Bayonetta is a crazy game. Trying to make sense of what's going on during a blisteringly fast gamescom 2009 demo is akin to playing spot the difference with two images moving around in jigsaw piece form - more or less impossible. There's stuff happening all over the place, attacks being pulled off at breakneck speed, guns being fired and enemies being ripped apart. Developer Platinum Games wants this to be the ultimate action game, and from our latest viewing it's hard to argue against that point of view.
Our demo actually began in a fairly timid fashion, with one of the game's key characters, Luka, appearing in a story development cutscene. This guy appears to be a bit of a player when it comes to the ladies, with the first half of the scene demonstrating an almost obscene amount of cheese and ham-fisted acting. After trying to woo a young lady and make a fool of himself he senses that he's not alone. Bayonetta and Luka exist in different worlds so Luka is unable to see Bayonetta, but he feels her presence when she's nearby. What is clear is that Luka isn't fond of the sexy witch, and we were treated to a small story section revealing his reasons.
During a flashback sequence, which was presented in a very different way to the other story scenes we'd seen, Luka witnesses his dad being killed, with Bayonetta appearing to be the killer. His father had tried to dive into a mass of water and recover a sunken chest of some sort, but we're given no clue as to what lied inside it. Despite this hatred for Bayonetta there's a strong suggestion that things aren't as clear cut as they seem. Luka is almost attacked by a demon from another dimension (which he also can't see), but Bayonetta blasts it with one of her guns before it gets the chance to attack - a strange choice considering the hostility Luka had displayed toward her.
With the cutsenes over it was time to see the game in action. With a controllable camera the action appears more similar to Devil May Cry than something like God of War, and given the huge amount of combos and moves the game's depth is also more comparable with the Capcom title. You can have a different weapon equipped to hands and feet, plus each armamen has an A and B set, meaning there's a huge amount of combat options. We saw Bayonetta with hand cannons (known as the Kill Gore) and bizarre ice skates on her feet - this gave her a nice mix between deadly power and all-important speed. For an added touch of dramatic style, the game will switch to slow-motion if you manage to dodge an attack at the last minute. This will probably comes as a relief after minutes of relentless fast-paced action.
After a section of gameplay in which the witch took down a wave of enemies using some of the most fluid combat we've ever seen, it was time for a loading screen. Not something we'd usually care much for in this day and age, but here you're given free reign to control Bayonetta, practicing combos and moves, with your button presses appearing on the screen as they do during beat 'em up training modes. While some will no doubt still prefer no loading screens at all, it's good to get a breather and brush up on a few of the huge number of combos.
Free-flowing combat and cool loading screens are all well and good, but what we've liked about Bayonetta since we first saw it in motion is the massive boss battles. Our gamescom demo didn't disappoint, with our SEGA rep skipping through to a confrontation from mid-way through the game. On screen appeared a giant plant enemy, complete with a large central head, a small head attached to a strange looking tube-like tongue and a few plant head-like nasties. It looked cool, but things got even cooler once the fairly easy to take out small head was dispatched. At this point Bayonetta is able to run down (or skate) the tongue, taking her directly to the main weak point. Some hacking and slashing later and it was game over for the giant plant monster, and a big sigh of relief from our gameplay demonstrator.
Those of you worried about how much time you'll get out of Bayonetta needn't fret too much, with the game's producer revealing that a player new to the game will get around 12 hours from the campaign. He also made a point to say that there will be no DLC, but that gamers should think about the game as already including any DLC - there's that much content included in the game from the start. After the presentation ended we managed to get a few brief moments of hands-on time with the game and it felt as smooth and flowing as the demo suggested. With a packed SEGA booth and hordes of other journos wanting some time with the game our session ended far too quickly for our liking, but that can only mean good things for this superb looking action game.
Bayonetta will be released on Xbox 360 and PS3 in January.