Killer Is Dead – Review

Title   Killer Is Dead
Developer  Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher  Deep Silver (Europe)
Platform  Playstation 3, Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Genre  Action, Hack and Slash
Release Date  August 27, 2013

Suda 51 is 45 years old. He’s the talented writer/director of several cult games from the respected Killer 7 and the inexplicable Michigan to the current-gen efforts Lollipop Chainsaw and Shadows of the Damned. He is 45 years old. He calls himself Suda 51. His understanding of women is this: they have tits. He is 45 years old. Suda 51 really ought to know better.

Where Shadows of the Damned was unashamedly adolescent in its approach, featuring as it did lots of blood, gore and a gun called the ‘Boner’, Lollipop Chainsaw was just a tad creepy, especially the opening sequence involving Juliet, the chainsaw-wielding cheerleader heroine of the game, awkwardly talking to you in her bedroom. It was creepy in that weird fucking way that only Japanese games can be. Just all a bit too far across the line between ‘innuendo’ and ‘wrongun’.

Killer is Dead continues this theme by holding your sub-weapons behind three ‘Gigolo’ missions. These involve sitting next to a woman and looking at her ladybits while she’s looking away. Do it enough and you’ll get to give her a present. Give her enough presents and she’ll sleep with you. That is how you get your weapons. For good measure, you also have x-ray glasses that let you see her underwear. Suda 51 is 45 years old.

Of course this is to be expected from the man who brought us Michigan: Report From Hell which saw you trying to score ‘erotic’ points by filming up a woman’s skirt. Suda 51 is 45 years old.

The game itself is a lot less odd than it probably thinks it is. Sure, it’s achingly Japanese about the whole thing, featuring, as it does, an American hitman named Mondo Zappa (sigh) who works for an agency (the Execution Office) that is run by a weird cyborg man called Bryan. Mondo’s assistant, Mika, is your typical Japanese-style female character model – slim, leggy and with additional slutty costumes for you to unlock – who, quite jarringly, has the mannerisms of a child. But a Japanese child that you might expect to be in a Pokemon cartoon. Except that she’s 20. But she shouts ‘yay!’ a lot and ‘ROGER!’ and is easily the most irritating character I’ve ever encountered in a game.

The story is played out through the game’s huge number of cutscenes and is hard to follow given that its quite irritating, very boring, deeply pretentious and deliberately surreal. Suda 51 is clearly aiming for ‘weird’ but the game is so stereotypically weird that it just comes across as generic. Full of anime cliches and the sort of writing that you’d expect from a robot that had been invented by another robot.

In between the hours of cutscenes, you get to play out the game’s twelve main missions. Despite the game’s efforts to appear different, the gameplay is just your standard hack and slasher that has occasional shooting elements and a brief motorcycle section. It uses the tried-and-tested mechanic of dodging enemy attacks at the last possible moment in order to launch into a powerful counter-attack and is as unadventurous a game as I’ve played on the Xbox 360 once you really get into the gameplay. That said, once you get flowing with it, the game is, dare I say it, actually a lot of fun and quite addictive but it’s also very short with some of the missions taking just five or so minutes to beat. There are a heap of side missions to get onto but they are just there to pad the game out and give achievement whores a few extra days worth of play.

Mondo isn’t such a bad assassin to play as; he’s very handy with his sword – the beloved Gekkou, whatever the fuck that means – and has a good range of special moves and extra weaponary to play with. Clearing out a room in a swirling ballet of violence is never a bad thing and there is a degree of strategy in how you choose to take out groups of enemies.

What can fuck clean off though is the fact that every boss in this game regains full health at least once when you beat them. It’s 2013. Why the hell is this bullshit game mechanic still happening? Luckily you get a choice of reviving instantly after death (three times per level unless you buy more) or restarting from the last checkpoint, so death isn’t too much of a problem.

Visually the game plasters over the rather generic settings with a cool cell-shaded look but, as my missus said when she saw the game running, ‘why are these graphics so shit?’ which kind of says it all. She was a tad harsh but they are certainly pretty average and are just a way to hide how ordinary the game really is. Certain special attacks will cause blood to spray in a red, white and black, grindhouse style look which is never a bad thing but, honestly, Wet did it all a lot better and, frankly, Killer is Dead can look a tad low budget at times.

Where it does score big is with the soundtrack, which has a diverse collection of pieces by Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame. Unfortunately, the voice acting isn’t nearly as good but you do have the option of English or Japanese voices, which is something. Mondo’s insistence on saying ‘Killer is Dead’ during every mission is somewhat irritating, though.

So, despite not being any kind of fan of the story and being a little underwhelmed by Suda 51′s attempts to be stylish, funny and cool, there is still something about this game that I do enjoy. It’s a far more casual experience than your usual Japanese slash ‘em ups and you level up quickly enough to smooth out the game’s difficulty curve to the point where later levels can seem easier than some of the earlier ones.

For the first couple of hours of Killer is Dead, I was irritated by the story and underwhelmed by the gameplay. However, after a while I started really enjoying the game but then it was over and so I started replaying it on the next difficulty up and as I’m writing this, I’m looking forward to getting back on it. That mixture of generic but addictive gameplay married to a nonsense story and questionable attitudes towards women isn’t something I’ve seen since Onechanbara, and while Suda 51 really ought to take a look at himself, Killer is Dead is more fun than I initially thought.

  • Slick, if generic, swordplay
  • Oddly addictive gameplay
  • Occasionally stylish visuals
  • Decent music
  • Just another hack and slasher
  • Ill-conceived and actually not very interesting story
  • Rubbish supporting characters
  • Sexist towards women and patronising towards men
  • Doesn't offer great value for money
  • Mika can fuck off even more than the singer who shares her name
  • Too many cutscenes and loading screens

Killer is Dead may not realise it, but it's not that special. The weirdness of the game feels forced and the characterisations and story are particularly dull, only evoking any reaction (one of irritation) when Suda 51 gets back into typically sexist territory. Behind that is a competent, if unremarkable, hack and slasher. The latest of a long line of such titles. For now, this is too expensive for me to recommend and if you want dumbed down, chauvanistic action, Onechanbara can offer the same experience for a fraction of the price. And I'm not recommending that as a great option either.

Our review policy

Last five articles by Richie


There are no comments, yet.

Why don’t you be the first? Come on, you know you want to!

Leave a Comment