Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the initial release of Platinum Games' brilliant Bayonetta and Vanquish, Sega recently released brand new ports of these key titles for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Developed by Armature and seemingly based on the existing PC ports, we now have the best possible console versions of these titles - but there remains the lingering sense that the conversion work itself is somewhat unambitious.
Priced at either £19.99/$24.99 per game or bundled together for £34.99/$39.99, the good news is that you're getting a pretty good deal here - and we'd definitely recommending picking up the bundle. These titles represent Platinum at the zenith of their powers during the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era and it's only a shame that similar conversions of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance aren't available too.
Starting with Bayonetta, Platinum's brilliant action game plays out beautifully on all systems. Back in the day, users had the choice between an excellent Xbox 360 version (marred only by intrusive screen-tearing) and the frankly abject PlayStation 3 interpretation, produced by a third party for publisher Sega. In a sense then, the new PS4 port is redemption: the game plays out locked at 60 frames per second at a native 1080p resolution.
Back in the day, we noted that the PC port of Bayonetta could run at 1080p60 even on low-power GPUs such as the Radeon HD 7770 1GB, so with that in mind it comes as no surprise to see that Xbox One also delivers the same nigh-on flawless 1080p60 presentation as its PlayStation 4 counterpart, the only difference being what looks like a variance in the gamma curve with Xbox One considerably darker in tone. Interestingly, in this respect, it's an absolute match for the original Xbox 360 game.
The PC version of Bayonetta offered up some additional options including very subtle ambient occlusion and support for multi-sampling anti-aliasing (MSAA) but these features were never included in the original Xbox 360 title and they aren't included in the new console ports either. The artwork still holds up though and the overall experience is terrific on both platforms - but there is the sense that the turnout on the enhanced consoles is somewhat underwhelming.
Here, both PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X see Bayonetta play out with a native 1440p rendering resolution - despite a yawning gap in the GPU power of the consoles. There's the sense that Armature had focused primarily on keeping the target 60 frames per second entirely locked, just as it is on the base machines. And in this respect, PS4 Pro does exhibit rare, fleeting drops to frame-rate (solved by switching console resolution output to 1080p) while Xbox One X is entirely locked.
However, again, aside from improved texture filtering, there's no real improvement to the core presentation found on Xbox 360 and we couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if the Xbox back-compat team had produced an X-enhanced version of the original game. We would have received a 9x resolution increase for full 4K, for starters, and the same (or better) performance level as the original game - all through an emulation layer. With that in mind, a mere 4x resolution increase on the enhanced machine is a touch underwhelming.
It's effectively the same technical breakdown for Vanquish - the same adherence to the original, brilliant Platinum assets, the same 1080p/1440p resolution output for base and enhanced machines and the same approach to the PC version's enhancements (ie there aren't any). Aside from gamma differences and a slight variation in shadow rendering, there's nothing to tell these ports apart.
There is a key difference in the nature of the ports, however. This time Armature aims to run the game at 60fps on all platforms - a significant upgrade from the last-gen console versions which targeted 30fps and had trouble achieving consistent results. In this sense, the port is a lot more ambitious than Bayonetta but perhaps predictably, it also means that dips beneath 60fps are inevitable on some systems.
Xbox One X sits at the top of the pile. While a 1440p output resolution again seems somewhat lacking for what is effectively a retro port, the fact is that you're getting a 4x resolution boost and a completely locked 60 frames per second, putting this version in pole position. Perhaps unsurprisingly, PS4 Pro follows next. There's the same 1440p output, of course, but frame-rate can be a little unstable in the most intense scenes (and also, curiously, in first-person visor scenes). Similar to Bayonetta, switching output resolution on the front-end drops rendering output to 1080p, fixing everything.
The base consoles don't fare quite as well, with some noticeable slowdown on PlayStation 4 but some rather more severe drops into the mid-40s on an Xbox One S console. Obviously, we'd prefer to run this excellent game with the highest performance level possible, but the fact is that all versions are still a treat to play and deliver a night and day improvement over the last-gen editions, which could hit the low 20s in the most extreme scenes - accompanied by obtrusive screen-tearing on Xbox 360.
Ultimately, there is the sense that these ports could have been more, especially in the case of Bayonetta running on the enhanced machines, but the fact is that they're more than good enough and the games themselves remain simply superb. The fact that we can own physical copies of them is another big plus point too. On top of that, while Bayonetta has enjoyed an array of ports onto other systems, Vanquish has been somewhat overlooked - but the fact that we can now play it on current-gen Xbox One and PlayStation 4 machines can only be a good thing. PC remains the best venue for the absolute best experience with both of these games, but if you're looking for decent console versions, both titles are recommended, regardless of platform.