Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Box Art(http://www.loveandkill.com)  Rated M for Mature by ESRB.  This summer has turned out to be arguably the best summer of releases this generation. We have had the Last of Us, Dragon’s Crown, Tales of Xillia, and so many other absolutely fantastic games grace our hardware. That said, we did have to cut through a fair amount of painfully awful titles as well. Goichi Suda, or Suda51 as most know him has returned with yet another gutsy and awkward title to fill that end of summer void before the holiday release season, but which side of the summer does Killer is Dead fall? For the record, this article may read a little bit like an indictment of the American game journalists who have decided to white-knight a silly issue which will be discussed over actually reviewing the game.

Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Box ArtKiller is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Logo(http://www.loveandkill.com)  Rated T for Teen by ESRB.  This summer has turned out to be arguably the best summer of releases this generation. We have had the Last of Us, Dragon’s Crown, Tales of Xillia, and so many other absolutely fantastic games grace our hardware. That said, we did have to cut through a fair amount of painfully awful titles as well. Goichi Suda, or Suda51 as most know him has returned with yet another gutsy and awkward title to fill that end of summer void before the holiday release season, but which side of the summer does Killer is Dead fall? For the record, this article may read a little bit like an indictment of the American game journalists who have decided to white-knight a silly issue which will be discussed over actually reviewing the game. 

**WARNING** The following video may contain content inappropriate for children**

Presentation:
Killer is Dead (KiD) is visually striking, while not breaking any boundaries on a technical edge. The rendering style harkens back to Killer7, Suda’s first great game which sadly never saw a true sequel, with its extreme navy blue shadows and vibrant color palette. However the designs and world feel more akin to Suda’s recent Lollypop Chainsaw with a healthy dose of Shadows of the Damned. Writing however takes a very No More Heroes approach to a Bond movie. Regardless of how mixed and matched the game is on the surface, the hard fact is clear, Killer is Dead IS a Suda 51 game, and that comes with a lot of expectation, and if you are American gaming press, baggage. KiD is frankly, presented beautifully and masterfully at every turn. Showmanship is the name of the game from the designs to the story to the gameplay itself, everything is about how AWESOME KiD is in it’s absurdity.

The story follows Mondo Zappa, an executioner working for a state run agency. His task is to kill people who someone pays to assassinate, within the confines of the game, you experience episodic hit-missions on various robotic alien monster people. Following close are Mondo’s assistant Mika, and his other associates who occasionally help in game, or provide narrative weight. While it would have been nice to have more interaction with each of the side characters, the game is really built around mystery and the idea of lust. You will be left lusting after more of everything in KiD. By the end of the game, a lot of the loose ends and plot holes are left behind, but the way the story is told makes that logical. Mondo is not exactly a central character in any of the individual plots within the episodes. So the player not exactly getting WHY a random character needs X person killed is not the point, the plot is that Mondo is an executioner who does his job and does it well. Its an interesting take at creating an anti hero, he is not some hand in a greater chess game, he is just a means to an end for other smaller and disconnected stories. KiD is simultaneously the most and least narratively immersive game ever.

Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots   Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots   Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots

Graphics:
Visually Killer is Dead walks a strange line. While the presentation is beautiful and flawless, the technical quality of the visuals is nothing amazing or stellar. Character models and texture work are minimal and bare bones, animations also do just enough to be passable as a current gen game. The super comic booky style represented certainly puts limitations on the necessity of high res textures or high poly-count models, but it would have been nice to see Grasshopper push the visuals a littler further. KiD is definitely not an ugly game, but the argument here boils down to art vs technical. Journey is not a complicated game graphically, but what it does with its simplistic nature is beautiful. KiD on the other hand feels over simplified and acid trippy which leaves a bit to be desired. Character models are gorgeous however, once you get past the odd visual style.

Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots   Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots   Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots
 

Sound:
HOLY COW. Sometimes a soundtrack can just blow your mind. While the sound effects and voice work of Killer is Dead, sit comfortably between bad and just ok, the music selection is just phenomenal. Each track dabbles in a hundred different genres and movements, but all the tracks have this hyper cool cyberpunk meets Bond style that just plain works. The problem here is that KiD ruins its track record for audio with God-awful English voice acting. Mika’s voice is cringe-worthy, Mondo’s voice doesn’t match his look, and the rest border on phoned-in or slightly stereotypical. Sound effects also are unfortunately static and have an odd muffled quality in many cases.

Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots   Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots   Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots

Gameplay:
Killer is Dead’s bread and butter is it’s gameplay. Hot off the heels of Lollipop Chainsaw, Suda 51 made some improvements to his understanding of the hack and slash genre. KiD is vastly improved upon from Suda’s previous attempts at, with a better and more balanced combo system and a more competent defensive game. KiD focuses on dodging, blocking and countering to open up opportunities for crushingly awesome cinematic attacks. Building the hit meter provides chances for over-the-top finishers which steal the show if you can manage to get your hit count high enough. Further you have access to a super attack, which uses your collected blood roses to dish out incredible damage in a sort of bullet-time rage mode. 

The downside of the well-conceived combat engine is that it is only moderately impactful. Other hack and slash games are the kings of the genre for a reason,  they make your heart race and pound with their stylish flair and difficulty. KiD is heavy in the flair department, but the fights tend to be a bit too easy and predictable. As awesome as the boss battles look, the odds are high that you have fought that boss in a thousand other games. Even worse, most fights come down to a wash-rinse-repeat methodology. The game isn’t bad, quite the opposite in fact, it is pretty stellar, but for genre fans it lacks the necessary impact to pull them away from re-playing other games.

Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots   Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots   Killer is Dead (Xbox 360, PS3)  Screenshots

SEXISM?!!?!? (*****CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE AND CONTENT*****) 
So here is where I unleash. The journalistic community has long been filled with shills, liars and idiots. If you have watched or read the news in the past 5 years it’s been gratuitously apparent that the truth often belongs to the Editor’s wallet and personal opinions. Then there is gaming journalism; you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. I have met many of the famous “talking heads” at IGN, Game Trailers, Giant Bomb, etc. and while they are certainly awesome people who have a real passion for this industry, their opinions (like mine) are often stupid and wrong. Butt-kissing out of the way, here is the problem; Killer is Dead has a series of challenges called Gigolo Missions. These missions have Mondo (sic; you) attempting to woo a girl into bed with passionate staring (sic; looking at boobs n’ butts) and gift giving(sic;flowers or a stick of gum). So here is how the gameplay goes down, you sit next to or across from one of the many beauties in the game, then using the analogue stick look at various areas of the girls face or body. Holding down a trigger activates “gigolo vision” which increases the points you receive while staring at specific areas (sic; eyes, mouth, boobs n’ butts).  Here is the trick, Looking in the eyes at the right time gives the largest number of points, while the girl is looking away, peeking at her cleavage or thighs will give you a slightly smaller amount of points. Once you have filled your confidence meter, you can give the girl a gift. Reading about each girl will lead you to the right gift choices for her, for example one character may like roses while the other likes a locket. The right gifts will “win her heart”, which leads her to grabbing Mondo’s hand and a short steamy scene IMPLYING that the characters WENT INTO A ROOM YOU NEVER SEE to have sex PROBABLY. Completing these tasks successfully grant you more weapons which are COMPLETELY OPTIONAL and only serve to open secret areas or make certain enemy types easier to kill quickly. You can in fact go the whole game without completing a single gigolo mission.

Of course, this predictably had every single feminist gamer, and pretend feminist male gamer who decided now was a great time to white knight the cause for the poor downtrodden women who couldn’t possibly make the case themselves because they are weak willed silly women (am I right guys? {for those who don’t get it, that was sarcasm}). But let’s look at the argument here in the spirit of fairness. The argument is that the game objectifies the women as sex objects for men to oogle, and rewards you for the behavior of lust in the pursuit of bedding them. That is a fair assessment of the concept, or it would be if that was the point of the missions. Suda 51 has already commented on the purpose of the Gigolo Missions, saying (paraphrased) that he thought it was ridiculous how James Bond could pick up any woman in the movie with a wink, nod and a tag line, how he never had to know a single thing about her, and could sleep with her instantly, before they inevitably died in some plot related way as an instrument to spurn Bond into some kind of emotional action. Here, Mondo is actually doing the same thing, but the methodology INTENTIONALLY makes the player feel awkward about the exchange, since they have little to no understanding of who these women are and how they relate to the plot. You are supposed to laugh about how silly and stupid it is, not get offended. The even more hilarious thing about the ridiculous number of bad reviews for KiD is that no one took the time to actually play the missions and realize that they are actually pretty deep and really fun. Some characters respond to things very differently, and it all but requires you to actually read the bio of each girl if you want the best score.

Now, the gigolo missions DO seem offensive on the surface, but when you actually play them with your brain turned on, it becomes apparent that the point was to show how stupid it is to have those moments in games and movies to begin with. But what is worse, making a mini game out of flirting, which results in an implied sex scene the player never sees, or an actual, graphic and noisy (squishes, moans, and all) first person sex scene in which you are encouraged to kill the woman who you just graphically had sex with (Farcry 3). What about a trilogy of games that allows you to indiscriminately have sex with each of your team mates regardless of being alien or human, male or female where you actually SEE THE SEX SCENE (Mass Effect). Oh or what about a game that actually marketed itself on the main female protagonist being strong because she nearly gets raped by a lesser villain (Tomb Raider)? Ah then there is my favorite go to franchise for female empowerment, you know, the one where you can pick up hookers, kill random people, which has never featured a strong female lead (much less an actual character of importance), frequently refers to women as B*tches and hos, and ends its most memorable iteration of the franchise by SHOOTING the girlfriend you just saved in order to stop her from talking too much about shoes and stuff (GTA). What about the violent rape scene in Red Dead Redemption, or the way all the female characters in Mortal Kombat are dressed like strippers, or the fact that it took Call of Duty 6 games to have women not be canon fodder or save-me-bait for plot development despite having one of the largest percentages of female players, or the way that Armor in the Elder Scrolls series is often more skimpy and form fitting on women despite being the same armor as the male’s, or how Assassin’s Creed has yet to feature a female assassin in it’s main arc, or how… I can do this all day, with just the most critically acclaimed western games. The fact here is that the only thing that sets KiD apart from these games is it’s origin. The same “journalists” that decided to mark down Killer is Dead  due to it’s  “sexist” content, feverishly lauded the above games without once mentioning the ACTUALLY sexist elements inherent in each title. My point is, until these reviewers are able to pull their heads out of the politically correct sand dune they are stuck in and look at the truth smacking them in the face, they should simply shut up about sexism in any game. Killer is Dead has been applauded by gamers for a fantastic experience which follows the rest of the Suda 51 portfolio, the critical response to this game was an absolute hit-job, and the journalistic community should be ashamed for their lack of integrity here, Frankly it looks less like white knighting the feminist movement, and more like dis-organized racism against Japanese developers.

Conclusion:
The simple fact here is that Killer is Dead is a fantastic game only slightly marred by lackluster production value in it’s technical details. Fans of Suda 51, or fans of the hack and slash genre will find a lot to love here, but those looking for a deeper more mainstream experience should probably look elsewhere. Ignore the cries of sexism from a culturally bias media, and indulge if you so choose, Killer is Dead is well worth the dive.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here