Bayonetta is an amazing hack and slash videogame that rivals or even beats Devil May Cry as one of the best in the genre. Let’s see if it still managed to entertain me when revisited on the Xbox One.
Bayonetta certainly isn’t a game most of us will be playing for the amazing story. In fact I was on my 3rd playthrough of the game for this review and a lot of it is still very confusing to me. They went with one of the most common videogame tropes known and gave Bayonetta amnesia after a 500 year slumber. She then regains part of her memory and skills throughout the game as we’ve grown to expect from this kind of set-up. It doesn’t really matter all that much in the end though, it’s simply used as a vehicle to get you from point A to point B while giving you an excuse to beat up some angels along the road. In that regard it’s comparable to Devil May Cry which also had a pretty forgettable story that let you kick some demon ass. Speaking of DMC, I can’t really put my finger on it but I preferred that game’s setting and main character. Maybe it’s because I prefer Dante’s badassery over Bayonetta’s sexappeal?
Just like Dante, she does seem to have a whole lot of fun fighting her enemies though. What I like most about this is how their confidence and high self-esteem is reflected in both the battles and the cinematics. One lovely example had Bayonetta saying “Flock off, Featherface” to an early Angel-themed boss and I LOVED it. That being said, this is certainly not a game you should be playing with young children around; it has adult language, sexual themes and a lot of blood and gore. It’s normally not something I pay attention to, but I do have a 2 year old prancing around the house and while I was prepared to not play Dead Space in front of her, I didn’t take into account that I had to be playing this one after her bedtime as well.
Graphically the game still managed to impress me. It held up really well and somehow even looked better on the Xbox One. The presentation is top notch for the most part: There is a unique sense of flair to the way Bayonetta moves and fights and there is an amazing amount of enemy variety. The bosses are each unique and go through multiple stages and the level design is as interesting as it is detailed.
But I did have some issues with it: navigating through the menus seemed cheap and very much reminded me of the first DMC games on the original PlayStation. Then again, maybe that was what the designers were going for? Another small gripe I had was with how the story was told; 50% of it was done via amazing cinematics that never seem to get old (the choreography is a thing of beauty: a veritable ballet of bullets, blades and magic) but it’s just such a shame the other 50% is done via minimally animated slides
In the Audio department the game didn’t have a lot of variety to offer. There aren’t that many stand-out tracks except for Fly me to the Moon. Luckily it’s one I didn’t get tired of very soon and the game had some interesting variations on it. The voice acting is here and there, I loved bayonetta’s quick quips towards the enemies (bosses in particular) but others fell flat. The Italian mobster, Enzo, who luckily only plays a tiny role, especially made me cringe with lines like “fuhgedaboutit”
The most interesting part of the game is without a doubt the combat system. While I’m not usually any good at these types of games, I did find Bayonetta to be more forgiving than most of its counterparts. You can pretty much spam the evade button and become invincible, though good timing of it is encouraged to activate Witch Time, in which the enemies are slowed down to allow you to perform more elaborate combos.
Speaking of timing things just right, my biggest complaint with this Backwards Compatible title is how it plays on the Xbox One; while there are advantages like less screen tearing and lightning fast loading times there is also one major downside: In my playthrough I found some cases where there was a considerable input lag. This especially bugged me during Quick Time Events where I had to input the correct button on time and always seemed to die right after it appeared, it was only after a few tries and pressing the button before it was visible that I managed to get through the scene. (luckily the game usually has a checkpoint before such a moment, so you won’t have to replay too much) The same can be said for the bossfights where you have to counter their attacks, but luckily these always use the same button combination (Y+B).
While on the topic of boss fights, it’s necessary to mention that these are the highlights of the game. They’re insanely fun, have multiple forms and each one has to be handled differently. The boss stages on the other hand are not always well designed: many of them will have specific platforms you need to jump to and the game isn’t very good about pointing this out to you. The camera doesn’t show where to go and it doesn’t really help that its horizontal movement speed is so slow and can’t be changed to regular movement (it’s inverted by default and it took me a lot of time to get used to this. Vertically inverted: Yes, please! Horizontally inverted: Game! Stahp! Don’t do this to me!)
Difficulty wise they game isn’t actually all that hard compared to other hack & slash games. Especially since you’re forced to first play the normal mode before the other difficulties unlock. As said earlier, the game also has plenty of checkpoints, even mid-boss fight so if you fail you won’t be cursing too loud. I like this kind of approach a lot, it means that even untrained hack&slash gamers like myself can enjoy the full game and reach the end. Just don’t expect to be getting Gold or Platinum awards for sloppy play. It’s an easy game to finish, but tough to complete/master.
It’s also relatively short: my last playthrough only took about 7-8 hours and that was WITH exploring where possible. People who want to complete the game will still find plenty to do however, there are many difficulties, each with their own medals. There are also special challenges and costumes, weapons, skills and accessories to unlock. Just know that some of these items will require a lot of farming and replaying the game as they have steep purchase price.
It’s mainly this level of replayability that allows me to recommend people to play the game today. But this raises the question: is the Xbox One version a better experience? Sadly, I’ll have to answer that with a “no”. The loading times are lightning fast (which DOES have a downside of not letting you practice moves in the loading screen as it zips by in seconds) and that’s certainly a plus, but it doesn’t outweigh the input lag that is often noticeable. It’s still miles ahead of the abominable PS3 port though. In comparisson with the Wii U version it has the upper hand in controller, as the analog stick on the Wii U didn’t allow for such precise control and the touch screen controls in that version didn’t add much for me. I’ have yet to play the recently released PC version, but from what I hear it’s the best experience yet, both graphically and performance wise. So I’d rank the versions as follows:
PC > Xbox 360 > Wii U > Xbox one (BC) > Playstation 3
Bayonetta is and Always will be a great game. It’s as good to play now as it was upon release and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you owe it to yourself to do so. Just be sure to get the PC version of it and use an Xbox One S controller if you want the best possible experience.