Suda 51 is someone I have a lot of respect for, he isn’t afraid to push the barrier of what’s acceptable and mix it in with utter absurdity, while some how managing to make it fun. While I didn’t play much of Killer 7, Lollipop Chainsaw and Shadows Of The Damned are two of my favourite games and the gameplay trailers of killer is dead seemed to show it as a character action game along the lines of Bayonetta, and Devil May Cry. So I’m gonna say I was really excited for Killer Is Dead. So how do I feel now? Well, it’s certainly a game from the insane mind of Suda 51.
Killer Is Dead’s story is neigh on nonsensical, but I’ll attempt to explain what the hell is going on. You play as Mondo Zappa, an executioner by trade. After promptly killing your predecessor you find out that you work for an organisation that take requests for “special” help, which usually revolve around some sort of supernatural phenomenon involving creatures called “Wires” which come from the dark side of the moon. The agency helps gives you context why jumping from level to level seems to have no overarching story.
The problem is that it actually does have an overall story, but they space it out with so many missions that have nothing to do with it. By the time they address it again it feels more like a reminder that the game actually does have a story, rather then being an advancement of the plot. What the story does offer, is classic off the wall absurdity we have seen from other Suda games and if that’s all you’re looking for, the story is fantastic. From a Yakuza Boss being inhabited by a wire tiger causing him to murder people. To a musicians ears being stolen. They try to have some emotional moments in the midst of these absurd situations, and it falls flat.
Killer 7 was a cult hit on the GameCube, well known for it’s unique first person gameplay and heavily cellshaded look that hasn’t been done like that since. Until now. Killer Is Dead recreates the style of its predecessor, but now taking advantage of current gen hardware. Artistically it looks fantastic and there is nothing like it on the market. But it had quite a lot of problems. There is a lot of repeated enemies and levels seem to only throw one or two new enemies you will see appear through out the game, reskins are present, and it’s general representation of women is pretty horrendous.
Unlike Lollipop Chainsaw where most of the female cast are total kick ass powerful characters, most if not all females in Killer Is Dead seems to be there just to be represented as sexual objects, and that’s quite disheartening to see. This stuff normally doesn’t offend me, but its so predominant here, that you simply can’t overlook it. Especially when it ties this mentality straight into its gameplay.
Technically, It’s not that great. Rampant screen tearing, unstable frame rate, view distance is buggy, smoke items you have to interact with aren’t visible from certain angles, when they clearly should be and the game randomly freezes for a few seconds sometimes, for what I’m assuming is loading.
Outside of the visuals, the games soundtrack is fantastic, and is certainly another proud addition to my cars VGM collection, the English voice acting is pretty good, and the option to switch to Japanese voice work is appreciated.
Killer is dead ditches the unique gameplay from its predecessor, In favour of turning it into a 3rd person hack ‘n slash game. Each level is more or less structured the same way, wade through waves of enemies in each level to face a boss at the end. Combat isn’t that diverse, you have your Katana, which is what you will mostly be using, and then you have your mechanical arm which can turn into a variety of different weapons once it has acquired blood from killing enemies. This ranges from a simple automatic gun, to a drill used to break rocks and enemies shields. I hate to say it, but the combat is pretty lackluster.
You will find yourself resorting to just waiting till the enemy attacks, then dodging out of the way at the last second to just mash “X” to do quite considerable damage, this even applies for bosses. Rinse and repeat. There is a shop where you can buy more moves and upgrades for combat, but you will find that the only ones you will actually use are the passive bonuses, such as improved weapons, health regen, etc. Otherwise you will just be hacking away at the X button for most of the game. The combat in general just feels clunky, and there is no real reason for using these extra moves. I also found the fact that since some of Mondo’s attacks can take a while to execute, crowd control becomes a thing you should keep in mind. It’s worth mentioning however, that the game does put you in some tight enclosed areas, and the camera makes crow control harder then it should be as well.
Outside of the main story missions, there are a few things to do. Certain side missions unlock the further you go into the game, so you can get some more cash. I never played any of them more then once since they didn’t feel fun and the reward wasn’t really good enough to warrant me to grind it out. Then you have Gigalo missions. This is where the objectifying of the women of Killer Is Dead comes into play. Gigolo missions put you in A first person perspective with the goal of staring at women’s bodies without them noticing, so you can build up your courage meter, which then allows you to give them presents. With the X-ray sunglasses you can acquire, you can see through the Woman’s clothing, doing so tells you what kind of presents the women like and also builds your courage meter faster.
The ultimate goal in these missions are to, well give them so many presents that they eventually well, want to get Intimate with you. Doing so will give you certain weapons for your mechanical arm, and other various items. Sure, these items don’t seem necessary, but they will make your play through much, much easier. So whether you like fan service, or are just outright against it, it would be beneficial to do these missions at least once, Especially if you want weapons such as the Charge Cannon and etc. Maybe I would feel these were more acceptable in the game if it was just a faster way to get currency for upgrades, but it’s the fact that you need to play these to get certain weapons that bugs me so much.
Killer Is Dead is another game that proves Suda 51 has one hell of an imagination, it’s story, universe and aesthetic is absolutely absurd, and in a world with a lot of games that take themselves too seriously, that’s a great thing in my book. Some fun can be had with the combat as well. However, it is also plagued by so many various gameplay and technical issues that it is hard to recommend it at it’s full price. I would recommend it if you could rent it or get it at a reduced price, just for the novelty of how absolutely absurd it can be, if you don’t mind some repetitive combat.