Killer Is Dead
I’ll get this out of the way first; ‘Killer is Dead’ is the true successor to ‘Killer7’ & ‘No More Heroes’! The fast paced and simple gameplay here matches the crazy mind of Suda, just like his previous titles where he was executive director. The last outings from Suda were ‘Shadows of the Damned’ and ‘Lollipop Chainsaw’, the latter of which Suda was not executive director and with Shadows he had help from Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil Series).
If you do enjoy some more “adult” entertainment from your video games and have not played these titles yet (and you enjoy ‘KID’), I suggest you have a look. I’m sure you will get them on the cheap, but be warned these titles aren’t for everyone; you are either a Suda fan or you are not. I enjoy these games as they are fairly juvenile, overly sexualized and are just simply fun. This is adult entertainment, a way to kill some time while you don’t have to think too much about it, just enjoy the crazy over the top mind of a great game designer and try not to take it too serious.
The star of ‘Killer is Dead’ is Mondo Zappa, an executioner, Mondo is employed by a cyborg named Bryan Roses from the Bryan Execution Firm, and his jobs are killing dangerous criminals and assassins from around the world. Mondo uses a sword primarily but his left arm which is mechanical can be used as many different weapons which adds to the gameplay and adds an RPG style upgrade system for new weapons.
Third-person fast paced action is the core gameplay, so don’t be put off by the intro of the game which is very unique with on-rails gameplay, but fairly slow for about the first 20 minutes which can be a game breaker for many. Once you get into the core missions the gameplay opens up to reveal a much faster action game; you will face multiple enemies in combat and the usual “kill these enemies to advance in the level” design remains, although you do have some freedom to search for hidden objects/upgrade points. In combat pressing a button at the right time to dismember an enemy is a guilty pleasure, but it doesn’t get as repetitive as most action games do these days; you do have to work for the finishing moves. Which brings us to Adrenaline Rush, a range of brutal finishing moves activated by the right trigger, build up you’re special meter then you can unleash some brutal finishing combos. Using these combos is the fastest way to upgrade Mondo; you have four options here: gems (increase health), crystals (upgrades), blood (restore health) and roses (increase sub weapon time), which in turn makes mastering the dodge/counter move a very rewarding experience.
The 12 main missions are structured to be fairly simple – kill a few waves of enemies then get to the boss and eliminate him, her or it. These bosses are typically different and by different I mean weird! Similar to No More Heroes in a way and there is a bit of thought needed to defeat them not just button mashing. After you complete a mission of the campaign you find yourself in the agency, here you can upgrade or buy items for a special mini game called gigolo missions.
To do this, you must interact with a female. The objective is to fill you’re excitement bar up while flirting with the girl. The reward for Mondo is new weapons for his robotic arm along with another notch on the belt. I have read other reviews and the issues with this mini game saying it is tasteless and perverted but I didn’t find it all that bad. It definitely wasn’t objectifying women and whilst certainly odd, it felt right at home in a Suda title.
There are far more offensive activities found in mainstream media. Lollipop chainsaw was much more sexual than this game, and it is a fun game to play if you have that sense of humor and aren’t offended by sexual themes. I think people are still uneasy with sex in video games (despite the average age of gamers being 30 years old); there is much worse content in Grand Theft Auto and it never gets negative scores because of its adult content, but I guess that’s another issue I can’t get into here.
Killer is dead is a bit more serious than Grasshopper’s previous titles but includes the three main ingredients you would expect; An assassin, a blonde and violence. Add in the sexual themes with lots of gushing red stuff and some weird characters it’s the usual Suda formula and it works. Suda calls it a “personal story” of “a man who doesn’t show himself much in the public world but still worms his way into society and mercilessly eliminates the evil dispersed in it”.
Character dialogue is yet again sometimes over the top and strange and will often not make any sense, but you expect that from a Suda title. I didn’t have an issue or want to skip scenes even if some were a little interruptive and poorly timed. The visuals are a mixture of the cel-shaded styles of Killer7 and No More Heroes. It’s one of those games that define the creative vision of Suda and his hardcore gaming fans. The game’s visuals aren’t graphically impressive by any means, but the art direction could certainly be defined as beautiful. On occasion, the environments in-game may seem sterile or too dark, but it does draw emphasis to the blood during an action sequence. This is especially prominant when you time a dodge correctly and get a free flow slashing event in black and white ala MadWorld. The soundtrack is similar to previous Suda entries and can be compared to Kill Bill – electronics, jazz, rock and classical music all mixed and edited by Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill) and is definitely a highlight of the game.
This is kind of a two way street. If you know Suda51 and enjoy his games then you are not going to be offended by the sexual references or over the top violence, you will definitely enjoy Killer is Dead. You may however, be unsurprised by what you find. On the other hand, if you are unfamiliar with the previous entries from him you still might find something you like here and will enjoy a fair bit of the scenes you will see. The gameplay isn’t fast paced like Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid Revengeance or DMC, but it’s something totally different and designed for niche market and with about 8 hours (15 if you want to complete everything) of gameplay. It’s a decent outing I recommend to every Suda fan and even newcomers after something different.
- Fast paced and fun action
- Very unique visual style
- Grindhouse style violence
- Awesome soundtrack
- Very linear at times
- Nothing too surprising for Suda fans
- Technical flaws
- Disruptive and confusing story
Written by Nick Pearce