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Review: Bayonetta

Jordan Deam | 14 Jan 2010 13:00
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Here are a few couple you might want to familiarize yourself before firing up Bayonetta for the first time:

Ultraviolence: A term derived from the 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange denoting unjustified and stylistically excessive violence.

BDSM: A compound acronym referring to the sexual practices of bondage and discipline or, more generally, the gratification of sadistic and/or masochistic impulses.

As a gamer, you've no doubt encountered plenty of the former; and as an internet user you've probably stumbled into material relating to the latter more than once, intentionally or not. But never, in my extensive experience, have these two practices been synthesized so completely and with as much abandon as they have in Bayonetta. It's an intriguing feast for the senses that, thankfully, also happens to be a f**king blast to play.

Bayonetta tells the story of a modern-day witch who awakens from a 500-year slumber with no memory of her previous life and takes on the lucrative role of "demonic bounty hunter" - in other words, she kills angels for fun and profit. These aren't the kind of cherubim that adorn stained-glass windows in 16th-century cathedrals, though: Bayonetta's heavenly host is a pretty sinister bunch. Not only do they look like warped, animalistic versions of their usually idealized forms, but they seem to lash out at innocents more often than their demonic enemies. When you've finally abused them to their breaking point, they explode in bursts of gore and golden light, leaving behind a cluster of golden halos that would make Sonic the Hedgehog jealous.

As a sort of physical embodiment of sin, Bayonetta is one of the most fascinating anti-heroines to ever be portrayed in a videogame. Plenty has been written about her ludicrously proportioned figure, and the game's combat animations take every opportunity to linger on all the places where it's normally considered impolite to look. But after those first initial shocks - note the first time you perform a headstand "Bullet Climax," for example - you pay less attention to her assets and more attention to the incredibly deep, satisfying and varied weapons at her disposal.

This is combat done right, pure and simple. Just by adjusting your timing and alternating between the "punch" and "kick" buttons, you can pull off what feels like an endless variety of fluid combos, each more spectacular than the last. With your default handguns equipped, you can transition into a ranged attack at any point in a combo simply by keeping the button depressed, then pick up where you left off. Then there are the weapons, which include a katana for more long ranged attacks, a pair of electrified and incendiary claws for close-range combos and a variety of firearms to attach to your extremities. Throw in temporary weapon drops from fallen enemies, a magic meter that lets you perform powered up "wicked" versions of your main attacks and gruesome "torture" finishers that vary depending on what enemy you're fighting and how you approach him, and you end up with seemingly infinite variety in how each battle plays out.

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