Still dressed to kill after all these years.
While SEGA has dialed back its software releases in recent years, the publisher has dipped into its rich past to bring two of its better titles from the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era to modern consoles via the Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle. Of the two, Bayonetta is clearly the more celebrated, spawning the Nintendo exclusive Bayonetta 2, but the single-player shooter Vanquish is no slouch, checking in among the more underrated titles of the last decade.
As you’d suspect, both games have been remastered to output in 4K resolution at 60 frames per second on the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro, closing the visual gap between their respective releases and the current era. It’s time to fire them up to see how kind (or cruel) the last 10 years have been.
Director Hideki Kamiya has crafted some classics during his decades in the gaming industry, including Resident Evil 2 and Okami, but he’s probably best known for Devil May Cry, and Bayonetta draws heavily from DmC with its stylized hack n’ slash combat that makes how you defeat your enemies nearly as important as actually winning the battle.
Here you control the titular Bayonetta, an Umber Witch that has awakened after a 500-year slumber with no clear memory of her origins or what led to her sleep. In an effort to unravel her past, Bayonetta joins with Luka and ends up doing battle with the four Cardinal Virtues while learning her origins and how she came to be found some 20 years earlier. It’s a grandiose story that provides a few twists and turns, but the combat is the real selling point here.
Even a decade later, cracking off massive damage-dealing combos remains a lot of fun, even if the Nintendo-exclusive sequel cleaned up some of the original’s shortcomings, including the finicky camera that rates as perhaps the game’s only true low point. The visuals have been cleaned up, but you’re unlikely to miss its last-gen roots. Still, if you’ve never played it and have any sort of affinity for the Devil May Cry series, this is the best way to experience Bayonetta.
Despite positive reviews, Vanquish never found the success or cult status of Bayonetta, and the fast-paced shooter has been largely forgotten, making it the more intriguing re-release of the two. Set in a future when global overpopulation has given rise to famine, Vanquish opens with a new militaristic Russian faction taking control of a massive space station and calling upon the President to offer up the United States’ unconditional surrender lest destruction rain down on America.
Instead of curling up into the fetal position, the President dispatches the marines to take back the space station. Accompanying them is Sam Gideon (you), a researcher at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), along with his fancy ass-kicking AR suit. Now it’s up to all of you to get in there and stop an army of robotic Russians. As a setup, it’s fine, but the story is highly unfocused with characters you’re unlikely to care about.
Where the game still delivers is in its action. Basic combat primarily consists of moving between cover and mowing down robots, but some of the larger machines require more advanced tactics — it’s here that Vanquish ups its game as you slide across the ground at high speed, outflank your foe and then slow time while unloading a clip into a weak spot. You have finite juice for both abilities, though, and once your meter runs out the suit “overheats,” leaving you vulnerable. This turns tougher battles into a game of cat and mouse.
There’s also some basic upgrading of weapons and explosives, though your suit never gets any stronger across the duration of the campaign. It’s worth noting that Vanquish is a single-player experience, and there’s little reason to make a second trip. Completing it does unlock some challenge levels that up the difficulty, but we’re still talking probably less than 10 hours until you hang up your guns and move on.
Bayonetta & Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle features a pair of quality titles, both of which are worth playing if you never experienced them a decade ago. If you’re struggling with the price point you might consider waiting for a sale, and the games are also available separately if only one piques your interest.