From the imagination of the developer Goichi Suda, better known as SUDA 51 and CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture – Killer is Dead is the most insane assassination game that could ever be produced, so much so that after playing the first few chapters you will need to take a long rest to get over it and soak up the inexplicable sights to behold! I could describe it as an eccentric take on a James Bond movie where the environments feel like a collection of retro olden day vampire scenes to which the madness then just continues to develop further the more you dive into the alien-futuristic-criminal-underworld. This still does not put into words the oddity of the character artwork and level design that had me convinced I was in a trance!
In simple terms, Killer is Dead is a unique hack and slash in the third person view, but the complexity of the story unravels over the course of twelve very different missions and additional side missions. Throughout the game you are an assassin named Mondo, the main protagonist who takes on a different contract with each mission to assassinate an evil force, cyborg or some other part human mechanical being for a large cash sum. He does have a rather dumb female assistant too, not that it’s a 2 player experience because it is not, but this dumb sidekick appears in cuts scenes and voice overs – however both character are fearless with clearly a strong stomach for the on-going gore-fest of each mission! It will take you a few chapters to get to grips with the gameplay experience because there is nothing quite like it for a multifaceted view on a world where your income is determined by your successful killing sprees and your whole life a continuous spiraling hallucinating mind-fuck! If you’re familiar with anything from SUDA 51 you’ll know to expect the unexpected and thinking outside the box really means a million miles away from any logical perception. This is just plain weird!
Each mission within the game is organised by your employers, Bryan Execution Firm, run by – (you guessed it) a Bryan, and he himself is a powerful cyborg who commands you into this introspective nightmare world of danger. On your journey to complete what you are paid to do – KILL – you also start to learn a few home truths and discoveries of your past revealed through cut scenes and dreamlike gameplay. Every mission is a separate chapter of the game and you are graded and scored by time of completion, number of collectables found, and how many kills and so on. Before you start you are given a brief sheet of information detailing your target and a short cut scene will update you on the story within that mission. The whole presentation style is that of short series of movies, an adventure broken down into shorts with gameplay that is arcade style. Some chapters last only minutes where as others can last for hours depending upon your retries due to the difficult nature of your targets – some feel as though they are born invincible and might never go down. Or, you just have to rethink your strategy for another attempt. On the whole, it is a game about just killing as much as you can with a bloody great Katana and a cybernetic left arm that can be tooled up for drilling, shooting and aiming with a variety of sub weapons. The gameplay is nothing you haven’t done before with a similar style to Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, only with more violence and plenty of blood!
Attacking your enemies or well, job lots could be a better description – is all about taking a slash; lunging forward with the Katana and perfectly timing your strikes whilst using Guard and Dodge to defend yourself. You can heal yourself with the blood of others when health is running low and you will often find objects that will aid your survival and mission requirements by examining them at close inspection. The action is fast paced and keeps you on your toes with a disposal of character upgrades to your Attack and Skills at your disposal too. There are Special Skills to unlock that will improve your gameplay style and different button combo’s to present your deathly strike to the enemy. However, I feel that for the most part you will just button mash your way through it because you will not have the time to think about what buttons to press other than one to just kill the fuckers!
This really is a unique game that will appeal to SUDA 51 fans, those who have likely witnessed other mad plots such as Lollipop Chainsaw, and it is in the midst of that eccentricity that makes it work for you, where the curiosity of always wanting to know what screwed up psychological chapter comes next, and how does this story unfold, or where or when will this journey end for the overworked assassin that is Mondo? If ever there was a leaderboard for being a cold hearted pathological murderer he’d top it…but then, even more insanity comes with the missions where you must blatantly stare at the tits of women at bars, sitting romantically outdoors and showering them with expensive gifts to win their affection. These Gigolo missions form some of the most embarrassing parts of the game which neither add substance or real relevance but you will grab yourself a few Achievements for taking part. If anything it shows that Mondo is a red blooded male who is really needs some form of sexual activity badly. I didn’t find any kind of romance in these missions; it was just a man after a very expensive night of passion.
Whilst the gameplay is filled with action-packed hack & slash fuelled chapters, the tone of the visuals really compliments the dark story with cartoon style graphics that portrays the underlying nightmare of the game. It’s part sci-fi, part fantasy, part thriller, but an utterly unique experience that offers more enjoyable thought provoking instances than quite a lot of AAA titles if I am being fully honest. For a few let downs on the visuals I would say that the frame rate flickering can be annoying if you focus on it too much, and that nothing is really overly detailed or very well polished. The consistency of the dark tones and futuristic elements in what looks like a form of cell shaded cartoon style visuals appear to make the game look more like an Xbox LIVE Arcade title in just its graphical representation – but not in gameplay length which you would expect more of for being a retail title. It is also not without camera angles that tend to have a mind of their own too where during mid-combat you’ll find that you need to quickly re-align the view so you can see where your slashing or shooting!
Killer is Dead is a game to be praised more for its gameplay action and unconventional assassin characteristics than for the far-fetched senseless plot. Definitely an enjoyable game that is both fun and engaging, but through most of it you’ll just be miffed to what is actually going on. For fans of SUDA 51 it’ll live up to your expectations in that this has seriously raised the bar for quirkiness and will perhaps exceed your expectations on how weird can you go for a videogame! If you’re in it for the hack and slash element because you just like to swing a sword, I’d say go for it. This is a great game, but I’m still not convinced I am still sure on what just happened – however…
…the Killer is Dead!