template to the experience that could otherwise have felt disparagingly alike to others within the crowded genre. Sublime in both scale and design, Bayonetta's bountiful grace juxtaposes the vicious bestial creatures at her behest perfectly. The Devil May Cry- like combo action that forms the might of the game is some of the most fluid and intense I have ever played, with Bayonetta's agility ensuring game play feels smooth, frantic and undeniably fun whilst also providing enough complexity for the most hardcore of gamers to enjoy. The many different combos, mixing ranged (from Bayonetta's choice of angelic-slaughtering guns) to close-quarters melee, each complex in their own right, requiring players to hold buttons for longer amounts of time in different combo nuances. The action is also rich in variety, in the addition of the short animated trinkets of “brutal moves” that deliver a devilish blow to enemy forces. The ability to test your mettle in the over-long loading screens, (in which button presses relay into a presenting of a specified combo), means such extended lulls from the main game are a suitable proving ground in refining technique or learning new attacks and is a brilliant addition, showing the developer is more than willing to put in that little extra effort for a slight digression from what could have been the usual 'Did you Know?' screens we've all seen time and time again. It's a promise also shown in the game's variety of design- the changing environments, from the urban city of Vigrid, to the volcanic catacombs that infuse the religious imagery at the center of the game and the combo action infused with puzzles and explosive vehicular sections, ensuring the pace never lets its foot of the accelerator- only helped by the smooth curve of new abilities provided, and in-game combat choices available (a variety of weapons unlocked with collectible, golden LP's).

In what feels at times like an arcade game, only helped along by its musical influences and multiplier, score-based design (awards are given on the completion of each “verse” within each chapter, ranging from stone to the highs of “pure platinum”), Bayonetta boasts sex, style and an abundance in opportunities to show off (delivered in Bayonetta's seductive poses to camera). The breathtaking set piece sequences are also some of the best that the genre has to offer players. It's a shame then, that the ability to control the camera is slow and sluggish, and at times frustrating in controlling the action. The story is also distinctly poor and underwhelming, led along by brilliant personalities and stylish action, nonetheless. It's a game I can't help but recommend for all the right reasons- a combat system that is refined and effective, explosive action, and an intriguing and fresh angle to the post of protagonist, worthy of its plaudits that was greeted upon its arrival.

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