Bayonetta and Vanquish 10th Anniversary PS4 review - 2 for 1
Two of the best action games of the last generation are remastered for PS4 and Xbox One but do they still deserve classic status?
By our records this is the fifth time we've reviewed Bayonetta, since it originally came out in 2009 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Few games, particularly one so relatively recent, get re-released that often but then Bayonetta is no ordinary game. It's one of the best action games ever made and yet despite all its many different versions it's never been a particularly big hit. This latest remaster for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 probably isn't going to change that, but as yet another excuse to enjoy its wonderfully over-the-top combat we welcome it with open arms.
The re-release comes at an important time for developer Platinum Games, whose fortunes have improved dramatically in recent years, with an investment from Chinese giant Tencent and talk of self-publishing. In an ideal world that would include Bayonetta, but since the rights for the two sequels are tied up with Nintendo that's not likely to happen anytime soon, even though Platinum have been allowed to take The Wonderful 101 multiformat.
With this new remaster you can't help but wonder whether there's a future for Vanquish as well. Released a year after Bayonetta it's a highly accomplished third person shooter that was completely ignored on it is initial release. It probably owed a lot of that to its anonymous-looking lead character and unengaging storyline but playing it again today it's just as much fun as it ever was. And certainly more so than other decade-old games.
Both remasters are based on the PC versions from a few years ago, so don't expect to see any Nintendo cameos in Bayonetta, but while it's very obvious they're last gen games the graphics do hold up surprisingly well. It's now easier to see how low detail some of Bayonetta's character models are, and Vanquish's real-time shadows can be a bit temperamental, but as long as you're not expecting a brand new game it all looks surprisingly good, especially as everything except the cut scenes now runs at 60fps.
Bayonetta was always intended as a spiritual sequel to Devil May Cry, and both have the same creator in Platinum's Hideki Kamiya. Although originally Bayonetta came out a year after the lacklustre Devil May Cry 4, whereas last year saw the much more successful Devil May Cry 5 rejuvenate the series. Even so, Bayonetta still stands up remarkably well, with the basic controls being very simple to pick up for anyone. So simple, in fact, that some dismiss it as a button-basher after only playing the opening sections on a lower difficulty.
Get further into the game though, or turn up the difficultly level, and you'll find you have to be far more precise in your actions, making full use of the wide array of combos and special moves, and dodging attacks just at the last moment to trigger 'witch time' - which forces enemies to move in slow motion for a few seconds.
By default, Bayonetta wields dual pistols and has another pair on the heels of her boots, but there's also a wide range of completely different weapons, from a sword to a whip, that can be discovered, and which all have their own movesets. But even that's not all given Bayonetta's ability to turn into various animals or summon demonic creatures woven out of her own hair.
The multi-faceted combat is matched by the variety and strangeness of your opponents, with a series of impressively imaginative bosses that leads to what is still one of the best endings ever in all gaming. The only real gameplay problem, apart from overindulgent homages to Sega coin-ops, is the camera, which is generally okay when fighting but very counter-intuitive and fiddly when exploring.
The storytelling is awful though, and while Bayonetta herself is great fun, the overlong, borderline nonsensical plot adds nothing to the experience. The same can be said for Vanquish, which tells an entirely uninteresting tale about Russians taking over a US spacestation. Clearly, storytelling is not Platinum's strong point, which is part of what made NieR:Automata such an interesting collaboration - in that they handled the action and Square Enix/Yoko Taro the script.
Thankfully, Vanquish has a lot more going for it beyond its plot, with everyone in the game encased in high-tech power armour with rockets in the boots. Rather than controlling a slow and clunky mech you can skid along the floor at high speed, before flipping up into cover or between the legs of larger robots.
Since it's one of Platinum's signature features it's no surprise to find Vanquish also has a bullet time effect, in this case activating whenever you're badly injured or manually when you perform a dodge or roll. As with Bayonetta, the action can seem stilted and unwieldly before you get use to it, but once you do you'll be flying along the floor, dodging between enemies, and flicking on bullet time before the bad guys even realise you're there.
Vanquish's main problem, beyond the bland plot, is that it's only around six hours long and there's not nearly as many boss battles as you'd expect, with one in particular being repeated multiple times. With little in the way of visual variety it all feels like a game that became truncated mid-development, and that may well be what happened originally.
Although nothing substantial has been seen of it so far, Bayonetta 3 is definitely coming but we'll have to wait and see if Vanquish is as lucky. This bundle (you can't buy the games separately) is a little expensive but the games themselves are still amongst the very best of their respective genres. If you haven't experience either, and want to know why Platinum are such a revered developer, then this will show you exactly what you've been missing.
Bayonetta and Vanquish 10th Anniversary PS4 review summary
Score: 9/10Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed) and Xbox OneEmail [email protected], leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter
Developer: Platinum Games
Release Date: 18th February 2020
Age Rating: 18
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