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Bayonetta (Preview)

With Devil May Cry’s creator, Hideki Kamiya directing, it would be fair to say that Bayonetta could be Dante’s ideal date, as comparisons between the two are obvious. Bayonetta might just prove to be a little bit more, well….mental. And we like it.

You play as the Witch Bayonetta who is in the middle of a war against the forces of heaven and its angels. So expect to be calling on the dark forces for support a lot. Why all the commotion? She doesn’t even know as she’s piecing it all together on the way thanks to suffering from a bout of amnesia. Really amnesia again guys? It’s not going to be one of those games we remember for the stunning story though is it?

Bayonetta’s already carving out her own niche as a character though: the sassy, innuendo sprouting, dominatrix look-alike of Sarah Palin or Tina Fey. Seriously, go look for some game data on imdb.com and that’s the only result, Sarah Palin’s profile. Internet pranksters, we salute you.

The game’s set in the present, but you can expect to visit locations that infer otherwise such as the usual temples and caves along with contemporary places like huge suspension bridges and cities. A good example of the pandemonium you can expect is evident in the very first level where you seem to be fighting deformed angels on the clock face of a tower (similar to Big Ben) that has been smashed off a mountain in the heavens and is plummeting towards earth while a huge dragon circles the falling madness. Let’s just hope the best looking level hasn’t been used for the first.

The action is a familiar blend of acrobatic melee and gun combat, more in the vein of the aforementioned DMC than say recent dross like Wet. Bayonetta’s melee weapons include swords, whips, maces and her feet. Her terrifying kicking abilities seem to be just as reliable as other weapons and more than a match for them in terms of speed too. Chun-Li would be most proud.

The guns play a major part in combat too, the four (yes four) standard pistols are used in each hand and attached to each foot, making for some insane combos when mixed up with the melee weapons and endless juggling opportunities to keep enemies airborne. Shotguns and rocket launchers feature too, hopefully with infinite ammo. Many of the guns have short and long range fire and the way they work varies depending on how they are positioned.

Importantly, weapons are interchangeable on the fly. Two weapons can be switched in the middle of a combo and the move set varies depending on the timing of the button presses, a hold here and a pause there works wonders to vary the combat and should help it avoid becoming stale after half an hour.

Bayonetta can rely on temporary transformations to help her out. Such as turning into a panther for extra pace to outrun enemy attacks or sprouting butterfly wings for jumping higher and gliding longer distances.

The most useful transformation takes place when you time an evade to perfection (the absolute last possible moment) to activate Witch Time. Bayonetta disintegrates into a swarm of bats only to re-materialise in human form with time greatly slowed down allowing you to regain your composure and really hammer home some easier timed combos.

Building up combos fills a magic meter that let’s you use Torture Moves to really get the blood splatter going. Activated by holding two of the face buttons, some of these moves include spawning guillotines, iron maidens and a giant spiky wheel to repeatedly run over some poor soul. Kicking someone into an iron maiden is way more fun than it should be.

If all this seems normal to you, how about using Bayonetta’s hair as a weapon? Yep out of nowhere some combos activate a portal that sees a giant fist or high-heeled foot made up of swirls of evil hair, smash into the nearest angelic fiend. Actually her hair seems to be a part of her outfit so when she does this, she ends up buck naked with only convenient swirls of encircling hair saving her blushes, not that she’d care.

There’re even more bonkers moves unleashed by her possessed barnet for the giant boss fights. These ‘Climax’ attacks are generally used to finish off a boss (not as filthy as it sounds). The most memorable one seen so far sees a portal opening for a huge dog’s head made of hair, teeth and probably rabies. It picks up bosses like they’re toys, shaking and biting them, with the player bashing square to do extra damage. Dante’s looking a bit past it already.

There are some vehicle sections with Bayonetta riding a motorcycle. In line with the rest of the game’s vibe, she’ll be spending as much time riding upside-down and along the walls as she will on the ground.

There are quite a few loading screens but Sega has offset this by letting you practice any moves you want during them so you won’t get bored. Look’s like there’ll be no rest for your thumbs after all!

There has been quite a lot of talk about how the 360 version of the game is better looking than the PS3 version as the later is a slightly lazy port. Comparison screens have admittedly shown that the 360 version does display more detail, brighter colours and a quicker frame-rate. However, that’s not to say that the PS3 game is a munter as it can still stand up nicely to the competition, it’s still annoying if you’re a PS3 owner.

The core gameplay might be familiar, but the crazed execution of it is simply off the scale. Essentially, the action feels easy to get to grips and you can expect to put on an awesome combat display. Casual players will be able to have a good crack at it and the more hardcore fighting fans will be able to lose themselves in the sheer depth of the weapons and combos, experimenting with their timing and weapon changes mid-flow. Far from merely being Devil May Cry in high heels, the game looks set to be massively entertaining and a lot of fun to play. Perhaps even outperforming the Capcom series?

Japanese gamers are playing it now, but Sega decided it was best to avoid the overly packed western Christmas release schedule and has opted for a release early next year on January 7th (US)/ 8th (UK).

*I originally posted a version of this article at Hooked Gamers.

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