Bayonetta was a disaster on PlayStation 3. Plagued by load times and frequent frame rate drops, it was by far the worst version of the lot when it took the world by storm in 2010. Since then, however, the franchise has gone from strength to strength away from Sony hardware as it blossoms on Nintendo Switch. The series' second iteration and an upcoming third instalment are highly unlikely to ever release on PlayStation 4, so it was a pleasant surprise when SEGA announced that it would be remastering the original experience. And in returning to the scene of the crime, it has finally done itself justice. Bayonetta plays and runs like a dream on PS4.
Indeed, load times are effectively a thing of the past for the Umbra Witch. Gone are the near 30-second waits for levels to load, the frustrating 10-second load between gameplay and cut scenes, and even the baffling delay to simply access the pause menu. They have all been replaced by a load screen which doesn’t even give you enough time to experiment with a combo.
The longest we had to wait was maybe two seconds -- they're that short. And because of that, the PlatinumGames highlight becomes a much more enjoyable title to play. A gripping cutscene may strike fear into the hearts of many as a newly-introduced boss towers over you, and now you'll find yourself back in the action and proceeding to conquer it quicker than ever. It might not seem like a big deal for those experiencing Bayonetta for the first time, but for the fans who lugged it out with the PS3 version, it's a revelation.
One more fatal flaw attributed to the last-gen release was a woeful frame rate that fluctuated at the most inopportune times. It was a completely unacceptable port of the Xbox 360 version, making this perhaps the most important aspect for returning players interested in the remaster. Thankfully, SEGA got it right this time around. The game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames-per-second on PS4 Pro without even a hint of drops across both gameplay and cutscenes. Rather confusingly, we did encounter a single crash back to the dashboard, but on the whole, Bayonetta finally makes for a reliable and smooth experience on a PlayStation console.
Its visuals aren’t so up to snuff, however. Sony's supercharged system does boost things to a 4K output, except it isn't enough to cover up what is a very brown and muddy art style. The game, simply put, still looks incredibly outdated in 2020. This isn't a huge detriment, nor will it have too much of an effect on your enjoyment, but don't expect too much visual splendour from a remaster that can't even better PS4 launch titles Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack.
That's because much like Vanquish, which Bayonetta can be bought alongside in a bundle or separately, this is a re-release devoid of any bells or whistles. The campaign will take up a solid 10 hours of your time, with harder difficulties unlocked upon completion, but you're not going to find any hidden modes or special features within its menus. It's a very basic remaster which just about gets the job done, letting the experience it has to offer do all the talking.
In truth, returning to that same style of hack and slash action a decade later does present some issues. The controls take a lot of getting used to with a scheme that'll have your right hand feeling like it's on fire while your left hand doesn't do much more than dictate movement. We eventually got the hang of things, but there's definitely a learning curve to circumvent should you commit to learning the combat system's intricacies and complex combos.
It is still quite the spectacle when you manage to pull off a series of attacks which decimates a group of flamboyant enemies, though. Filling up the magic gauge and performing a Torture Attack is supremely satisfying, triggering Witch Time and laying waste to a ferocious foe before they've even had time to realise their predicament is elating. It's going to take some time getting used to it, but when all is said and done, this is still Bayonetta. The inventive, dazzlingly brilliant combat system is what you're here for -- something which still more than manages to hold its own 10 years after the fact.
Bayonetta may not look the part anymore despite a bump in visual resolution to 4K, but the enhancements this remaster brings to the game's load times and frame rate make it the definitive PlayStation release. Combined with a phenomenal, flashy combat system, the PlatinumGames classic shines brighter than ever.