Bayonetta Review 04/05/2010

It has its moments but its hours and hours of dull, skill free button mashing, stupid story telling, awful pacing and repetitive boss fights. The worst thing I have played on my PS3 so far.

I must instantly state that I wasn’t that fussed on the Devil May Cry series, the creator of which, Hideki Kamiya, directed Bayonetta, and his influence is very noticeable throughout this game. I didn’t necessarily dislike Devil May Cry but the pacing is pointy and the combat is too overblown, too complex and too unrewarding for gamers who’s skill levels are anything less than elite. Don’t think of me as an opinionated ignoramus though as I’m not fussed on RPG’s either but I tried and loved Fallout 3, so I am always more than willing to experiment. I did however pick up Bayonetta with a suspicious mind set, regardless of how critically acclaimed it was, so did it manage to prove to me that my cynical nature is well and truly unjustified? Hundreds of years ago, in an ancient town called Vigrid, there were two factions preserving the balance between light (Paradiso/Heaven) and dark (Inferno/Hell): The Umbra Witches, which drew their powers from the dark, and the Lumen Sages, that drew theirs from the light. The two factions had two powerful gems called the left and right eyes of the world which they used to oversee their just passage of time. But at some point way in the past, these two gems went missing and the two factions disappeared from society. Bayonetta comes into the story after awakening from a 500 year sleep with no memory at all and a small red gem in her possession. In the twenty years after her long sleep she has become quite a notorious angel killer and figure of dark powers, and although she has flash backs from time to time, her memory has not really returned at all. She still has the red gem in her possession and believes it is the “left eye” from the “eyes of the world”. When she discovers that someone may have found the “right eye” she goes off on a mission to find that someone and hopefully regain her broken memories. Things, as always, turn out to be not that simple, as angels are constantly trying to kill her, as are the Cardinal Virtues, 4 huge angelic beasts, and she uncovers a heavenly conspiracy that could bring about the end of the world. Plus she also wants to find out who she is and where she came from etc.

What’s good?

The action and combat is easily the highlight of Bayonetta. If you like you’re combat to be visually creative and over the top, with little skill required, then this will probably be what you are looking for. Bayonetta punches and kicks and uses her four guns to spin all over the place like a death wielding merry go round. Firstly the sheer number of combos has to be noted as it will feel infinite. You can combine the square and triangle buttons (punches and kicks) in so many ways, mostly resulting in ludicrous and big moves, that you won’t know where to start. Then there’s the most impressive thing which is the use of Bayonetta’s “wicked weave” technique, where she uses her hair – yes it sounds daft, but stick with it – to form shapes of enormous feet and fists to perform pulverising mighty finishing moves that will splatter the largest of angelic beasts into little pieces of halo’s. She also uses her mighty mane to perform finishing moves that involves her using her hair to form even more outrageous hellish beasts, such as massive wolves, spiders and birds, to tear the larger bosses into many bloody little pieces. She also performs individual moves such as a powerful punch, that blasts enemies away, a handy heel slide, where she zooms along the floor blasting away and a break dance move where she spins all over the place firing wildly. It is crazy. She also gets some additional weapons, like some shot guns instead of her pistols, a very impressive samurai sword and a whip, that unfold a whole new set of combos and death moves. All weapons dropped by enemies can also be picked up, such as huge lances, axes and claws, that will unleash more combos still, that generally involve slicing and dicing angels into little pieces. Bayonetta cant block attacks (more on that in a bit) but she does have the rather excellent “witch time” counter. Just before an enemy lands a blow you can hit the R2 button and she will evade and trigger “witch time” which slows time to a crawl, for a limited period, and you can use this time to batter the slow moving enemies as they feebly miss you completely. It is totally vital when evading and doing damage to many enemies at once. She also shape shifts to deal with certain environments, such as turning into a panther to give her super speed and agility. Finally there are my favourite torture attacks. When Bayonetta has enough magic built up she can summon various enormous torture devices, such as guillotines, chain nooses, iron maidens, epically huge chain saws, and various other implements of torture with spikes and chains on them, to cut and slice enemies into taking huge damage and get turned into a bloody pulp. You will charge through the action in this game with all these enormous feet, fists, beasts and torture devices blasting from portals all around you wondering how in the hell you are performing them. It is a visual treat and ideal for those who like hugely over the top action.

The enemy and boss fights are unique and on a grand scale. The enemy in this are really interesting and although compromise the armies of heaven, they look like nightmarish creatures from the depths of hell, but painted white. You have normal angels which look like evil eagles, but also huge clawed fast moving beasts, creepy looking bright white female figures, with no eyes, that fire lasers at you, and giant axe wielding ogre type things with cherub faces. “Weird” is one way of describing them, but I found them very unique and thought they looked fantastic. These guys are mere appetisers for the boss battles though who are huge in scale. Everything seems to have an enormous boss battle these days, so it’s nothing new, but it will please those who like grand scaled boss fights. They will come at you in all sorts of crazy ways, ranging from pretty standard lunges and punches, to sprouting huge green eyes on purple tentacles that fire lasers at you. You will fight an enormous upside down head, with two dragon heads attached to it with wings, a huge face with massive arms and rotating fire spouting fingers, huge flying boats with oars that fire enormous missiles at you and all sorts of truly deranged but seriously impressive angelic monsters. It’s like going on the mother of all acid trips at various points.

There’s all the usual customising and weapon purchasing. Where would an action game be these days without a shop to buy new skills and weapons? Probably not very popular, so Bayonetta is no different. Halos are the currency for weapons and skills in this world, along with heavenly LP records and other jewels and things you can find by having a mooch around. Rodin owns the shop “Gates of Hell” where you can purchase and upgrade your weapons and skills as you go through, the more expensive they are, or the rarer the item is, the more damage it will do. Bayonetta is already pretty well equipped before you buy anything anyway, so it’s not vital to buy stuff but the option is there if you like that sort of thing. You can also buy lollipops, enchanted gems etc to give Bayonetta more health, make her deal more damage for a time and all the usual stuff you would expect from any game these days.

What’s bad?

The load times and screen tearing are interminable. Never have I seen a game struggle so much to be on a Playstation 3. It cannot do anything without a good 5 to 10 second load, literally. Every time you pick up an object, a book revealing some story, go into a cut scene or even press the sodding pause button it will have to load. Out of the several hours it takes to complete the game I reckon a good third of that time will have been spent staring at a load screen, in silence. I had previously read it was quite bad and I made the mistake of thinking “a few seconds here and there can’t be that bad surely” but I assure you, having been through it, you cannot possibly live with it or at any point not be annoyed by it. There is a screen tearing issue as well. The graphics are generally pretty good, and the in game graphics work just fine, but the cut scenes, to which there are hundreds, are awful. They just stutter, fragment, pause, lose quality and never ever look how they are supposed to. There are far too many cut scenes for a start (more on that a bit) but all these problems simply make an already crap part of the game even crapper. I hear the Xbox 360 version isn’t as bad, but still suffers quite a lot.

The button mashing combat gets dull very quickly. There is obviously a market for button mashers, an aspect of gaming I will never understand or appreciate, as there seems to be so many of them churned out, but Bayonetta easily takes the gold medal home as king of the button mashers. It definitely looks good, but you can quite literally do this game with a blindfold on by just hammering every button at your disposal. What makes it worse is that it seems to discourage learning moves and combos as the enemy will give you no chance to attack using logic or calculated combos, and if you get stuck at a certain place you are far better off just switching your brain off and battering those buttons. You will soon be victorious by doing so, rather ridiculously. How does that make sense? Its even worse on the “automatic mode” which will literally do everything for you, you need only control the movement of Bayonetta, plus you will destroy every enemy by lightly sneezing in their direction, as they get killed so quickly and easily, and it is just so utterly pointless and ludicrously easy. There is an even easier difficulty but I didn’t bother with it. What’s the point in playing a game you don’t have to play? Who could this possibly appeal to? There is also far too many combos to get to grips with, you simply don’t need that many as it’s far too overwhelming and far too easy to perform a combo you didn’t mean too, as some can be completely ineffective at the wrong time. God of War III doesn’t have that many individual moves but manages to be one of the best combat systems ever made. Like everything in Bayonetta it’s just far too over the top. The fact she can’t block either gets very frustrating and such a fighting heavy game really needs some sort of block action. I found myself constantly going for a block button that wasn’t there and simply taking damage instead. Although the witch time counter is quite good it’s not instinctual in the slightest and not at any point did I get used to it. There are also mini game sections where you have to input specific buttons at certain times, just like God of War, but only a super human that can stop time itself will have reactions quick enough to deal with them. Even if you know what’s coming it’s unbelievably difficult to get the timing just right and you will always have a million goes at each one before success. The action and combat is a perfect case of all style and no substance.

The story is monumentally stupid and told in a monumentally stupid way. Not only did I not understand the story in any way, but I didn’t really like it either after I looked it up on Wikipedia. It’s basically identical to the story in Devil May Cry 4 where some deluded powerful being is trying to create a deity that will bring about the destruction of earth, but will usher in a new Eden in the process blah blah blah. Then there’s something about a left and right eye, one for light and one for dark, that I also never really fathomed, some sort of festival on an island, or something, I didn’t really get it. It ranges from very familiar ground to total confusion, and then they had to chuck in an utterly stupid and pointless love interest, some amnesia, the ultimate plot detail of choice for writers who are totally out of ideas, and a small girl which, even though I’ve had her explained to me, I still don’t understand. This unoriginal, confusing and cheesy tale wouldn’t be so bad if it were told well, but it is most definitely not. Everything is told in cut scenes which come thick and fast persistently interrupting the game after every little battle, which are still images (so its like looking at photos) in a film strip style. They are about as visually appealing as wallpaper samples, just as informative and you will care as much about the story as a result. You learn very little until the very end as well, and when it finally all stops you won’t feel like much has been explained, or that much has been achieved, and you are only marginally better informed. After the credits you are then treated to one of the most awful and pointless music video cinematics, with Bayonetta dancing to a techno beat with angels in the back ground as back up dancers. It is squirm inducing, sphincter tightening bollocks, has no relevance whatsoever and you can almost hear the noise of a thousand masturbating teenage boys whilst it’s on.

The characters are total rip-offs and their dialogue is overly cheesy and irritating. The various other characters are rip offs from other more renowned characters, such as a Danny De Vito look a like called Enzo, who even sounds just like him, and a Morpheus rip off who constantly comes out with lame stereotyped babblings, such as “right on baby” in a Barry White styled tone. Bayonetta herself is the queen of talking shite throughout the game coming up with such crap as “as long as theirs music, I will keep on dancing” and the awful cheesy dialogue between her and another Umbra witch, called Jeanne, is even more excruciating. It’s like they are both Bond movie villains. After not too long the rubbish script and persistent gobshite all the characters spout gets very dull very quickly and you will instantly be skipping all cut scenes on your second play through, after a good long loading screen though of course.

The pacing is awful. My main issue is that the action and story telling just stops and starts constantly, so frequently and without warning. It generally goes that, after half an hour of loading, you will have a long and laborious story based cut scene, followed by another long and laborious cut scene describing what enemy you are about to fight (twenty minutes of loading in-between them as well), you have a 5 minute battle (or if its on easy, a 5 second battle), walk up a road for a few seconds and then another long and laborious cut scene. Rinse and repeat thereafter. Occasionally a puzzle is thrown in, but they are all insultingly simple. You are never allowed to simply just get on with it, or fight a few battles one after the other and it constantly just stops and starts. After not too long you will start getting really impatient with the persistently interrupting cut scenes, and compared with games such as God of War III, where combat and story telling flow seamlessly into each other, it is infuriating.

The enemies and boss fights are constantly recycled and very repetitive. Despite the originality of the enemies there is really only a couple of different types, the only difference being how many they throw at you at once. “So what” you may think, all games do that, which is true, but the problem is Bayonetta does it with bosses as well. Despite the impressive size and look of the bosses they are constantly re-used. There are only a couple of bosses but tons of boss fights so the same boss will be thrown at you again and again, often with two of them instead or something equally uninspiring and lame. When you defeat the massive thing with long arms and spinning fingers for the third time, you start to wonder how many times you have to kill the dam things. They are all defeated using an identical technique as well, as they all have tentacles or multiple heads, and you have to hammer away at them for a bit, then run up their arm and slap them round the face a bit, and repeat. Then later on you will have to do the same thing again as they will be recycled. Why do they keep getting brought back to life? Of course there is no explanation. Why not come up with another boss, it’s not like the game or its creator is short of creation? It just makes the unique and fantastic looking bosses repetitive and dull.

The camera angle is constantly facing the wrong way. How hard can getting a camera angle right on a computer game be? All it needs to do is show you what’s going on or what’s coming at you and give you enough space visually to react. The camera in Bayonetta seems to be on a mission to obscure as much as conceivably possible as often as possible, by constantly focussing on her face. This isn’t so bad about half the time when in combat areas, as you move all over the place attacking enemies, but when in an action scene where you are running away from something. It will automatically focus straight on her and you can’t see a bloody thing, and considering most things come at you from the front in such situations you get hit all the time and you can do nothing to avoid it. You can move the camera angle, sure, but it is so slow that ice ages will have come and gone by the time it is facing in a decent direction, and if you are, for example, trying to outrun a lava tidal wave, you do not have time to move the view at all and you have to resort to trial and error. It sucks!

Conclusion

This game feels like it was designed by a load of 40 year old men, who have never had much luck with the ladies, where clearly unpopular nerds at school, have never been cool or had many friends, and were asked to design what they believe is a “sexy” and “sassy” game, for 14 year old virgin boys. It’s trying far too hard to be cool and stylish, which will always make it an automatic failure in that department, and it is just cheesy and irritating. Regardless of how cool it is, my main issue is there just isn’t that much to like here. I’m not a fan of button mashing games at all, but this is really the pinnacle of requiring absolutely no thought, skill, talent or anything at all to play through, especially on the automatic mode. You can quite literally do it with your eyes closed, and often you are better off that way, as long as you keep battering those buttons. Little to no directional input is required, only the slight pausing occasionally of mashing buttons and Bayonetta will do something ever so slightly different. Added to the fact the story is mindlessly confusing or “an explosion in an Edam factory” cheesy, then there’s constant intrusive cut scenes that are no fun to watch in anyway, as they are not even proper cinematics, the repetitive boss fights that all manage to be exactly the same to fight regardless of shape and size, the awful stop and start pacing and the infinite amount of time the game spends loading every conceivable action you can think of, makes me really struggle to think of reasons to bother playing it. Plus the graphics tear and jitter constantly and the music sucks. Yes the combat looks good, visually, and the bosses are huge but I assure you it is a case of all style and no substance. The “Witch time” counter is quite good, but it really needs a block as well. To make it even worse still is that the competition has it well and truly beaten. You want to play an action game, with hundred-hit-combos, epic boss battles and in this perspective? Then play God of War III. Kratos is still the king and it is one of the best action games ever. Not a fan of Kratos? Then you have Batman: Arkham Asylum, again, a relatively similar but far superior game in every way. Not a fan of Bruce Wayne and you absolutely have to button mash and fight demons and angels? Then you have the hugely impressive Darksiders. Not only is it very similar to Bayonetta, but it is again a far better game in every conceivable way, especially in button mashing combat and story telling, plus, I personally would rather play as “War” the horseman of the apocalypse, than a Barbie doll from “the dark side” with magic hair. Do you like the Devil May Cry series and reckon Bayonetta is a worthy heir? Definitely not. It looks similar but the combat is nothing like it and she isn’t nearly as cool as Nero, neither is her story as interesting. Bayonetta may give you a quick, cheap thrill, but that’s where it will end and even if your heart is absolutely set on this game, despite all that sucks and the many far superior titles, I would still only recommend giving it a rent as it will get dull quickley.CA.

Summary:

Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 8.0

It’s easy to get into, yes, in the same way it’s easy to saw off your own legs. Simple things are not always pleasurable. Will be very familiar stuff for most gamers.

Is the story any good? – 5.0

No. The whole witches vs sages thing is mildly interesting, but it’s ruined by total confusion and cheesy crap. A seriously lame love interest coupled with amnesia, for Christ’s sake, will put a bored uninterested expression on your face throughout.

How does it look? – 7.0

The enemy and bosses look really unique and most in game graphics look really good. Cut scenes tear, jitter and generally dick about though. It really struggles to be on the PS3.

How does it sound? – 7.0

Sound effects of battle and boss fight’ music is really good, proper dramatic, but all normal fights are accompanied by the same awful jazz song with a techno beat. It’s not of a bad quality it is just a seriously lame tune that irritated me constantly.

Is it good to play? – 5.0

The combat looks impressive, the bosses are huge, and it may initially please, but after not too long you will realise this is the ultimate in talentless, unskilled, repetitive button mashing. Ray Charles could complete this game, no problem. Very little directional input required, far too many combos to learn, all not distinctive at all, the few puzzles there are, are infantile in their simplicity, coupled with constant loading, constant interruption through awful cut scenes, constant recycling of bosses and several ridiculous action set pieces, such as riding a missile, makes this a far too over the top game with all style over substance.

When will I get bored? – 8.0

Potentially there is a lot to keep you playing as there is lots of expensive skills and weapons to buy that you cannot get after just one go, and lots of secrets to find. I got bored half way through my second go, personally, and the competition has it well and truly beat.

OVERALL – 6.0

Review created by C. Armstrong.

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