It’s been 10 long years since Platinum Games’ Bayonetta and Vanquish graced the previous generation of consoles and each are fondly remembered as classics in their own regard. Now a fresh coat of paint and some technical improvements bring these third person single player action titles to the current generation in all of their adrenaline fuelled glory.
– Bayonetta –
Bayonetta is an action adventure hack and slash that oozes sexuality of its eponymous protagonist, Bayonetta, who is just as beautiful and stylish as she is violent and brutal. Throughout the 10-12 hour story, players can expect to defeat angelic enemies with flair, an accessible combat system and see a lot of her “assets” while doing so.
Set in Vigrid, a fictional European city, Bayonetta awakens from a 500-year slumber unaware of where, who or what she is. As the narrative and her memory unfolds, players are introduced to new combat and gameplay mechanics, ultimately controlling this shape shifting, gun toting and blade wielding Umbran witch with magical abilities. Bayonetta is pivotal to maintaining the world balance of darkness, represented by the Umbra Witches of which she is aligned and light, represented by the Lumen Sages. Bayonetta’s journey of rediscovery and restoration of divine balance after the mysterious disappearance of both factions half a millennium ago takes her and the player through both angelic and demonic realms, each artistically brought to life through excellent environmental detail and appropriately diverse enemy design.
A blend of melee and shooting mechanics allow for a wide array of combos for Bayonetta to unleash. Uninterrupted combos fill a magic bar that once complete can be used to trigger Quick Time Event (QTE) sequences where the player must press certain buttons, as per on screen prompts, to deliver some satisfyingly brutal and gory torture attacks and executions. The magical abilities that can be used are, no pun intended, tied to Bayonetta’s incredibly long jet-black hair that form creatures and limbs that deal significant damage. The combat is very artistic with its design so cleverly entwined with her body. Bayonetta is able to preserve her combo by balancing short and long range attacks, as well as precision dodging which actives Witch Time, slowing down time for a short duration allowing for massive damage output before the enemy has the chance to react. Combat is rarely one on one with the exception of some boss battles, so successful use of Witch Time is essential to clear the area of all enemies before the magical barrier can be destroyed by a kiss from Bayonetta and allowing progression to the next area. Every battle and chapter awards the player a score and medal based on time taken, items used, number of deaths and damage taken and rewards the player with Halos.
Defeating enemies rewards the player with Halos which can be spent at the in-game store, located in the Gates of Hell at various locations throughout the games 16 chapters and also accessible from the save screen between chapters. These Halos can be spent on new abilities, techniques, weapons, outfits and items for health and magic restoration as well as temporary attack and defence boosting consumables to name a few. Majority of the consumable items that can be bought here can also be crafted, or concocted as it is referred to, by collecting varying amounts of three coloured components found by smashing objects in the environment.
In moonlit sections of the game, Bayonetta is able to Witch Walk, allowing her to jump to walls that can then be traversed. This reality bending mechanic take a little getting used to, particularly with combat where enemies either move from one wall to the next or are present on more than one at a time, especially boss battles. Yet another layer of creativity to make the gameplay more unique and challenging, this world is one that pushes boundaries in all aspects of its gameplay that consistently leads to satisfying results when mastered.
Unlocking some abilities later in the game allow for transformation into a panther, crow and bats, each opening up new traversal, combat and puzzle solving options. Featuring light puzzles throughout, usually requiring use of Witch Time to traverse, they are not overly complicated or excessively used and actually welcome a nice breath of fresh air in between the relentless and frantic combat.
Some of the boss battles can be punishing, requiring careful observation of attack patterns and environmental changes. Death through trial and error in Bayonetta is something that most players will experience a lot. Frustration soon turns to satisfaction when these encounters are completed and lend to making future battles less challenging as the lessons learned previously eliminate a lot of the trial and error aspect. Later boss battles have several health bars so inventory management will play a massive part, ensuring several health items are stored in particular to avoid having to replay the battles from where they auto-saved last.
Narratively, Bayonetta asks a lot of the player in terms of paying close attention to and understanding of the divine backstory that drives the present motivations of all parties. Some of the cutscenes are fully animated while others are static but use various tracking shots to breathe life into them. It is a fairly complicated plot but one that resolves with satisfaction and is ultimately enjoyable.
Bayonetta may have released a decade ago but with its upgrade for this release it does not feel out of place among majority or current releases. With a soundtrack ranging from upbeat, to divine and hellish, style is certainly a word that sums up the game overall. There is more to Bayonetta than her appearance lets on and on several occasion all but lets out, and it is her personality and charm that carry this title and its legacy into the future as one worthy of attention.
– Vanquish –
Vanquish is a fast paced shooter that is just as stylish as it is intense and engaging. Like the rest of the 5-6 hour campaign, the intro wastes no time putting players through a brief tutorial before throwing them right into the break neck, unrelenting pace of the combat in this single player, campaign only experience.
SC-01 Providence is a space colony launched by the United States in an effort to provide alternative energy sources to cater for the demands caused by the overpopulation of Earth using a solar energy microwave transmitter. A rogue sect of the Russian military, known as the Order of the Russian Star, have overthrown their government, infiltrated and captured Providence and weaponised the transmitter to obliterate San Francisco. Led by Victor Zaitsev, the Order of the Russian Star demand the US government surrender or New York City will be destroyed next. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns is sent with his Bravo company by the President of the United States to regain control of Providence, along with Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) soldier Sam Gideon, the protagonist. Armed with a prototype Augmented Reaction Suit (ARS), a state of the art military exo suit capable of jet fuelled power slides, acrobatic evade manoeuvres and the ability to slow time, the combat moves at a pace unlike any other third person shooter to date, a statement that holds true nearly ten years after its initial release.
If the player takes too much damage the suit automatically enters Augmented Reality (AR) mode, which slows time temporarily and allows for Sam to take cover behind walls and barricades look or to take advantage of his enemies with his newfound reflexes. This AR mode can be manually triggered too but requires an energy bar to be refilled over time before it can be used again. Utilising the boosters to power slide too often will also cause the suit overheat, requiring an additional cool-down before use.
Equipped with an experimental Battlefield Logic Adaptable Electronic Weapon System (BLADE), Sam is able to scan new weapons that the suit can then transform into as an extension of itself. Capable of switching between three scanned weapons at a time, this negates the need for an inventory system and instead allows for simple navigation by using the D-Pad. This approach lends well to the fast paced dynamic of the gameplay and switching weapons on the fly allows for appropriate reaction when dealing with the more specialised and larger enemy variety that accompany the lower level grunt infantry. Boss battles bring even larger enemies into the fold, each with numerous weak spots to exploit before being able to defeat them. These battles are fun and add a manageable challenge to an otherwise run and gun affair. Enemy design is pretty impressive and they each have their own tactics to observe and counteract.
A pleasant surprise to the campaign is that there are no loading screens. Seamlessly weaving between gameplay and cinematics, the only time a load screen is encountered is upon death, and even then it was only taking less than 2 seconds when played on an Xbox One X. This is an amazing feature that should be incorporated into more titles where possible but it certainly feels fitting given the high octane speed of Vanquish, the thought of having a load screen in between the action would actually kill a lot of the momentum it manages to build.
Armed with sarcastic wit and roguish charm, Sam’s personality manages to draw some differing interactions from the supporting cast that often results in some amusing banter, particularly with Burns. Surprisingly, Sam’s character is the only one to receive much meaningful attention throughout the narrative that is otherwise bogged down by some very corny dialogue and a fairly predictable plot that fails to really accomplish anything.
Luckily, the gameplay is focused enough to keep Vanquish on course and deliver an overall fun, unique and exciting experience. Celebrating its tenth birthday early, ahead of its actual October anniversary, Vanquish has benefitted immensely from the visual, performance and technical enhancements of this Anniversary Edition release, looking and playing like a game of todays standards. The electronic heavy soundtrack fits perfectly within the tone and style of the game, the tempo appropriately reflecting the world it inhabits. Vanquish was an absolute joy to return to and seeing it with this polish gives hope that just maybe we won’t have seen the last of Sam Gideon and his incredible suit.
– Overall –
Both of these games feature strong language while Bayonetta regularly features partial nudity and some sexualised violence, resulting in this bundle being rated for mature audiences only. Neither game has any online capabilities and can be paused at any time.
This SEGA published tag team of action titles from the last decade hold up very well by todays standards and live up to the legacies each have established. Bayonetta has gone on to get a sequel and animated film, with a third entry in development as we speak. Vanquish hopefully has more to it’s future but only time will tell. Platinum Games know how to develop action games that are unique but most importantly fun and engaging. The future of these franchises is bright and in very capable hands.
+ Fun gameplay
+ Artistically creative
+ Visually complimented combat
– Story is a little complicated at times
– Difficulty is brutal, particularly on Hard
+ Fast paced gameplay
+ Relentless pacing
+ No loading screens
– Too short, especially with no other modes
– Predicatble story and underdeveloped cast
DAYNE for One More Game
*Please note that this review code was provided for review purposes. All thoughts on this title is that of the reviewer and the OMG team.