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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, WiiU, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Platinum Games
Release Date: April 11, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Bayonetta'

by Brian Dumlao on July 18, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

A witch with powers beyond the comprehension of mere mortals, Bayonetta faces-off against countless angelic enemies, many reaching epic proportions, in a game of 100% pure, unadulterated all-out action.

Buy Bayonetta

The resurgence of the PC gaming market and the audience's openness toward any game regardless of age has made it a perfect place for companies to port their otherwise-console-exclusive titles. The results run the gamut between pretty terrible to rather excellent, but no company has gotten things 100% right. The one exception is Sega, since it has the likes of Creative Assembly on its side and various ports of the Sonic games were released day and date with their console counterparts. The port of Valkyria Chronicles a few years ago showed that Sega can go back to PS3-era material and make it feel like it was developed for the PC all along. The success of that title prompted the company to invest in porting console games from the prior generation to the PC, and the first game to come out of that initiative is Bayonetta.

The story feels awfully familiar if you're a fan of either anime or Devil May Cry. Thousands of years ago, a peace was brokered by the Umbra Witches and Lumen Sages. Both held on to halves of a great artifact known as the Eyes of the World in order to help make sure that time continues to flow. Hundreds of years pass, and Bayonetta awakens at the bottom of a lake with no memory of her past in a world without witches or sages. She does, however, have the Left Eye with her and spends the next 20 years trying to find the Right Eye in hopes that it would return her memories. After hearing about a possible lead to the artifact, she goes to the European city of Vigrid to find it.

The tale isn't particularly noteworthy, but the cut scenes will keep you interested. A number of scenes are so outrageous that you can't look away. The opening scene has a man urinating on a tombstone, and then it features Bayonetta bending over to shoot between her legs before she suplexes eight angels all at once. Other scenes feature large vehicles being strewn around and overly ornate drink-serving. They're all ridiculous, but they play out so well that you can't helped but get sucked into watching them unless you're adamant about complete seriousness in your stories.

At its core, Bayonetta is a fast action title that is heavily reminiscent of Devil May Cry. You have two melee attacks (one punch and one kick) and pistols with unlimited ammo and no reload. Combos can be strung together with just about any setup, and the execution of each move is fast. There is a lock-on feature that you can use if you want to focus on one enemy, but the combat is usually good enough about making sure you'll hit something, so the feature doesn't see much use. You can augment your attacks by buying weapons, and aerial attacks are necessary to string together longer combos.

Just like the cut scenes, one of the things that sets apart the action is the combat. You'll immediately notice that you have guns attached to your feet alongside the ones you hold in your hands. You'll smash an enemy back and forth until they explode. Some finishers call forth a giant monster made of your hair to chomp down on foes or tear them apart. Build up enough of your magic meter for a finisher, and this is where things get crazy. You don't get to choose which finisher you'll apply, but you'll do things like kick an enemy into an iron maiden, hoist them up on a chain so they're squashed in a pulley, grind them beneath a spiked wheel, or place them in a guillotine. They amplify the silliness, but watching them never gets old.

Underneath the humor is a game that rewards smart action. Button-mashing only gets you so far, but you're certain to take a number of hits along the way, which lowers your battle grade. Dodging and positioning ensure that you're untouched, and dodging at the correct moment activates Witch Time, which slows the action around you so you can get in more hits. Only a few places make it essential to traverse the environment, but it certainly makes those battles much easier to handle.

The game also tweaks things to be more inclusive to action fans while still appealing to the hardcore ones. The game lets you create custom weapon layouts that can be switched up at any time, including in the middle of a combo. The combos come with a point scale instead of a grade, and you have a chart that shows you how each of your attack types affect the point rating and multiplier. The combos also take gunplay into account, so simply firing at enemies contributes to the combo points. You can finish off any combo by simply holding down the kick or punch button to end with a bullet barrage, and most enemies drop weapons that you can use in lieu of melee attacks.

All of this is put to good use against a multitude of monsters that act smart even if they're simply fodder for that magic meter. There's never a point where they'll simply stand around and let you hit them, but they're averse to blocking, so you'll get in your hits without too much trouble. Boss monsters are also a perfect fit for the combat, as their size means plenty of dodging while still allowing you to unleash a plethora of combos. All of this happens in a 10- to 12-hour timespan on Normal difficulty, which is unusually lengthy nowadays.

The game remains as fast, fluid and weird as it was when it was released in 2010, but the question is whether the game gained any benefits in its move to the PC. For the controls, the game now supports the keyboard and mouse, and even though a controller is still the recommended input device, the developers did everything right to ensure that players who use other control methods would still get the same experience. All of the commands are customizable, which wasn't available in the original game for console players, so you can make the game fit a configuration that feels comfortable for you.

The graphics are another area that has been tweaked for PC players, and while the textures weren't touched up for this port, they still look excellent thanks to their strong art style. The art style is also boosted by HDR if you have a monitor or TV that uses it, so everything pops that much more. It also supports resolutions up to 4K, so any texture issues are quickly taken care of with that huge boost. The cut scenes are pre-rendered, so you're not getting any higher than 30fps when they play, but they look clean. The rest of the game is locked to a rock-solid 60fps, and the frame rate stability is better than any console iteration to date. What makes this so appealing is that it doesn't take high-end hardware to make this happen.

The loading screens are the only real drawback to the PC iteration, although it's more of a positive than a negative. Loading times are fine on a regular mechanical hard drive, but if you install the game on an SSD, prepare to see the load screen for a maximum of five seconds. Short to nonexistent loading times are for the best, but you're missing out on the ability to practice your moves and combos. That was a thing in the console games to help players keep busy while the game loaded, and even though the PC has that feature, the short load times mean that you'll barely get a glimpse of the combo list before you're whisked into the game again.

Even if all of the platform-specific flourishes weren't there, Bayonetta would remain a superb action title. The familiar story is buoyed by the absurd cut scenes, the action amplifies that ridiculousness, and the gameplay is still considered tight after the introduction of numerous fast action games in recent years. It's also a lengthy title by today's standards, and the constant grading of every fight will get perfectionists going. The PC version enhances everything and makes this the definitive version of the title, as long as you don't mind losing the Nintendo-themed costumes from the Wii U version. Unless you hate fast action games, you absolutely have to pick up Bayonetta.

Score: 9.0/10

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