Killer is Dead (PS3/XB360) Review
From the creator of such games as the surreal headtrip in Killer7, otaku turned hitman in No More Heroes and the cheerful cheerleader toting a chainsaw in Lollipop Chainsaw, Goichi Suda, or Suda 51 as he's known by most, has now brought us Killer is Dead. Available on both Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360, Killer is Dead is a stylish hack-and-slash action game that oozes cool, thanks to its stylized cel-shaded graphics.
For those that are familiar with Suda 51's previous works, Killer is Dead definitely follows in the footsteps of its predecessors with its unique vision while standing quite tall on its own. With a theme of "love and execution, you can bet that there will be quite a lot of blood while also charming the ladies.
Plot-wise, Killer is Dead seems rather straightforward: Mondo Zappa, a thirty-five year old man who works as an executioner for a company called the Bryan Execution Firm. Receiving contract assignments, Mondo is sent out by the firm to carry out hits for their clients with his katana, Gekkou, in tow. Along the way, we learn little bits of Mondo's past, his dreams and why the moon is so important though one glaring detail, which is Mondo's cybernetic left arm called Musselback, is curiously never discussed in-game. As with most of Suda 51's games, expect many twists and turns along the way for Mondo and his friends, but don't expect to always like them as these games can be quite divisive.
Combat in Killer is Dead feels deeper than Suda's previous works, as Musselback can be customized with upgrades that are purchased by gems that are earned by defeating Wires, which are the main enemies of the game. Aside from Musselback, most of the up-close-and-personal fighting is done with the business end of a katana, which are performed by button combinations. Gems can also be used to give Mondo access to more offensive and defensive abilities via upgrades. A few subweapons can be earned by working through the game's 'Gigolo Mode,' which requires Mondo to charm a few ladies with a gift...or three.
The music for Killer is Dead was composed by none other Akira Yamaoka, who is mostly known for his work on the Silent Hill series. I found the music to be great, particularly the jazzy tune used during the loading screens. For gamers who bought the first run physical copy of Killer is Dead, they were treated to a rather nice limited edition that included a twenty-five track soundtrack; unfortunately the disc doesn't contain all of the music that can be heard in-game.
The main issues with the game is definitely the screen tearing, which is inescapable whether the game was digitally bought or is being played off a disc, and the length of the game. With only twelve missions, Killer is Dead is very short but the additional missions, along with Gigolo Mode and DLC content, help with the replayabiltiy though not everyone will be satisfied. The plot, while engaging, is also a bit on the shallow side and borderline non-sensical. Finally, Gigolo Mode is something that can definitely turn off some gamers as it can be found offensive (though I actually found it humorous) as you are tasked with seducing women who have next to no personalities. Once you do successfully achieve your goal of getting the girl, Mondo will have to check with them periodically as if you neglect them, they will contact you while in the middle of a job, which incidentally reminded me of a dating sim of sorts.
Overall, Killer is Dead is probably at the top of list for Suda 51 games as it feels much more satisfying than his previous efforts. Combat feels more competent, the art direction with the cel-shaded style looks fantastic and the music is great too. Sure there are flaws, but I can overlook them for what is a very fun and very bloody action game.
Things I Loved:
- Satisfying combat
- Wonderful graphics
- Great music
- Cool & interesting characters
Things I Hated:
- Screen tearing
- Length of game
- 'Gigolo Mode'
- Paper-thin plot
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor.