Announced in December 2017, it feels like we’ve been waiting forever for Bayonetta 3.
With the finished product in front of us, however, it’s perhaps clear to see why it’s taken so long to materialise: this is an ambitious game that we imagine has gone through numerous changes during development. The result is a product that takes some risks and feels fresh because of it. But not everything new in Bayonetta 3 feels like a success.
Like so much media these days, Bayonetta 3 has a story that concerns itself with a multiverse. Your enemies this time around aren’t demons or angels, but man-made weapons called Homonculi. Led by an entity known as Singularity, their aim is to move through time and space, destroying worlds in the multiverse to not only make themselves stronger, but also gain dominion over the Trinity of Realities. That’s Heaven, Hell and the human world to us normal folk.
That should tell you straight away that the antics of Bayonetta 3 are more outlandish than ever. As you fight to save the world that’s so dear to you, you’re taken to faraway places such as ancient China and the deserts of Egypt, meeting their unique versions of Bayonetta and more. Even present day America is thrown into the mix, leading to an eclectic selection of locales that should provide greater variety.
And they do, but it comes at a cost. We loved the fantasy setting of previous Bayonetta games. Their worlds were constantly visually attractive. Here, however, they’re often quite dull and exempt of any real charm. The scale of them perhaps doesn’t help. The small, hemmed-in nature of locations of Bayonetta games past has been thrown out of the window. For Bayonetta 3, Platinum Games has gone big.
As you move from one chapter to another in Bayonetta 3, you’ll be met with grand open spaces that give you more of a chance to explore than ever before. There are additional battles to find, secret challenges and a whole host of collectibles, but they can’t quite cover up the fact that these open areas feel rather lifeless. And to make matters worse, perhaps because of their size they aren’t all that pretty to look at, often filled with empty space and bland textures.
To make use of the more airy locations, battles are also on a bigger scale. Sometimes you’ll simply face off against an increased number of adversaries, but more often than not you’ll be up against enemies that are gargantuan in size. It wouldn’t be too bad, but the game’s camera doesn’t always feel like it’s up to it, failing to give you a good view. And so don’t be surprised if you end up taking what feel like cheap hits from off-screen.
To make up for it, the demons made from your hair that were once just spectacle can now be controlled by you. Just hold down the left trigger and one will emerge, allowing you to fight on a grander scale. You better keep an eye on your helpless body as you do so though. Multiple of these demons can be equipped, giving you versatility during battle. And if you don’t want to overly rely on them, you can simply have them come out to perform flashy attacks at the end of combos, or to counter your enemy’s attacks.
This new Demon Slave system gives you more options during combat, and complements the standard moveset that Bayonetta fans will be familiar with. There are some other changes worthy of note, though, such as a range of new weapons that not only present new ways of attacking your foes, but also navigating the environment. Become a spider, for example, and you can slingshot across gaps and walk up walls. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
It’s not only Bayonetta you’ll be in control of in Bayonetta 3, either. Sometimes you’ll be in control of newcomer Viola, who furiously fights with a samurai sword. She’s a lot of fun, and you’ll quickly have to adapt to parrying attacks to initiate Witch Time instead of simply dodging. Less fun is playing as Jeanne in some scrappy 2D platforming intermission levels. With a focus on stealth, they break up the flow of the game and frustrate due to poor controls and mechanics. If only they were optional.
Some other elements introduced Bayonetta 3 don’t work quite so well, either. There are some giant kaiju battles that feel overly clunky, for example, while other unique scenarios occasionally aren’t quite as polished as you’d expect. We nearly lost the will to live searching for water in a desert; how were we supposed to know that the tail of the cat we were riding would pulsate and vibrate when water was near – but only when walking, not running? A prompt would have been nice.
Ultimately, we’re left a little conflicted with Bayonetta 3. This is the worst looking and performing Bayonetta yet, with a grander scale that both detracts and adds to the gameplay. We love the fact that we can finally take control of fearsome demons, for example, but we don’t like the fact that the camera struggles when fighting other gargantuan enemies. Add in some other frustrations, and you have a game that sometimes feel like the best the Bayonetta series has to offer, but other times the worst.