Suda51’s newest video game offering, Killer Is Dead is one of the strangest – albeit thoroughly entertaining – gaming experiences in recent memory. Killer Is Dead is a game that has, and will, certainly find itself a victim of polarizing opinions. Much like Suda’s previous works, Killer Is Dead isn’t afraid to stand out and be different; something that, unfortunately, causes the game to distance itself from the gaming tastes of many. However, those who are willing to suspend logical thought and immerse themselves in the unabashedly bizarre world of Killer Is Dead are in for a visceral – and unbelievably stylish – game that is quite like no other.
At face value, Killer Is Dead seems similar to other hack and slash titles that have populated the video game market during this console generation. Much of the gameplay has players controlling the main character Mondo Zappa, an executioner with a cybernetic arm, as he cuts through his enemies on the path to any given mission’s execution target. In combat, Mondo shines, moving with speed and a panache that gives most other action heroes a run for their money. Mondo’s combat skills are aided by his cybernetic arm and the various sub-weapons that it can transform into. Between Mondo’s sword, sub-weapons (which include a blaster, freeze gun, a chargeable laser and a drill arm), and various moves, Killer Is Dead offers a surprisingly deep amount of combat options.
Mondo isn’t just running around killing everything in sight for no reason, his targets are specifically handed to him by his cyborg boss, Bryan, who runs the Bryan Execution Firm. If a katana-weilding executioner with a cybernetic arm employed by a cyborg sounds downright strange to you, then preparing yourself for the rest of Killer Is Dead’s plot might take a while. While the game’s narrative might not be the best constructed in the world, there is a remarkably interesting plot to be found for those who choose to pay close attention.
Killer Is Dead‘s near-future setting is one where lunar travel is common place, and executioners and crazed villains are all part of the norm. Mondo’s employment, and subsequent contracts, lead him not only across the globe, but also to the moon. The strange enemies he is tasked to slay all have common thematic elements to them, which while not downright explained – relate back to Mondo himself. Killer Is Dead is in many ways a tale of accepting fate and one’s destiny. From the first execution Mondo undertakes, in which he must kill Bryan’s former executioner, it becomes apparent that Killer Is Dead has a sense of narrative direction that can easily be lost in translation.
While the plot may seem nonsensical, and even fans of the game will surely agree that it is not exactly conducive to quick interpretation, to criticize the game’s story simply because it requires extra thought and attention is not fair. Fans of absurdist themes and surrealism will take to the plot, while others will cry foul at its convoluted themes.
Visually, Killer Is Dead can be both a treat and a torture at once. The uber-stylized graphics of the game look exceptional during combat, but leave some to be desired during cutscenes. Even at their worst, the striking graphical style of Killer Is Dead matches perfectly the other elements of the game; few things feel more satisfying than dodge-stepping a boss and unleashing a flurry of blows as the game’s color pallet switches around you. The game does suffer from some graphical stuttering and screen tears happen semi-frequently, which can be jarring because of the cel-shading, and are frustrating to take notice of in the heat of combat.
Progressing through each mission brings Mondo to new locations more strange and varied than the last. Hopping from the moon to possessed trains is a wild ride in and of itself, but the execution targets that function as Killer Is Dead’s bosses are even more interesting. The boss battles stand out against the other waves of enemies in that they really do require that Mondo utilizes all of his combat skills. Mastery of Mondo’s moveset allows for each boss fight to feel like it should – an epic fight against some of the world’s best combatants.
The majority of the boss fights in Killer Is Dead are well realized, specifically an early fight against a man named David. The intense battle utilizes the best of Killer Is Dead’s mechanics, forcing players to dodge, counter, and capitalize on your opponents weakness. The aforementioned dodge-step is the shining jewel in terms of Killer Is Dead’s combat maneuvers and never ceases to be entertaining.
Killer Is Dead’s side jobs, strangely titled ‘gigolo missions’ are perhaps the most absurd part of the game. Mondo, who in many ways seems to be Suda’s twisted, personal take on James Bond, finds himself attempting to win the affection of various woman by sneaking peeks of their, well, private areas. Doing so successfully allows Mondo to present the beauties with various gifts, which they respond to with rewarding Mondo in more ways than one.
These missions have certainly received a lot of media attention, citing them as sexist and low-brow, but it is worth noting that these gigolo missions are completely optional. Suda’s past works have always had sexual themes within them, and while many may be outraged at their inclusion in Killer Is Dead, those who are offended can simply ignore their existence.
Killer Is Dead truly is a game that is unlike anything else currently on the market. While it may not be the most inviting title, there is a lot to love when playing. Action and hack and slash fans will love the fast, combo-able fighting mechanics as well as the numerous upgrades that can be purchased for Mondo. Those who criticize the game’s narrative may want to spend some time replaying through the game – which is quite possible, as Killer Is Dead is a short game – to see that the plot is surprisingly interesting. Thanks to the great visual style and interesting characters, there is plenty of cause to pick up the controller for multiple playthroughs, aided largely by the addicting combat.
The author purchased a copy of Killer Is Dead on the PS3[#ff entbuddha] “Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”