Image Captured By Predatoure
When I think of hack and slash games, one of the first things that I always associate with them is a sense of style. Generally games that are classified into this particular genre of video games are a visual spectacle, juggling enemies in DMC looks amazing, perfecting the dodge mechanic in Bayonetta and learning the combat intricacies is a visual delight and the fast paced over-the-top combat featured in Metal Gear Rising, in addition to the game’s blistering soundtrack, is a treat for all the senses. At times Killer Is Dead looks like it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as these games, the cel-shaded visuals look gorgeous and the combat on the surface looks awesome, but Killer Is Dead is a game that ultimately, flatters to deceive, like a footballer’s wife, it looks good but contains little substance.
As I mentioned above the visuals do look fantastic, the cel-shaded universe that Suda 51 has created leaps off the screen, it makes a huge change from the boring grey backdrops that most games nowadays just seem to consist of. Whilst I do like the art style of the game, sometimes it’s inclusion just isn’t practical and this can have a knock on effect on the gameplay. Too often the shadows that are cast on the character models and the environment are too dark, two-thirds of the way through the game I encountered a level in a Japanese garden setting that was extremely hard to navigate due to this, turning up the brightness in the options did nothing to solve this problem. Other visual choices are even more questionable, when destroying an enemy most will explode and emit a burst of colour, yes it might look good, but when you are in the midst of a battle against a horde of enemies and the screen starts filling with clouds of colour, then it quickly becomes a major hindrance.
Speaking of hindrances, the camera is particularly rage inducing, enemies will often attack the player-character Mondo from off-screen. It doesn’t help that the game doesn’t feature a traditional lock-on system, meaning players will just have to hope that Mondo attacks the correct enemy, although the soft-lock mechanic that is featured instead does work for the most part. I’m assuming that the reason as to why the developers didn’t include a traditional lock-on system was they perhaps felt that the combat was too frantic to warrant its inclusion, but even so it would have still been nice to have that option available, as is the case in Bayonetta 2 for instance.
Combat is pretty simple and lacks depth when compared to other games that Killer Is Dead tries to emulate. Playing on the 360, the X button is used to attack enemies with Mondo’s katana and the Y button is used as a guard break move, Mondo also has a robotic arm which he uses to fire bullets at enemies, during which the game camera switches to an over-the-shoulder perspective. That’s pretty much it combat wise, yes there are upgrades available via an in-game store which add a few extra moves, and a couple of unlockable arm weapons, but for the most part combat simply consists of mashing the X button. The player can dodge and block attacks as expected, perfect timing of a dodge leads to a “burst rush” manoeuvre in which time slows down and players are prompted to tap the X button on the controller to score massive damage, it looks cool but is nothing ground breaking, perfect timing of a block move also leads to a parry.
The enemies, named “wires”, design wise look like a mixture of some of the demons found in DMC and some of the angels in Bayonetta, none of them are particularly memorable, there are a few cannon fodder enemies, a few quick enemies, and a few big guys who need to have their guard broken. However, there does exist one enemy that will stick in your memory simply because of the fact that it’s probably the most annoying enemy you may have encountered in a hack and slasher, the enemy is question is the “eyeball wire.” This enemy fires laser beams at Mondo, and due to the games terrible camera, I lost count of the amount of times that I was fighting an enemy to only be suddenly shot in the back by a laser from an eyeball, which I had no idea was even on the battlefield. Not only that, they also explode after being attacked, basically; screw the eyeballs. (That sounded weird.)
The bosses also fail to inspire, they are varied in appearance but not in play-style. The majority of Killer Is Dead’s boss encounters consist of the player having to deplete a boss’ life bar three times, when depleted the first two times Mondo will remove a limb or dismember the boss in some way, and then on the third time he will kill the boss. As the combat is not very complex or varied, the majority of these fights just involve the player dodging the enemies attacks, mashing X and then doing a QTE after their life bar has been vanquished. There is no fight on par with Metal Gear Ray, or the Lumen Sage to be found in this game.
The story is an absolute mess. Although I have spoken before about how I don’t think stories are of particular importance in a hack and slash game, Killer Is Dead places such an emphasis on its story that it should at least be competent. At the beginning of each episode a Tarentino-esque introduction plays out, the levels themselves are regularly broken up with a large amount of cut scenes, and the game even features a couple of levels entirely devoted to exploring the narrative, in which Mondo does little but wander around an environment waiting for the next flashback to occur.
It feels as though the story is obtuse just for the sake of being obtuse. During episode 3, which is the first level that isn’t a tutorial, Mondo is given the task of killing a girl named Alice who has transformed into a “monster”, Mondo then travels through an environment that is clearly inspired by Alice in Wonderland before destroying his target. During the next episode Mondo travels to the moon to confront a man called David, at which point Mondo even references how nonsensical the whole thing is.
To be honest Mondo, I don’t even care any more.
There’s also a unicorn who is Mondo’s guardian, vampires, a possessed steam train that comes to life, an alien who looks exactly like Colonel Sanders for some reason, and even more randomness chucked in. Every character seems to talk in riddles, and by the half way point of the game I gave up even trying to comprehend and make sense of the story. I realise that Suda 51’s games usually contain a lot of symbolism and some deeper meaning to them, Killer 7 being a perfect example, but at least in Killer 7 most players could make some sense of the game’s universe even if they didn’t fully understand it, Killer Is Dead on the other hand rarely makes sense at all. We are never told why one minute we are fighting a possessed train and then the next we are fighting a dude who summons a demon tiger, instead we just do it because, “it’s the job.” Perhaps if I had played this game whilst taking Class A drugs, I’d be able to see what a masterpiece the story truly is. (Don’t do drugs kids, especially not because of this game, it isn’t worth it.)
What the &%$# is going on? And where’s my KFC?
Mondo never questions anything either, he’s a yes man, he just does it because “it’s his job”. Whilst I think his character design is inherently cool, I mean he’s a suave skinny dude, with a robot arm (I’m a sucker for robot arms, it’s one reason I love the winter solider) who also wields a katana, which does make a change from the usual macho super sized male videogame protagonist, I also think he is probably the most boring character that I have played as in a long time. Simply put, Mondo has no personality, I can only think that the developers tried to make him come off as “mysterious”, but he just comes off as an underdeveloped a-hole.
A reason why is because apart from taking on missions the only thing he does is sleep around, that’s right you knew it was coming at some point, I’m now going to talk about the “Gigolo” missions. Sigh.. well here goes. As well as other optional side missions, Killer Is Dead features a grotesque dating (if you can call it that) mini-game. First off when selecting which girl to “date” the player is presented with a screen detailing her information, akin to the standard missions. Immediately this information screen gives of sexual predator vibes as the girl in question is referred to as a “target.”
Weird right, well it gets worse. During these missions Mondo’s job is to stare at the women’s bodies (the game even tells the player not to look at the girl’s face, instead to go for the “sexy shots”) to increase his guts meter, which is represented by a meter showing blood rushing to his head…yeah….. I know what you’re thinking. During these missions Mondo doesn’t say anything to the girls, instead he just waits until he has enough “guts” to give them a present, if mondo gives his target, I mean date, presents that she likes she will suddenly think Mondo is the greatest guy alive and then proceed to sleep with him.
Whether or not you find this mini-game offensive is down to your own personal taste, but one thing you cannot ignore is the fact that it is extremely boring, I don’t know who thought this was be fun. Although these missions are optional, if you wish to unlock the three other upgrades to Mondo’s arm the only way they can be unlocked is via completing these missions with a good enough rating so that the woman sleeps with Mondo, meaning you may have to repeat these dire missions more than once.
This is by far the creepiest start to a video game sex scene that I’ve ever seen.
Killer Is Dead is a game that became more dreadful the more I played it, for a game that only features 12 main story missions (and one DLC episode) with 2 of these being essentially tutorials, and one episode just featuring Mondo walking around for 5 minutes watching flashbacks before fighting a boss, it really outstays its welcome. It doesn’t help that there is a dream sequence level which recycles past environments and that the final level is a near enough carbon copy of episode 4, just with a slightly altered boss fight.
At first when I began this game I was intrigued by it, the set up in the opening level seemed quite cool, the graphics looked great, and the combat, in the first few levels at least, seemed functional, but the more I played the game, the more I realised how much of a mess it is. It’s a game full of half-baked ideas, stuffed full of nonsensical storytelling, the combat is poor as is the camera, all the characters are boring or annoying (Mika will drive you insane) and there is no real reason to come back to the game after it’s finished.
Killer Is Dead is average at its best, but shocking at its worse. If you like this particular genre of video games then I’d advise you to play any of Platinum Game’s offerings instead (well, apart from The Legend of Korra) and you’ll see how this game pales in comparison, and if you like games with outlandish plots then play some of Suda 51’s other games, such as Killer 7 or Lollipop Chainsaw, which aren’t complete disasters. Suda 51 stated that if this game sold well enough he would be open to the idea of a sequel, but the truth is as a franchise Killer Is Dead should just stay dead.