Videogames have long been clamouring for celebrities. Faces to put behind titles in order to allow fandom to follow. Shigeru Miyamoto is arguably the defining example of a person who stands above their creations as a seal of quality, but there are others who mean much to gamers on a global scale. Many are commonly celebrated as an auteur. The likes of Hideo Kojima and Cory Barlog considered the videogame equivalent of Oliver Stone and Michael Bay. SUDA 51, then, the Stanley Kubrick that videogames need. Tearing apart standardised design and forcing it to reflect back on itself in a way that no other can.
Killer is Dead has Something to Say
SUDA 51’s latest is unquestionably obscure, and intentionally so. Killer is Dead wastes no time getting the player into the action. After selecting the option to start a new game and your difficulty setting, ‘Chapter One’ is swiftly introduced by seconds of erratic cuts between disparate moving images before the scene settles on our intentionally unlikable hero, Mondo Zappa. Just one word is uttered by before the player is thrown into the firing line: “Executioner”. Killer is Dead states that it has ideas about how modern interactive entertainment should be delivered. Ideas that break from the norm of what you’ve been playing for decades.
Zappa is brazen, fearless, and damn good at his job. Which just so happens to be killing people. He’s killing the bad guys, of course. Yet Killer is Dead intentionally blurs the line between the morality of Zappa’s prey and that of his own. And it does so on many occasions. This is scum killing scum in the most violent and horrific manner possible. This is an interactive anime experience in the same fashion that you dreamed of when watching DevilMan or Cyber City Oedo 808 decades ago. Normality is a line which only the blind walk.
There’s a Story with all the Violence
A government sanctioned assassin, Zappa is a new signing in an underworld agency that is authorised to hunt monsters, demons and bad men, and execute them. The agency then cover up any mess you may make at the cost of your client; the Men in Black of a twisted world, you might think. But Killer is Dead is decidedly more baroque than anything Will Smith would consider putting his name to. Just as with Killer 7 and No More Heroes, Killer is Dead is every bit the classic SUDA 51 experience fans have been hoping for. Demanding, inventive and excessively violent.
Killer is Dead plays much like a traditional third-person action game. It has a linear path for progress and a combat system that never reaches the depths of DmC: Devil May Cry, but does afford the player a pleasing degree of customisation. All abilities and weapons can be upgraded. Each mission ends with a time card that tallies up damage and other points of your score as if it were a bill. Playing hand-in-hand with the idea that you are a virtual bounty hunter. For the most part, this is the Killer is Dead experience – walk a preset line, engage enemies in combat. But just as with the best SUDA 51 productions there’s plenty of changes to the pacing that make this a compelling rollercoaster ride.
A Killer Adventure
As you progress through the game you’ll regularly encounter Scarlet. She’s a nurse, and is all too keen to provide you with blood that increases your abilities in combat. She’ll also offer you side missions that test your dexterity to a greater extent than anything in the core campaign. This is in addition, of course, to the much discussed Gigolo missions.
Gigolo missions are basically an extended path to offering bonuses in the campaign missions such as new weapons. However, they are executed in as creepy a manner as possible. Players have to shower girls with gifts in the hope of receiving a positive response. And when they do it’s time to use the gigolo glasses that offer x-ray vision. It’s seedy and wholly unnecessary, but yet perfectly in-keeping with Zappa’s character. At the beginning of Killer is Dead he comes across as an enlightened soul working for the good of mankind. But as the game progresses you learn that’s it’s really his most basic desires that drive him: money and sex. Every opportunity Zappa is given to edge towards that farthest reaches of being a ‘good guy’ he takes, walking a thin line between hero and savage.
Killer is Dead is a Beautified Rendition of an Ugly World
The visual quality of Killer is Dead is immediately recognisable as a product of SUDA 51. Especially given that it follows the same pattern as many of the previous titles his team has developed. The characterisation is flawless – whether you like the character or not is another matter – and the environments closely resemble the densely imaginative locales of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. Despite the quality of the technical production however, this is also where Killer is Dead’s biggest issues reside. The frame rate will occasional drop drastically with no real explanation as to wh. The trigger can be as simple as panning the camera, even without any enemies on-screen. And the camera is remarkably poor throughout. It’s a shame that a videogame centred on combat would erect a barrier in the most irritating of places. Yet it’s a problem that is still all too common.
SUDA 51 is known for creating inspiring videogames and Killer is Dead is no different. It stands apart from the crowd in the delivery of its characters and action, despite the latter very closely following established convention. Killer is Dead is a remarkably unique game that should be experienced by anyone who considers themselves a true fan of videogames as a medium. Though it could be said that the likes of DmC: Devil May Cry and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance are vastly more accessible. Killer is Dead, then, is exactly what we’ve come to expect from SUDA 51. This is a videogame designed for the core demographic; arbitrarily ignorant of all else who may choose to step into the world.