Wednesday, September 14, 2022

‘Bayonetta 3’ Lets You Rove Around at the Speed of Sound [Hands-On Preview]

When I sat down to play Bayonetta 3 behind closed doors during the Penny Arcade Expo, the last thing I expected to think was “This is a lot like Sonic Adventure 2.”

It’s not a joke, or an attempt at an insult; the hands-on PAX demo opened with a sequence where the player, as Bayonetta, assumes the form of one of her demons and ends up running a slalom course across the sides of several city blocks’ worth of collapsing skyscrapers. It’s a manic combination between SA2‘s City Escape and a Godzilla movie.

That served to set the tone for a short, curated experience that focused on Bayonetta’s new ability, the Demon Masquerade, as well as showing off a brand-new weapon.

The latter is a comically oversized hammer that also serves as an anti-tank weapon. Up close, you can pound small enemies into the floor like tent spikes; at range, it delivers single powerful bullets. Most importantly, it’s roughly twice Bayonetta’s size in either hammer or rifle mode and it looks like you’re beating something to death with a small mountain.

The real star of the show at PAX was Demon Masquerade, though. I’d seen it in action in trailers before now; it lets you take direct control of one of Bayonetta’s demons, which gives you access to a new set of moves, while simultaneously turning the game into a kaiju fight as seen from ground level.

In almost any other game, Demon Masquerade would be something you pulled out during scripted moments. You’d use it to deal with bosses or get to pull it out at set points in the campaign.

Instead, Demon Masquerade is just something you can do in Bayonetta 3. As long as there’s enough room for your demons to move, you can summon them at almost any time during a typical combat encounter. In fact, they’re meant to be part of your general rotation, as you’re intended to use your Masquerade to break through larger enemies’ defenses.

The two demons that were available for Masquerades at the show were Madama Butterfly, who’s fast and can fly, with a powerful combo that ends in a devastating flurry of teleported punches; and another monster whose name I didn’t get, but which might’ve been Phantasmaraneae. The latter demon is the one who started the demo, with an aerial fight against a massive Homonculi, which was then followed up by a destructive Sonic-style chase sequence across half a collapsing city.

The drawbacks to Demon Masquerade are that each individual summon only lasts a short time before it has to recharge, and that Bayonetta herself is vulnerable while you’re Masquerading. If she takes a hit while you’re controlling your demon, the effect ends immediately. If you’re currently relying on your demon to break a particular enemy’s defenses, that can leave you in a rough position until the Masquerade’s cooldown comes back up.

You also can’t use Demon Masquerade indoors, in what’s a much more common-sense limitation than I expected. Bayonetta 3‘s combat arenas are massive, but she’ll occasionally be forced into close quarters, and that leaves you forced to depend on Bayonetta’s own abilities.

The other big change I was told about at the show, by Nintendo’s representatives, is that Bayonetta 3 marks the point at which Bayonetta and her allies are effectively forced out into the open. In the original Bayonetta, you fought angels, and in Bayonetta 2, you were up against demons, both of which left you one step removed from the mortal world.

In Bayonetta 3, you travel all over the planet – Japan, China, and New York were mentioned – to fight the Homonculi, bio-mechanical monsters that were created by humans. They can be seen with the naked eye, which means Bayonetta herself is fighting them right out in the open, alongside outgunned conventional forces. It’s an interesting step forward from the series, as the peculiar occult underground that Bayonetta inhabits is about to go public.

Another feature Nintendo discussed at PAX was a new 1-button feature, which serves as an effective “story mode” for new players. Bayonetta can once again equip various accessories, and one of them enables a simple combat system where all of Bayonetta’s moves are mapped to just one button. If all you’re looking to do is get through Bayonetta 3‘s story, 1-button mode has your back.

Playing it on normal, however, Bayonetta 3 is, if anything, crazier than the series has ever been before. You’ve got to backflip away from smaller enemies, find a safe space to stand, kill a couple of larger Homonculi to empower your moves, then crush the biggest opponent in a pack with one of your giant demon slaves. It’s all the stylish, combo-focused, elegant violence you’ve come to associate with Bayonetta, now with the additional ability to finish a fight by transforming into a monstrous death butterfly.

The post ‘Bayonetta 3’ Lets You Rove Around at the Speed of Sound [Hands-On Preview] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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