In Bayonetta 3, there is very little you won’t kill. Angels? Not a problem. Demons? Exorcised. Grotesque, man-made horrors beyond your comprehension? In the bin. Throw in buckets of sexual innuendo with varying levels of subtlety, and you’ve got PlatinumGames‘ latest hack and slash – and boy, is it a good one.
Within minutes of slipping back into protagonist witch Bayonetta’s heels, you’ll be using them to beat the brimstone out of any biblical spirit that moves. In 3, Bayonetta – in fact, several Bayonettas – are facing off against a warped race of monsters with human origins, who are on a quest to devour the multiverse.
Because PlatinumGames is playing with an infinite number of realities, it’s able to turn Bayonetta 3 into a blockbuster action reel with very little consequence for the game’s poor inhabitants. You’ll fight from the deck of a cruise ship as New York sinks into the sea, skate after an alien whale as it devours Tokyo, and slam demon kaiju into each other as the military watches helplessly. You’re given very little time to take it all in – Bayonetta 3 is a game of constantly escalating stakes – but as the game rattles out increasingly dramatic setpieces, it’s impressive that PlatinumGames keeps you eager to keep up rather than struggling for breath.
Bayonetta 3 chews through all of this scenery by breaking them all up into easily-manageable levels. Each level is broken up into several verses, which can involve everything from beat’em-up fighting sequences to on-rail chase scenes across rooftops. A score-based system judges your performance in each of these verses, and at the end of a segment you’re awarded a medal – platinum means you kicked ass and took names, but the closer to bronze you get, the less there is to be proud of. You’re often too busy sinking punches into the umpteenth demon-blob to care about your score, but it feels brilliant to get into the zone with Bayonetta’s combo attacks and have the game acknowledge your prime performance.
That’s crucial, because the only thing Bayonetta 3 tears through faster than setpieces are enemies. Though you start off by dispatching faceless humanoids with simple yet effective combos, it’s not long until you’re being tested against a variety of bizarre monstrosities – and as a result, your combos will need to get increasingly stylish if you want to survive.
No matter what shape or size they come in, battering them feels brilliant. Bayonetta’s signature triple-barreled revolvers ensure you’ve got steady damage available from afar, but the real action kicks off when you get up close to deliver a hail of punches, kicks and stomps. Nearly all of Bayonetta’s attacks can be chained together for extra flourish, but as you progress through the game these combos transform from offering flashy style points to being crucial for success. There’s also some extra weapons to pick up, with a personal favourite being a giant rifle, bigger than Bayonetta and somehow louder, that you can unlock fairly early. Swapping between weapons has a huge effect on the witch’s playstyle, and ensures that although most of Bayonetta consists of battle after battle, it never grows old.
However, it’s been eight years since Bayonetta 2 launched, and our favourite witch has picked up even more new tricks. The most impressive is her ability to summon Kaiju-style demons to puppet, putting her on even footing with monsters that are too big to step on. These demons are amazing to control – there’s nothing like seeing your Godzilla-style shadow’s fiery breath eviscerate a health bar or two – but they can be difficult to control in many of Bayonetta 3’s small arenas, as your camera remains on the summoner rather than the beast you’re trying to manoeuvre. Though this takes some spectacle out of using Bayonetta’s biggest weapon, there’s still a savage joy in picking apart smaller enemies with a giant fiery hell-spider.
A limited summoning resource mean you can’t control these monsters infinitely – instead, you need to dip back into fighting normally to replenish it. Here, Witch Time ensures that it’s just as enjoyable as stomping around as a building-sized monster. Dodging out of an enemy’s attack at the last second will drop everything into slow-motion, where you’re free to lash out at foes trapped at a treacly pace. The closer to an attack you dodge, the longer you get in Witch Time – meaning you’re rewarded for taking risks over playing it safe. All of Bayonetta 3’s combat systems intertwine masterfully: when you’re pining for a platinum medal, a simple scrape can feel like a compelling dance between yourself and the 10 demons keen to tear you apart.
To top things all off, Bayonetta 3 packs a silly cast of charismatic and endearing characters. The Bayonetta series has rarely been one for restraint (unless you count that kind) and the series’ returning stars remain larger than life and bursting with personality. During an early boss fight against a wolf-like monstrosity, Bayonetta leashes it with a chain, makes a point of dominantly ordering it about, and then throws it through a hopefully-empty skyscraper. Elsewhere, sidekick Enzo’s colourful New Yorker charm is on full blast, while weapons dealer-bartender Rodin oozes cool as he chomps his cigars through yet another apocalypse. There are also some new additions – primarily, playable punk Viola – that slot perfectly into Bayonetta‘s quest through the multiverse, and bring their own excellent kit to bash baddies with.
There’s so much to love about Bayonetta 3, but for long-time fans of the series, it’s a big sigh of relief – it was more than worth the long wait. For newcomers, it’s a surprisingly forgiving story to drop into – you might not know the characters at first, but it’s easy to pick up. No matter which side you fall on, Bayonetta 3 is a crowning gem for PlatinumGames and a ridiculously good time for all.
A fast-paced thrill with no brakes in sight, Bayonetta 3 is PlatinumGames firing at full blast. With dizzyingly bold setpieces and compelling combos to master, Bayonetta 3 is an essential addition to any action fan’s Switch.
- The longer you play, the more rewarding combat feels thanks to an in-depth combo system
- Flashy setpieces make Bayonetta 3 feel like an engrossing action film
- Thoroughly charming, thanks to a lovable cast and tongue-in-cheek writing
- Summoning demons can be finicky
- Visually, the engine already looks a bit dated