Is Killer is Dead dead on arrival? Check out our review of Suda51′s latest entry in the hack n’ slash genre to find out if it’s worth your time.
Greetings Internet. Ever had a creator or group of creators you really wanted to like, but the majority of their work just doesn’t seem to stack up to your expectations? Originally bumped into popularity by his cult hit Killer7 and continued success with titles like No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw, Suda51 is that creator for me. While his games receive mixed to positive reviews from others, for me the majority of his work is lacking. That said, his latest title has been out long enough for the opinions to be solidified. So, let’s talk about Killer Is Dead.
Right away I find it hard to even outline the game, the setting itself confuses me out of the gate. I don’t know if this is a modern fantasy present or future, should I even classify it as fantasy? It has sci-fi elements as well, but like a lot of the games’ other aspects, nothing seems very cohesive. You play Mondo Zappa, an “executioner” who works for the Executioner Office, an organization hired by apparently anybody to kill targets. I say “apparently” because the office supposedly is controlled by the state, what state I don’t know. They use real world location names, but their own location is never clear and they apparently have no limit to their jurisdiction. I’m probably not supposed to be thinking this hard about it, but I want to stress one of the main problems with this game; it’s nearly incomprehensible.
Attempting to give a basic outline of the plot would boil down to saying “you go kill people you’re hired to kill” which is too vague to mean much of anything, but to be more specific would be to start detailing the plot full on. There’s a villain, though his part in the events is loose at best and I don’t recall any of the clients who come to the office actually ever paying for your services. At times you go into Mondo’s dreams, but I still don’t know what I was supposed to take away from it. The connection to the total sum of events in the story is loose. OK, normally I’m the type of gamer who doesn’t really care about story quality, I admit that, a bad story can be ignored if a game is enjoyable to play… so let’s trudge straight into the other main problem
The game is a hack n’ slash, in the vein of Devil May Cry, but unlike the compared game, is not the least bit dynamic or stylish and lacks variety. You have your main weapon, a katana, and your bio-mechanical left arm, which transforms into several sub weapons, though you start with only one; a rapid fire gun. You gain crystals from defeated enemies and can use them to pay for new skills and to upgrade current skills. Some skills and all sub weapons are powered by “blood” which is also gained from defeated enemies, though what they drop is random. This all sounds very standard… because it is, extremely standard. In fact, boringly so. You start with a few of your skills that can be upgraded, and the rest are either healing related, or add only slightly new moves to your combat selection, the only real standout skill being a counter attack. Combat feels stiff and distant and ultimately, repetitive. The sub weapons bring little to the table, leaving you using your main weapon for the majority of the game. If you ever found a Dynasty Warriors game dull, this isn’t doing any better.
Of course one of the things Suda51 is known for is his bizarre and striking style and the game does not want for style. In fact, it at times gets in the way… Odd graphical punctuations when defeating groups of enemies, a fidgety camera (though by no means one of the worst) and at times, painful choice in colorization made me glad to fight in bland open rooms to save myself the trouble. Playing this game gives me the impression that it would probably be best if Suda51 had more restraints when designing games, something more subdued would’ve been far more tolerable. Of course the style would’ve been acceptable if the gameplay had been more enjoyable and diverse, but I’ve already discussed that.
I bought the special edition of the game which came with an art book and soundtrack CD. This is the first time I ever felt like my special edition purchase was a waste; aside from the art book holding little interest due to the characters lacking much character in the mess that is the story, the game’s music doesn’t stand out either, I can’t recall a single tune off the top of my head. The sad truth is that there isn’t a single standout feature of this game… well, I guess there’s one…
The game has four things to do, three of which; story missions, side missions, and the “arena”, are just more combat. Then there’s the fourth… activity. Gigolo missions. I really had hoped, when first told about these, that it was some kind of a joke, that it wasn’t really going to be something as shallow as had been described to me, but they are. Gigolo missions find you seducing women… by looking at them. Not just looking, leering, really, full on, leering. You are nothing but a camera, zooming in and out at the girl, earning points for looking at the right parts at the right time, earn enough points and you get to give the girl a present to buy her affection! There have been games in the past that were criticized for doing little but objectify women (DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball comes to mind), heck, we had ourselves a gaming controversy very recently with Dragon’s Crown. But this, this isn’t just putting women in skimpy outfits for the potential objectification by a male player, this takes away any choice you might have had in the matter, the goal of this mode is to objectify, pure and simple. It really isn’t out of line to call this sexist, especially when you’re told that you can buy a pair of glasses that lets you look at the girls in their underwear. The real kicker? I mentioned earlier that you start with only one sub weapon, well the only way to acquire more is to complete gigolo missions. So if you want to add even a sliver of variety to combat, you have to play these.
I haven’t been so happy to remove a game from a console in a long time. What really pains me, even more then the gigolo missions, is how derivative the game feels. Tt somehow feels like Suda is ripping himself off, from the style and obfuscated story telling, all the way down to the title, Killer Is Dead, which feels desperate to evoke memories of Killer7, a good game. For a creator who is often seen as producing unique and strange titles, it seems the most damning critique of his work. Suda51 can make enjoyable games, but lately it feels like he isn’t trying. In fact, the only recent title of his I’ve liked is a little known download only for the 3DS; Liberation Maiden. For those of you curious, go try it, it’s worth it, Killer Is Dead, however, is not worth the purchase. I can only hope for better from Suda in the future, until then, good gaming everyone.