The countdown timer from Sega and Platinum games concluded with a very quite but powerful release of Bayonetta onto Steam. As people around the globe simultaneously rejoice the release of this game to the PC market and gnash their teeth at another console exclusive vanishing, the core question sits at the forefront of everyone’s mind: it is worth it? The answer is a resounding YES.
First, a quick backstory for the uninitiated; Bayonetta is the titular heroine, who is an Umbra Witch, which, in this context, means a witch of darkness who kind of casts magic but mostly kicks, punches and shoots things. There are light witches, but you don’t see them, at least not really. There are angels, but those are the bad guys, and they look like nighmarish perversions of whatever you would consider an angel to be. Also you hang out in a bar called The Gates of Hell where you buy guns, your sidekick is Joe Pesci-lite, and there’s guns in your boots. There is actually an incredibly detailed and storied history that traverses both Bayonetta and its sequel, but I’m brushing it aside in favor of the more important aspect, the game itself.
If you derived any joy from the original Devil May Cry or literally any game similar (where you combo beat the holy living hell out of something), then Bayonetta is your bread and butter. A system of punches and kicks can be easily chained together to make some flashy and strong moves, and holding down the button instead of lightly pushing it brings out the guns, both the ones in your hand or the ones in your boots depending on the button. There is also jumping, so you can work out ground and aerial beatings in equal measure. As you guessed, the Angels mentioned above do occasionally fly (or at least float) so delivering pain in the air and subsequently smashing people to the ground is a part of your strategy. Oh, and, as time goes on, you can use currency that you collect from around the game to unlock more move choices, turning you into a truly frenzied machine of action. To be honest, it can be overwhelming at times: when you get into the heat of battle, you may forget some of the choices you have, and just end up mashing away at a single set of combos that you’re most comfortable with. That is ok: Bayonetta is all about deciding your own play style to deal with what the world and God throws at you.
There are a thousand and one reviews for Bayonetta already, as it’s enjoyed a pretty celebrated life as an Xbox 360 exclusive and, later, a juicy gain for the WiiU (along with the currently exclusive Bayonetta 2). As someone who’s played it on three different consoles, my history does make for a slightly skewed and truncated review of the game overall. Here are some hallmark cornerstones to keep in mind when it comes to Bayonetta, and I’ll do my best to enumerate on the pros and cons of the game neutrally.
Firstly, if you have ANY sort of problems with blasphemy or have serious/strict Christian ideologies, please don’t even consider picking up this game. The main character is a witch, and those are red flags from the very beginning. There’s a lot of mythology in here that borrows very liberally and loosely from history and the Bible, and there is no doubt in my mind that this game’s very existence is an affront and a cardinal sin to a not-so-small group of people. Bayonetta herself, besides being a witch, operates on a level that can easily be conveyed as overtly sexual and suggests a bit of BDSM in her motif. There’s a pleasure/pain correlation that ties into some of her finishing moves, a lot of stiletto, plenty of cursing in the cut scenes, some nudity sprinkled throughout…the game is rated M for mature, and I appreciate that Platinum really went for it with the rating. Having said all of that, none of the above feels like it was shoehorned in simply to drum up shock sales and create controversy (this isn’t Hatred, after all). There is clearly a vision here, and it was sprung to life magnificently.
The ranged combat with the guns isn’t my favorite. It’s not that it’s well done, it’s just that it feels so boring compared to the visceral and pragmatic melee combat. The guns feel like a safe choice to annoy and occasionally dispatch the enemies you see on screen, though you can sometimes pull off sweet Gun Kata moves with a bit of planning and luck. When you run into a boss who REQUIRES that you focus on gunplay, it does fare a bit better, as it seems organic and sensible, but, pound for pound, I prefer my demon beatings to be up close and personal.
Bayonetta is, hands down, my favorite 3D brawler, and that is saying a lot given the sheer number of choices, past and present, that are available. What I like the best for this game is that it strikes a great balance of being relentless and punishing without being cruel and unnaturally hard (though the harder difficulty levels definitely prove how horrifying a game can be). The AI shows a good affinity for going after you in a logical fashion: be wary, flank, don’t get in another monster’s way but don’t just line up and wait for death. If an enemy sees an opening where it thinks it can take you, it GOES for it. Getting too wrapped up in a combo in a single direction can quickly lead to your death, and Bayonetta isn’t shy about reminding you, at least a few times, that it’s driving, not you. The camera work isn’t so wonky that you feel out of place, and, when you get smacked from off screen by a monster, you feel less “Cheap shot!” and more “Dammit, I should have known!”
Some players take umbrage with the shooting range mini games between levels, but I quite enjoy them. It’s a perfect way to break up the tension of the game, much like how Enzo breaks up the flow of eloquent and logical conversation with his piercing accent and insane rantings. Having something fun and rewarding that doesn’t have such a high pressure to it makes the full measure of the main game more, I don’t know, real. It also gives your mind a chance to relax for longer play sessions, a clever move on Platinum’s part.
But the most important thing to gain from this review is the PC port itself is just awesome. There was a stretch of time where games coming to the PC the first time were flaming ships of promise and hope that were dying before they reached shore. Low framerates, locked resolution, and terrible choices to bring the mobile version to PC instead of the console version were just some of the potholes and barriers the road to Steam has been laden with. Bayonetta, out the gate, is simply a beautiful and considerate port. It’s 60fps and supports upwards of 4K resolution, outstripping previous available versions. The install footprint is only 10GB, which is downright tiny in comparison to some AAA ports, and it’s clear the game has been optimized from the ground-up to make the PC experience the best one to date. I do not have a massive gaming PC: my processor is an i3 from several years back, the 8GB of ram seems “quaint” compared to some, and my graphics card, the 750Ti, is pretty antiquated compared to recent advancements. Having said all that, the game runs and loads buttery smooth. I didn’t think there were long load times on the WiiU, but having it on my PC reminds me that there’s a reason many hate on PC gaming: it does sting to have first-hand evidence that some games can simply run better even without the most expensive hardware to date.
There are probably patient gamers out there waiting for the price to be halved in the summer sale, or maybe even crossing fingers that it’ll get bundled before the year’s end. Those people won’t be swayed by any amount of review or praise, and that’s a damn shame. If you have even been remotely curious about this game and can afford the twenty dollars, then do it immediately. The game pays for itself with sheer joy and excitement within the first couple hours alone. If you don’t have a game controller, though, best find one before you drop and get this game: regardless of how well it performs on PC, this was birthed by console, and that’s the best way to play.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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