Killer is Dead Review
Even though a Gamer's Temple colleague recently (and excellently) reviewed the PlayStation 3 version of Sudi51's Killer is Dead, an Xbox 360 version arrived and I was lucky enough to get a shot at playing the game as well. I specifically held of on reading the PS3 review until I finished the game myself so my opinions wouldn't be unconsciously influenced by another's. Well, the title has been beaten and I can honestly say that Kevin's review shed more light on the game than the game itself. My time with Killer is Dead was spent mostly trying to figure out what the hell was going on, with the rest of that time spent enjoying some simple, decent hack and slash gameplay. The game is no train wreck, but Killer7 this is not.I'll do my best here, but like I said, I got more plot comprehension from Kevin's review than I did from Killer is Dead's cutscenes and boss fights. Basically you play as an assassin, Mondo, who works for a shadowy company that specializes in killing for hire. Mondo spends the game chasing down contracts with his sword, transformable robot arm and a sidekick that rivals the most annoying in video game history. Across 12 missions, the game barely makes any sense at all until the final few hours and the sometimes overly long cutscenes end up irking, rather than informing, the player. I feel like I need to give an example of the absolute "whut?" Killer is Dead throws at you. Spoilers: In an early mission, you are sent by a French weirdo to kill a monster that is abducting children or something. You get to the monster's location and find a scared girl who barely makes any sense at all. The location then becomes a weird set of challenge rooms styled after Alice in Wonderland. Finally, the girl from the beginning turns out to be the monster, a giant mantis hybrid. You kill it, and return to the office where you discover the French guy has been dead this whole time. I think. Got that? Of course not. No one did. End spoilers. I'm all for weird stuff, but it really needs to make sense to make an impact. Almost nothing in Killer is Dead does, making the experience feel more hollow than it should.
The game looks decent, but the presentation does have its issues. The cel-shaded style Suda51 has a penchant for is definitely used here, though I can't help but feel it has looked better in other games. Some of the colors and textures look muddy and washed out, the environments are somewhat basic and I saw tons of screen tearing and slowdown even during moderately frantic battles. The characters and animation are above average, but the B- cel-shading tends to drag everything down. Some of the lengthy cutscenes suffer from the same issues as well. The music and voice acting, on the other hand, is pretty good. You've heard the techno and squealing guitar tracks in other Suda51 games, and it stays in effect for Killer is Dead. The voice acting is also good, but Mondo's female sidekick... (shudder). The sound of her voice is like a higher pitched, more Japanese version of Navi (Ocarina of Time) who never shuts up. As much as I hated her, the rest of the cast does a good enough job with the material.
Killer is Dead plays a little simplistically, but overall the combat is pretty fun. If you think of games like Sudi51's own No More Heroes, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance or Ninja Gaiden, you see some similarities in this one. You have both your sword and upgradeable robot arm available in the button-mashy combat segments and boss fights, and all the little requisite upgrades are available for purchase. The boss fights definitely outshine the swarms of enemies within the levels, but none are truly memorable. My main issue with the combat, though, is the flow is too often derailed by too many cutscenes. Especially early on, you'll just start to get into the rhythm of battle before being pulled away for exposition or conversation. It makes enjoying the battles a struggle, something a decent system would avoid like the plague.
There is more to do in Killer is Dead besides the main missions. Side missions, one in particular, were what soured me on the game. The goal in this oft repeated mission is to get a woman to sleep with you. What bugs me is how this is accomplished. You swing into first person view and wait for the lady in question to look away so you can stare at her chest or crotch. If she catches you, a little meter decreases. To increase said meter, you must steal glances and present the lady with gifts at the right time in the conversation. So what Killer is Dead is telling us is that you can take any woman to bed if so spend enough money and don't get caught oogling her tasty bits while doing so. Ugh. Not only are these missions unfun and tedious, they also come of as misogynistic and leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Killer is Dead isn't Suda51's best effort. A confusing plot, some presentation issues, interrupted combat and a bonus mission type that feels like punishment don't add up to a great game. Killer is Dead just stumbles in too many ways for it to earn a recommendation. Suda51 is an important part of the gaming landscape, but efforts like this threaten to diminish his standing.
Final Rating: 65%. Not Suda51's best effort.