Tech News on G4
Killer Is Dull
Sept 17, 2013
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
It's impossible to review a Suda51 game without mentioning that it is, in fact, a Suda51 game. Killer Is Dead is the latest bizarre tale from this wildly eccentric video game director, and while it's a Suda51 title through and through, that doesn't mean the final product is worth playing.
For those not in the know, Suda51 heads Japanese development studio Grasshopper Manufacture. The titles in Grasshopper Manufacture's library range from weird to weirder, and include Killer7, No More Heroes 1 and 2, Liberation Maiden, and Lollipop Chainsaw.
The majority of those games are completely out there, to put it mildly, but Killer Is Dead actually manages to take things to a whole new level. At this point in his career, though, Suda51 seems to be straddling the line of self-indulgence, and it really hurts the final product.
Killer Is Dead puts gamers into the shoes of Mondo Zappa, an employee of the Executioner Office, a secret institution that puts hits on people for clients who are willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money.
Mondo's past is shrouded in mystery, and neither he nor the player knows how he ended up with a robotic left arm, although both begin to learn more by progressing through the game's 12 chapters.
The problem is, the chapters feel disjointed at best for the majority of the game, and the payoff near the end of Killer Is Dead simply does not make up for the bland plot.
What makes this all the more painful is that there's a legitimately exhilarating action game - with a few addendums - when you're not stuck plodding through overlong cut scenes and offensive minigames (more on the latter in a moment).
Mondo has two weapons - a sword for melee attacks, and his aforementioned left arm, which works like something made in the same place that created Inspector Gadget. That arm can transform into all sorts of things, although you can expect to use the Bullet Shot the most, which serves as a long range weapon for all intents and purposes.
The real fun comes when Mondo is simply hacking and slashing his way through enemies. While basic attacks and dodges can be pulled off by pressing the square and circle buttons, respectively, players can unlock additional moves by acquiring gems from downed enemies and receptacles found throughout levels.
Combos may not be absolutely integral to combat, but higher combos - Mondo combos? - will result in Mondo moving faster and pulling off devastating finishing moves.
Where the combat falls flat is in the game's requirement for blood. Mondo earns blood in a few different ways - most often by attacking enemies - but the game can become very frustrating when you're low on the stuff. It's practically a necessity in order to use whatever secondary weapon you have equipped, and it's also required to pull off certain finishing moves.
There's nothing more frustrating than chipping away at a particularly difficult boss and having an onscreen prompt notify you that you're now able to finishing him off, only to realize your blood gauge is empty, forcing you to continue a battle that should have rightfully already ended.
Still, it's truly satisfying slicing through a room full of enemies - dodging here, stabbing there, and slicing baddies in half in slow motion. It's during these moments that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Suda51 is still one of the most stylish game makers around. Killer Is Dead has a unique ultra-realistic cel-shaded look to it. Couple that with those slow motion moments, and this game almost manages to get the blood pumping.
But then you're forced to watch another pre- or post-level cut scene, and you're taken right back out of what makes the game fun. Worse still are the Gigolo Missions, which see Mondo doing his best to woo impossibly perfect-looking women by showering them with gifts.
What's even more disheartening is that the only way you earn the chance to present a woman with a gift is by successfully ogling her, erm, bathing suit area. If things are taking too long - you have a time limit, of course - you can up the ante by putting on x-ray glasses that allow you to see her underwear.
I'm typically not one to judge games - or anything for that matter - on their maturity, or lack thereof, but these creepy minigames add nothing of value. A heads-up to anyone who would like to skip these missions altogether - you actually don't get anything of real value by completing them. Completing them will earn you new subweapons, but I can count on one hand the number of times I used an unlockable subweapon in the game.
There's not much to Killer Is Dead beyond the main story. There are several side missions, but few of them are particularly compelling. Some present a deliciously difficult challenge for more hardcore players, but there are more hits than misses.
There are several difficulty levels as well, and an online leaderboard that you'll likely never even check. Oh, and the chance to unlock new costumes (only after you've beaten the game), many of which are nothing more than an excuse to see the female characters in ever-skimpier outfits.
Suda51 clearly doesn't go out of his way to play by a lot of the rules, and while many games from Grasshopper Manufacture haven't been commercial successes, critics have found a lot to like, and for good reason.
He's gone too far with Killer Is Dead, though. It lacks polish, restraint, likable characters, and a sense of humour - things that his best games in the past have generally featured in spades.
We're certainly not ready to give up on Suda51 yet, but here's hoping he returns to his former glory - no matter how odd that is - sooner rather than later.
Killer Is Dead
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