Game previews should be taken with some skepticism. When you see one, you are looking at a single slice of the game, carefully curated to accentuate the best parts of the gameplay and presentation, while minimizing any potential shortcomings. When I had the chance to play 15 minutes of Bayonetta 3 behind closed doors at PAX West, I applied every bit of healthy cynicism I could muster, and came away with one conclusion.
I think the Switch exclusive could be in the running for game of the year. It’s that good.
Bayonetta 3 looks to continue the story of its titular witch heroine. Like the previous entries in the saga, it’s a fast-paced action game in the vein of Devil May Cry (which is no surprise, as Hideki Kamiya created both series). The eponymous Bayonetta hacks and slashes enemies with a mix of guns, melee weapons, powers, and demon summons. The series has always been a visual treat, but this newest entry looks like it may be an absolute feast.
My demo begins with a few reps in a training room, as I practice stringing together combos with some basic button presses. Once I had my ass-kicking legs under me, I jumped into the game proper and found myself inside of a subway car. A few small enemies quickly fell to my aggressive onrush of kicks and bullets. Perfectly timed dodges put Bayonetta into slow-motion Witch Time, perfect for tapping into her demonic powers and unleashing attacks while adorned with glowing wings or bestial claws.
The relationship between Bayonetta and Infernal demons takes an interesting turn in Bayonetta 3. In previous games, the demons were something you could summon, but they played as little more than dressed-up quick-time events. They were explosive spectacles, but something to be watched more than experienced. Now they seem to factor directly into gameplay, in more ways than one.
A massive creature, resembling a colorful barracuda roughly the size of a skyscraper, begins to attack the subway I’m in. The world itself begins an Inception-esque unfurling, as the building warps and twists around me. Bayonetta summons a demon of her own, a hulking four-legend beast, and sets out on a high-speed pursuit using the surfaces of the distorted buildings like roads. Honestly, I was taken aback at the speed, action, and impressive visual effects. The fact that I am in constant, direct control is a welcome change from the more passive roots of the summons.
I dodge attacks from the creature, flying trains, and shattered structures all while soaking in the mesmerizing scale. Eventually the action begins to speed through an aqueduct, and my demon jumps aboard four boats, one on each foot, to surf after the massive creature. It was outrageous in the best way, and extremely on brand for the series.
Following the chas,e I found myself back on foot, battling creatures close to the size of a two-story condo. This is where the other new facet of the Infernal Demons came into play: mid-battle summoning. You can now call your demonic friends during a fight (provided the arena is large enough) and control them as you would Bayonetta herself. The effect is near instantaneous, as your creature erupts from the ground and you take command.
The massive, sweeping attacks from the demons felt powerful, but what intrigued me the most was the way it wove into the rest of combat. The summons pop out of the ground at the touch of a button, and disappear just as quickly. My eyes widened during the demo when I realized this meant that pulling these creatures in and out of existence was another potential link in a combo chain, and I laughed out loud the first time I transitioned from chewing on the head of a monster as a demon to crushing it beneath a massive, spiked wheel as Bayonetta.
Based on what I played, Bayonetta 3 is a technical marvel. I was blasting and smashing monsters of every shape and size, yet the action remained smooth and fluid. The vibrant colors meshed well with impressive particle effects as I constantly transitioned between attack types, demon summons, and Bayonetta’s Wicked Weave (magic) attacks.
My 15 minutes of playtime seemed to end in the blink of an eye, and all I wanted to do was go again. While it was only a thin slice of the game, I came away extremely impressed by both the gameplay and how far it’s pushing the hardware. Even with a healthy journalistic skepticism, I can’t wait to play more when Bayonetta 3 releases on October 28 for the Nintendo Switch.
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