Sep 5, 2013

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Review: Killer is Dead

Killer-Is-Dead-Logo

Another Suda51 game is upon us. And boy, what a weird one it is. In Killer is Dead you take on the role of an assassin named Mondo who is given a contract each mission to go and kill something. True to previous Suda51 games, there is something truly weird and wacky with the world. But underneath, is there a good game to be had?

The game follows the story of an assassin named Mondo Zappa, who has a cybernetic arm. He wields a katana which is used to take out his targets. The game has a confusing story. A lot of the game centers around Mondo and his connection to the moon. Along the way you will meet some other characters such as Viviene, who rides a motor cycle and can help you out in missions where she will use multiple arms to fire guns. In a fashion seen in many Suda51 games, much of the world is not explained in the story, and the game simply expects you take the things happening in it as fact, as if it was normal.

For example, why does another character, Bryan have half of his body covered in cybernetics? The game never seems to go very deep with explanation, but there is one there, even if it is a bit shallow. And that is one of the hardest parts to swallow about the game. Clearly Suda wanted you to experience the world, and even tell you a tale, but it never seems to give you enough detail to even make a lick of sense.

killer-is-dead action

The gameplay is where perhaps the game shines the most, at least in one aspect. Most of the game comprises of you running around levels, in a 3rd person action/brawler. Your primary weapon is a katana, with which you can use various attacks and skills to take down enemies in the game. As you kill enemies, you fill a blood meter which is used to power some of the attacks in the game as well as Mondo’s cybernetic arm. The cybernetic arm also allows you to use a variety of sub-weapons as well, provided you have unlocked them. You will need to earn Moon Crystals that allow you to unlock more skills or power up your sub-weapons by killing off enemies. Along with the Moon Crystals, the player also earns roses and life crystals, which allow him to level his blood meter and life meter.

To unlock the extra weapons, besides the first one that you start with, you have to go on separate “Gigolo Missions.” I found this part of Killer is Dead to be the most shallow, and a bit perverted as well. You see, in order to get the extra sub-weapons, you have to oggle and stare at your selected date. There is very little dialogue during these extra missions, and when there is, it comes from the female partner. As you are staring at various parts of this woman, you are filling up a “Guts” meter, and once you have earned enough guts, you are able to give the woman a present, which fills up a heart meter. Once the heart meter fills up, you are rewarded with a scene that may or may not involve some graphic sexual content. When this occurs, most of the imagery implied happens off camera or the angle is such that you really can’t tell what is going on.

All in all, the Gigolo Missions are more or less there for some eye candy, and clearly were intended just for factor alone. Granted, I get what Suda was going for with that mode: You are a James Bond type of character, and what does James Bond do in his off time? He goes to find the prettiest woman. However, what is presented in Killer is Dead makes you feel more like pervert than anything else.

gigolo mission

The game is powered by Unreal Engine 3, which does not necessarily do the game any favors. Killer is Dead is not the most visually stunning game. However, I found the glossy anime styled look to be cool to watch. There are parts of the game, particularly during the action parts when using certain skills, the game will change its color palette to a black and white scheme, making the visuals look particularly interesting.

The only marring aspect of the title was the very noticeable screen tearing. Granted, it was few and far between, but I when it was seen it was quite hard to ignore. By all reports, the Xbox 360 version seems to suffer from the screen tearing the most.

The sound effects are pretty good. The voice acting for the English dub was good, though I preferred to play most of the game in Japanese with subtitles on. While that is also good quality, it seems that the lip sync was intended for the English dub.

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The most stand out part, to me was the soundtrack to Killer is Dead. The music was composed by the legendary Akira Yamaoka, who composed the Silent Hill soundtracks. Each level has a particular tone to it, and the boss themes tend to have a bit a rock theme and anthem to it. Needless to say, the soundtrack is excellent, and I would recommend any and all Akira Yamaoka fans to try and find a copy of it. First print Launch Editions of the game come with a CD soundtrack, if you are able to get one.

The game lasts for about 5-6 hours, with 12 main story missions. As you progress through the game, you unlock some side missions and additional content as well. When you complete the game, you can also go back through the game on a harder difficulty if you so choose, as well as unlocking some more costumes. Replaying missions or side missions will also get you some extra gifts to give to the girls in the Gigolo Missions, if that is your thing.

Killer is Dead is a great action title. However, I can’t help but feel that maybe there could have been something more to the game. The mechanics in the action parts of the game are well developed and reward the player if they play well. It is the other aspects of the game, such as the confusing story and the Gigolo Missions, that seem to mar the overall experience. While this is a well developed action game, those other parts that are lacking, or just in general just seem out of place, and really bring the experience down.

Killer Is Dead
Platform: PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: XSEED Games
ESRB Rating: M
MSRP: $59.99


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About Benjamin Baker

A gamer for nearly 24 years, he was hooked the second he started playing Metroid on NES. Now he is aspiring to write about video games, is a bit of a tech geek, and an amateur experimental photographer.