Face-Off: Bayonetta • Page 3

Witch won?

Not only that, but the PS3 game also has reductions in the quality of the normal maps, resulting in fine detail being pared down on many surfaces, or removed altogether, as is the case with the normals on the gun in this shot:

Of course, the fact is that performance in Bayonetta on PS3 is so disappointing that all of this stuff is actually the least of its problems, and it's fair to say that the game moves so fast that you don't really get time to appreciate the subtle complexities of PlatinumGames' artwork. There's just the general sense that the visuals are more blurry and vague, but it's not exactly a huge issue in the face of the substantial performance deficit and intrusive screen-tearing.

So, bearing in mind the enormity of the task in bringing the PS3 version up to par with the Xbox 360 game, what - realistically - can we expect post-release? Well, according to this thread over on the PlatinumGames forum, SEGA has been asked to produce a patch to alleviate the "overwhelming load times" in Bayonetta. Given that the game shows all the signs of having big memory-management issues, it's a bit of a head-scratcher as to how SEGA will achieve this, although since loading times were not an issue on the demo the obvious answer would be to implement an optional HDD installation.

With the game delayed until 2010 for Western markets, there have been rumblings that the PS3 game may see various improvements, but it's difficult to see where the developers can go from here. A lot of the accepted tricks in lowering the bandwidth overhead have already been used. For example, SEGA's developers have implemented lower-resolution alpha buffers: transparency effects are less defined, saving tons of bandwidth, but the reduction in quality is barely noticeable during gameplay. (It's a popular trick, even used by the most mighty of first-party PS3 developers.)

The crux of the matter is that the PlatinumGames team has created a game engine that targets all the things that the Xbox 360 architecture does well, to the point where it's almost as if the core development was on similar lines to a first-party exclusive. Indeed, Bayonetta is technically more ambitious than many of Microsoft's own titles this year.

As it is, the layering of transparencies, the sheer amount of them all over the screen, plus the added overhead of post-processing - it's the sort of thing that you shouldn't really be making central to the game experience in a multi-platform release, because the PS3 hardware just doesn't compete in this regard. Short of completely rewriting the game in the way that Tecmo did for the PS3 rendition of Ninja Gaiden 2, Bayonetta is always going to have problems. Even if the overdraw (transparency upon transparency) levels were reduced, the sheer amount of effects on-screen at any given point is never going to favour the RSX.

So, if the conversion work is disappointing, how about the game itself as a whole? It's fair to say that the performance you see in the PS3 demo is pretty much akin to the game running on its very best terms: it can get a whole lot worse. Just enough of the magic of PlatinumGames' insane Xbox 360 original has made it across to make it an enjoyable experience, but it's still a bit like watching Star Wars on DVD and then moving across to VHS; once you've been spoiled with the superior version, you can never go back. It's also difficult to recommend the game in this state when PS3 owners have the likes of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 and Devil May Cry 4 as potential alternatives. They might not have the sheer conceptual ingenuity of Bayonetta, but they don't have the compromises either.

For Xbox 360 owners perhaps feeling a bit bereft of state-of-the-art first-party gaming love this year, Bayonetta is like manna from heaven, and is well worth the plaudits. Its core technological and design philosophy favours Xbox 360 to such a degree that it puts a fair few first-party releases to shame. In places, it's absolutely epic. Go get it.

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