Suda 51 is known for making games that are less of a commercial success and more of an intriguing experience, and with Killer Is Dead it’s no different. Unfortunately though, Killer Is Dead didn’t resonate with me as much as I thought it would. Despite its lavish design and promising trailers, Suda 51’s latest foray into gaming has arrived with plenty of style, but without any form of substance. On the plus side, the concept and art design of the game are fantastic, if a little questionable at times, and the combat is fun and fast paced once it picks up.
If I were to summarize Killer Is Dead, it would be a strange, incoherent title that is broad with its outlook but ultimately succumbs by a lack of focus. As you pick up its campaign you’ll notice that it’s split into episodes, of which there are twelve in total. Your main objective? Well, you’re a contract killer by the name of Mondo Zappa, tasked with assassinating certain targets at the request of a range of different people. As well as this, your main aim (puntastic) is to find someone called Moon King, who is polluting the world and corrupting all manner of objects and people. To aid you in your quest to track down your targets – after a small mishap with the loss of your right arm – you’re given a robotic replacement called ‘Musselback’, which also doubles as a gun. This weapon uses blood taken from your enemies, but you also have a Katana, so it’s easier to hack n’ slash most of the time. The best highlight throughout my playthrough had to be the finishing moves, particularly once you accessed your adrenaline bar. Once activated with the R1 button, you’re given a moment of slow motion that lets you obliterate nearly any enemy with one hit.
Even before picking up the title I had no idea what I was entering in to, but I guessed by its stylish advertising and quirky approach (something I love), that I’d feel right at home. Fortunately the frantic and stylish gameplay was present, featuring highly stylized enemies alongside a great art direction, however, the story was a mess. Most of the time I didn’t know why I was doing what I was tasked, only to be interrupted by an episode that saw me explore my dreams in a linear and slow piece of story telling. It was frustrating to see so much style and flare let down by slow and stiff level design. But as this is a Suda 51 game, it’s bound to have many crazy situations, right? For instance, take when you die, you’d think it would be ‘Game Over’ or reload a checkpoint, but instead you can use what’s called a “Mika Ticket’ which will see your bumbling assistant race to your dead body and order you to mash the square button, whilst she beats your chest for you to come back to life. Typical Suda, it seems.
In terms of the quirkiness I outlined earlier ‘Gigolo Mode’ takes the top spot in that category. The extra content tasks the player with chatting up a range of different women, purchasing them gifts to win their heart. If you think that sounds bizarre, then you’d be right in thinking it plays rather strange too, as you’re given a first person perspective to see their busting cleavage and wide eyes. If that wasn’t enough, you can also adorn a pair of special glasses that lets you see underneath the clothing of the woman you’re seducing. Be careful though, because if they notice you looking for too long they’ll get suspicious. The fact that this feature also has a dedicated ‘store’ in the menu system to purchase gifts for them via money made from missions, makes no sense at all.
I don’t blame Suda 51 for hitting crazy concepts and bizarre features, it’s quite frankly what the gaming industry needs, but it’s a shame the experimentation is often more miss, than hit. After I had taken down targets such as an Alice in Wonderland lookalike, that sprouted into a snarling, grotesque insect, as well as an old steam train seeking revenge for being retired from the railway, I found myself looking to the end rather than hoping for more. In regards to its length Killer Is Dead isn’t the longest game by any means, but falls in line with Suda’s past efforts sitting at a comfortable seven hours, dependent on which difficulty you choose.
- + Incredibly stylish and beautiful art design
- + Combat is enjoyable
- - Lack of focus on the rest of the gameplay and story
- - Will alienate a lot of its players
- - Stiff and clumsy level design