E3 09: First look at Bayonetta

Platinum Games is quite the industry darling, with quite a few critically acclaimed action titles under its belt. Bayonetta is the latest title from the studio famed for its hardcore (and hard) action games, and has been generating quite a lot of buzz from fans. We got a special viewing of the game in action, and are more than happy to tell you what we saw.

Hit that jump for our first look at Bayonetta.

Before the demo is fired up, we have to sit through a loading screen. However, Platinum Games has made good use of the downtime between levels by turning loading screens into an interactive practice mode. The titular Bayonetta is fully controllable, and button prompts on-screen teach you her moves. It’s a really good way of turning loading screens into something useful that should help keep players refreshed on the game’s various moves.

The demo loads up and shows Bayonetta in what looks to be a Grecian-style village that is being swallowed up by lava. She passes a door by first lifting up some statues with her hair for reasons that were not explained. Bayonetta’s hair will shoot out of the ground and pick things up, which is used in combat to great effect, when a car is lifted and then tossed at an enemy. Nice. 

As you might expect from a game headed up by the creator of Devil May Cry, the first cutscene we see is ridiculous, as Bayonetta surfs on the back of an enemy to avoid a lava stream. Her English accent and use of the word “baby” makes her sound like a female version of Austin Powers as well, which is an added bonus. 

The combat is incredibly fast paced and intense, with Bayonetta switching between guns, a glowing purple whip, and her hair attacks. She is able to use her whip to ensnare and drag enemies into a close-quarter fight, and there appear to be possible weapon pick-ups as well, but Sega never explained the rotating illuminating spear that popped up after an enemy was defeated, so it’s not confirmed. When Bayonetta double-jumps, a pair of butterfly wings appear from her back, just because they can. She also seems able to run and even stand on walls. 

The game is based upon a very set tempo, with players needing to learn to attack, dodge, and counterattack at the right time in order to keep combat flowing in their favor. Dodging an attack at the last possible second initiates “witch time,” which slows down time and allows Bayonetta a greater advantage. The game features a few QTEs, which are quite standard and simple affairs, usually consisting of simply pressing one button in order to pull off a quick athletic move.

The “Torture Attacks” steal the show, however. When it’s time to finish off an enemy, Bayonetta can summon instruments of pain to do her bidding. One particular (and hilarious) finisher involved Bayonetta summoning a guilottine and forcing the opponent into the stocks. Once the opponent was in the stocks, Bayonetta repeatedly kicked the enemy in his arse, an action instigated by mashing the attack button and building “megaton” momentum. The guillotine is then put to its natural use, and everybody has a well-earned erection.

A second Torture Attack involved pinning the enemy underneath a giant spiked wheel, then spinning the wheel on the poor creature’s back so it gets sliced to pieces. The remains are then kicked into the distance. 

Each chapter of the game is split into “Verses,” and players earn meals depending on their performance. Medals are awarded based on the damage given and received, items used, Megaton gained and time taken to complete. At the end of each chapter, the Verse performances are evaluated together and a statue is awarded, from Stone to Platinum. 

We were treated to a boss battle as well, with Bayonetta taking on a giant dragon. The fight starts in a church, and acts very similarly to the Cerberus fight from Devil May Cry 3 or the Hydra battle in God of War, as the Dragon’s head snaps at Bayonetta through a hole in a church wall. Bayonetta fights the Dragon for a while, before the camera pans out to show that the section of church she is inside is now in the air, lifted by the flying dragon. The dragon, by the way, is revealed now to have a second head which is snapping at her from the outside. It looks absolutely ridiculous, yet quite brilliant. The battle ends with a Gigaton attack — it’s the same as the Megaton (ie, button mashing), but is more impressive looking. 

Speaking of impressive, that’s pretty much what I feel the demo was. This is looking like a huge game for Sega, and it should be great fun for action fans. Bayonetta is sexy, funny, and brilliantly ridiculous. We should be getting some showfloor hands-on tomorrow, so keep your eye on Destructoid.

Jim Sterling