By David Fernandes / September 27th, 2013
The enemies, called “Wires,” come in various types: from standard enemies who wield clubs, to flying robots, to more monstrous eyeballs that summon more enemies and shoot out lasers. Enemies also have a heavily armored variety that can take a massive beating and can only be finished off with the Adrenaline Rush ability. Sadly, most are just palette swaps, only getting a new facelift of the same enemy models that dish out more damage and have larger amounts of health, giving the player a sense of the game getting progressively harder. Though for the most part, levels are mostly linear with the pathway having the feel of on-rails, with situations that sometimes call for back-up from Vivienne and Bryan. It’s a shame, since those moments are few and far between. Levels last from five minutes to almost an hour on your first run, with some missions being mostly used to add more to the ongoing plot and having just a boss battle. The bosses are well designed and all are different from the last. While some are a lot more creative than others in terms of attacks, they all bring something to the table and provide a decent challenge for our main character, giving you something to look forward to in each mission.
The environment has destructible sets, including hiding spots to find a mysterious nurse who refills your blood meter if you locate her throughout levels, plus a set of 20 challenges to unlock. Besides Scarlet’s challenges and the 12 story missions, as you progress through the game you unlock several minigame-like missions. These objectives range from: clearing out hidden bugs scattered around the environment, lighting podiums as your health slowly drains from a curse, driving a motorcycle into enemies through four laps, keeping enemies off an elevator to give it less weight until it gets to the top, and so on. There are also standard missions like getting an item at the end of a level, essentially being a race against the clock. They act as a nice distraction and utilize the quirkiness that the Killer is Dead universe contains, and strengthen the game when it comes to its combat system.
Then we have the gigolo missions, which have you acting like a giant pervert by questionably staring at beautiful women to get your points up high enough so you can give them an assortment of gifts. You have to stare at their bodies when they look away, but incorrectly doing so lowers your health gauge. Not treading lightly for too long while they’re looking at you has you fail and they outright reject you. With success, again, you give them gifts. As for the gifts, each woman has favored ones that get you more heart points. Unfavored gifts, while some may give you points, have them reject you in the end. It’s all about trial and error at the beginning until you get the hang of their AI patterns, and obtain the rose glasses from Scarlet, which allows you to know which gifts they favor in addition to giving you more points when you stare successfully.
It’s over the top, comical, and fits with Mondo’s character and who he is based off; as you know, James Bond had sex with a large assortment of women to the point of it becoming a staple in the franchise. The real issue I have with it is that it’s a repetitious bore fest that lasts too long for its own good, including the women repeating their lines over and over again to the chagrin of the player. While it’s optional, if you want those secondary weapons added to your prosthetic arm, you’re going to have to do them. One weapon, the drill arm, is a necessity in unlocking areas to find Scarlett, which again unlocks challenges.
The game again takes cues from Killer 7 in regards to visual fidelity in terms of the cel-shading art style, and the use of a film noir style, specifically in lighting, light/dark contrast, and dramatic shadows. Cutscenes and scripted events (where Mondo is limited to walking) play out heavily stylized, especially when it comes to the impressive shots of executions that depict Mondo decapitating his targets. There is one specific scene with a samurai that I love that I can simply describe with one word: beautiful. Memorable scenes like this are what had me fall in love with Killer 7, and it helps give that emotional “oomph” factor that gives scenes more meaning and not just shock value. As stated above, the game does have many cutscenes, but they go even further by not just using in-game graphics. They also change it up when we’re shown the back story of each client and why they want a specific person to die. The style is a simply drawn stylistic choice for cutscenes that sets a light tone before it gets grim, which is an effective way of showing how lives were ruined by the power of the moon and the horrors of dark matter. The graphics come at a cost though, with the game having some severe cases of screen tearing and frame-rate hiccups when areas are loading. You will get used to both issues, but that’s not to say they aren’t distracting nor noticeable. Then we get some pretty lengthy loading times when you add them all up, and from what I noticed, this comes from skipping cutscenes. For an action game, this gets pretty tiring, and somewhat kills good pacing.
When it comes to audio, the voice acting, which has dual-audio no less, has a good cast that play their roles fine; especially our main lead, with Ryotaro Okiayu for the Japanese voice and Patrick Seitz for the English voice. So whether you choose the dub or Japanese voices you will be pleased with their voice choices. The game’s soundtrack goes from fitting-but-average to decent at the end of the day, with multiple composers including the famed Akira Yamaokathe. The most notable track was the one that plays in the final battle, another MP3-worthy track like many of the previous Grasshopper titles’ final bosses.
The game has replay value, with missions and side-missions grading you on your performance, getting you to go back and achieve the AAA ranking for rewards such as more gifts or clothes to purchase upon doing so. The AAA rank can be done by not only taking as little damage as possible, but by having you spice it up and not repeat attacks. This is in addition to special conditions that can be viewed upon completing the mission or via mission select, which is unlocked after beating the game once. With three difficulties and a much harder mode being unlockable, the game (which can be beaten in 8 to 10 hours), can gain 25 or more hours. For an action game, that’s more than enough, though the story does suffer from pacing issues thanks to the lackluster amount of levels. Grinding for money does eventually take its toll and feels more like a chore.
Killer is Dead is yet another Grasshopper game that fans of the company and Suda51 will be pleased by, but it certainly will not make any new fans of their style or design choices in terms of story, gameplay, and characters. As a fan myself, I wouldn’t want it any other way, as I love them for being them and for their beliefs as to what a good experience is. Fans of stylistic action games with over the top movesets like the original Devil May Cry titles or Bayonetta will be left disappointed. However, if you like a grounded combat system that acts like a beat ’em up, more like No More Heroes, you will certainly enjoy Killer is Dead.Publisher provided the review code of the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
Killer is Dead is available for purchase on Amazon:
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