Bayonetta Review (PS3)

Bayonetta's brand of ostentatious hack and slash really is an acquired taste. It's garish, knowingly insane action demanding suspension of disbelief for the duration. Attempting to apply logic to Bayonetta would be like trying to teach English to a dog – it's pointless and would never make sense anyway, no matter how much you try.

Accept Bayonetta at face value however, and you'll be rewarded with the finest hack and slash adventure to ever grace your console. Outlandish from the off, the manic pace never once lets up for a minute as the game revels in its many excesses. From the opening graveyard cinematic, where the dev team are credited with their own tombstone and the game's director, Hideki Kamiya happens to own the only one being peed on by Bayonetta's snivelling stooge Enzo, you realise that Bayonetta is going to blow away your preconceptions and fly right in the face of genre convention. And it does.

Bayonetta starts out with standard weaponry, but quickly upgrades to her trusty Scarborough Fair guns.
Torture Attacks are the ultimate reward for skill. It takes a while to fill up that magic bar and sustaining damage rapidly depletes it.

Gameplay-wise, Bayonetta doesn't stray too far away from the rulebook, utilising a three-button combo system that blends frenetic gunplay with interchangeable melee weaponry and devastating kicks. What sets Bayonetta apart from the rest of its genre stablemates is the way in which its action is delivered, with reams of combos a snap to pull off and indiscriminate button-mashing the quickest route towards a punishing, swift death.

Brief loading screens allow you to properly acquaint yourself with Bayonetta's move list, which is more than ample - a lot like the lithe and resourceful heroine herself. She's a real force to be reckoned with: a distillation of Ryu Hayabusa's grace and agility seamlessly blended with Dante's brute force and attitude. And the wise-cracking witch is equally comfortable wielding anything from a katana blade to flaming gauntlets, a whip, leg-mounted shotguns and more. She possesses the abilities of Ryu, Kratos, Dante and more besides. And none of them can rock four guns simultaneously – Bayonetta can.

She's certainly versatile then, able to switch between two weapon sets on the fly with just a tap of the left trigger. You're able to customise both loadouts within the menu screen, where you're presented with set A and B to shuffle whenever you like. That's before you manage to gather 100,000 halos to buy yourself an ability enhancing accessory to complement your other weapons.

Visiting the in-game store, 'Gates Of Hell' is always a treat as shopkeeper Rodin issues Bayonetta with new weapons, techniques and other treasures such as costumes in exchange for collectible gold LPs and halos – Bayonetta's in-game currency. Buying everything might take a few playthroughs, but then Bayonetta is a game that you'll be more than happy to revisit on more than one occasion.

You're also able to temporarily pick up certain weapons from dispatched enemies, such as huge maces, projectile launching celestial tubas (you read that right) or a staff which Bayonetta can twirl around like a homicidal pole dancer. Mercy is most definitely for the weak when you're battling through the game's assorted bestiary of monstrous angels, but then how many games allow you to pluck a huge chainsaw out of thin air to dissect a hapless creature in a shower of gore?

Beating a tough boss usually allows you to conclude with a Climax Finisher. This toothy snake fella is the first one you acquire. Watching him chew a boss into bloody fragments is a joy.
Screen-filling size is a basic requirement for Bayonetta's bosses. This one here has three snake-like, cherub-visaged tongues to dispatch. Bayonetta is chock full of weird.

Then just when you think you've got everything all figured out, you're hit with the ability to assume various animal forms such as a nimble panther that moves very much like Amaterasu in Okami. Bayonetta is packed full of great ideas and grand slam moments that keep you on the edge of your seat as you're constantly second-guessing what might be thrown at you next.

Thing is, playing Bayonetta is a hypnotic, balletic dance – an unparalleled, absorbing experience that requires undivided concentration and focus as you perfectly time your strikes and evade attacks at the very last moment to activate 'Witch Time'. This momentarily slows things down so you can summon a gigantic high heel from out of a portal to stamp on the heads of your enemies. Obviously.

Strings of successful attacks and kills reward you with notches on your magic gauge, enabling you to unleash an unashamedly cool 'Torture Attack' that can take on any number of forms – guillotine, iron maiden, mid-air death by giant swinging chain, huge stone rack with crushing hands – there are plenty here to keep you entertained.

Each Torture Attack is not only fantastically brutal, but immensely cathartic as you hammer a face button or rotate the left analogue stick in order to inflict maximum damage. This rivals even God Of War in providing pure, unadulterated gratification as “1000 Gigawatts!” flashes up on the screen and your enemies are torn into gushing, scarlet chunks.

And Bayonetta does all this with its tongue stuck firmly in-cheek, finding the occasional moment to tip a sly wink at the camera before dispensing a witty gaming reference or pithy remark. This is truly Platinum Games' magnum opus, riffing upon the likes of Resi 4, Madworld and many more.

Bayonetta is an effortlessly sexy lead. There's something about her plummy, English accent too.
Bayonetta gets all French Revolution on an angel's ass. Off with his head!

The perfect marriage of kick-ass protagonist, non-stop action, smart game-referencing script and sublime controls, not even Bayonetta's occasionally wayward camera, intermittently dodgy static cutscenes or irritating J-pop soundtrack can mar the experience. The odd difficulty spike can sometimes jar, but save points are generously distributed as each of the game's chapters are divided into verses, with each awarding a medal for your performance, the best being pure platinum.

Bayonetta is an assured, impeccably well-crafted game overflowing with enough offbeat ideas to fuel a million action games, and if we were doling out medals of our own, we'd award Platinum Games with the highest possible accolade. Simply put, Bayonetta is worthy of nothing less than pure platinum.

Top game moment:
Any time you unleash a Climax Finisher. Bayonetta's hair transforms into a huge demon, tearing the biggest of the game's bosses into quivering mounds of viscera.

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