Hands-On Preview of Bayonetta Demo

The Bayonetta demo is coming to Xbox Live Marketplace and the Playstation Network for PS3 across North America and Europe on December. Before unleashing it to the masses, SEGA has opened up a beta program with the demo on Xbox 360 to select individuals and we were able to secure a spot.

Developed from the mind of Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe series creator Hideki Kamiya at Platinum Games, Bayonetta is a hopeful new IP designed to take frenetic hack-and-slash action to a new level of orchestrated chaos. It is set in and around the fictional European city of Vigrid and features a female lead character that is a sort of warrior witch who has been awoken after a 500 year slumber with little to no memories of whom what, or where she is. In and around this general premise is the typical overload of needlessly complicated mythology and back story found in most Japanese designed RPG’s.

Bayonetta herself is a fairly unique character with heavy Japanese influences. The titular warrior possesses four handguns: two hand-held, and one attached to each heel. She can shape shift as well as perform various magical attacks including dispatching enemies with her own hair. Apparently most of her tight fighting uniform is made from her hair as I successfully dispatched a dozen angelic warriors with it while nude, only to have her crazy locks settle back down and reform the clothes. Yes, I said killer hair, and yes, I said nude. Bayonetta definitely is vying for a “most original” character crown.

Visuals are a mixed bag and given the short window to release probably indicative of the final product. On the one hand there is so much going on simultaneously that it is hard not to be impressed. At the same time textures are flat, as are some of the enemy models. Bayonetta looks good, but most of her appeal is the originality of her design and not the quality of her model. Her hair and fabric is weak compared to games like Heavenly Sword’s Nariko, or even current fighting game characters. The real treat visually is the shear chaos on screen with Elemental particles, debris and explosions filling the screen from corner to corner.

While visuals are a mixed bag the orchestral music is nothing short of wretched. The score is completely wrong for the game and was absolutely annoying after only a few short minutes. I doubt this will be improved or remedied by release.

If you have played the Devil May Cry series then you have basically played with Bayonetta’s control scheme. Control is extremely fluid but is hampered by a fairly restrictive camera. More often then not during the demo the camera is not in the best position which further complicates trying to keep up with the action.

Combat is filled with a massive arsenal of devastating attacks. A seemingly endless list of melee, combos, finishes, and executions are at your disposal. This adds a ton of variety to how you fight off the mythological beasts, and you are encouraged to rain down death and destruction with as much pizzazz as possible. However, even with 5 difficulty settings, Bayonetta can easily become nothing more that a button masher. Bosses provide more of a challenge, but I was still able to easily handle the demo with either strategic moves or one-move button mashing. A button masher approach to the hack n’ slash game play could get old fast.

Bayonetta has potential to be a spectacular action title but may not appeal to a broad audience. It has great elements with its original heroine and fast action, but significant issues such as the camera and button mashing capability can bring down the experience. We will know by January if the complete game offers more challenging scenarios and a stable camera.

– Jason Krahn

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