Killer Is Dead is unashamedly stupid. Executive producer Goichi Suda – better known by his nickname Suda51 – has made a living out of his bonkers plots and premises, but the latest product to drop off Grasshopper Manufacture’s production line takes the nonsense of No More Heroes and kits it out in a straitjacket. This is a release that barely blinks when you’re ordered to assassinate an extraterrestrial giant at the behest of an alien that closely resembles the colonel from KFC. Sadly, the relentless idiocy doesn’t make up for the title’s offensively average gameplay – if anything, it just gets in the way.
You play as Mondo Zappa, a pin-headed mercenary with a dapper dress sense and a robotic arm. As the James Bond-esque sword-for-hire, you work for an assassination agency named the Bryan Execution Firm, which is fronted by a portly cyborg and a semi-exposed starlet with Vishnu-style arms. Your role is to relieve the world – and the moon, of course – of the lunatics that inhabit it, ruthlessly removing the heads of marked antagonists one continent at a time. It sounds straightforward, until you realise that you’re up against a monarch dressed in a mankini, an audiophile with a stonier face than Steven Tyler, and a talking train. No, really.
The problem is that, outside of the admittedly outlandish premise, the actual moment-to-moment action is blander than a Bourbon biscuit. You run through static hallways, sapping the life bars of copy-and-paste combat fodder, wishing that something interesting would happen. The level design is more linear than the lines on a piece of ruled paper, and the game does nothing to make up for that in the way of interesting environments. Granted, there are some imaginative ideas in places – one stage is set inside an Alice in Wonderland-inspired Escher-esque estate – but the world is largely lifeless, with very few points of interest other than the most rudimentary of furnishings.
The combat is at least snappy, if not exactly revelatory. You have one main sword attack, which you can spam until you need to break an enemy’s guard with the triangle button. Meanwhile, you can dodge with circle, which when timed perfectly, will drain the colour from the screen and allow you to land a spate of strikes in a slow-motion sequence. Every successful blow that you make will augment your robotic arm with blood, which can then be spent on firepower in an over-the-shoulder third-person shooter viewpoint. You’ll unlock different cannon attachments as you progress, giving you slightly different options in battle. You can, for example, slow foes down with an icy photon blast, or break their shields with a Big Daddy-esque drill. It’s certainly functional, but it’s never going to get your tuxedo tie in a knot.
The game does try to inject some variety. Ranged riflemen will assume out-of-reach positions, forcing you to take potshots while you fend off more in-your-face foes. The ridiculously responsive controls make dashing around the battlefield while dealing with these different types of enemies an enjoyable experience, but there’s just not enough adversary diversity to keep things feeling fresh. You can upgrade your powers by gathering up the golden shards that grunts discard, but other than adding some new options to your arsenal – both offensively and defensively – these don’t really change the flow of the combat all that much. You’ll definitely want to be done with the campaign by the time that you reach the overpowered enemies in the final chapter.
Fortunately, this is not a particularly long adventure. It’ll take you less than seven hours to run through the campaign and the majority of the side-missions on the standard difficulty, though there are multiple tiers and online leaderboards to test your mettle. Side missions typically comprise more combat filler, but there are a few more creative objectives involving a motorcycle race and a battle for a Bonsai tree. Outside of these there are the infamous gigolo missions, which see you attempting to ogle a pretty companion from a first-person perspective without getting caught. Raising a heat metre allows you to present the unsuspecting dames with a gift, contributing to the ultimate goal of getting them between the sheets.
The distraction’s certainly not as vulgar as it’s been made out to be, but it’s interactively insipid, and adds absolutely nothing to the experience. Unless you enjoy staring at the cel-shaded clothing of a clumsily animated female companion, there’s really nothing to get excited about, and the X-ray glasses – which allow you to see directly through said garments – only add to the embarrassing nature of the mode. Needless to say, you won’t want to play these sections with someone looking over your shoulder – but you’ll have grimace through them at some point, if only to unlock the weapon upgrades that the missions are awkwardly attached to.
At least the art direction’s a little more palatable, with bright colours bringing life to the otherwise moody tone. There’s a touch of Sin City to some of the darker environments, which is accentuated by the title’s comic book shading and bold outlines. It’s artistically attractive, but letdown by the limitations of the Unreal Engine, which results in an unfortunate amount of pop-in, blurry textures, and, on occasion, some irritating frame-rate hiccups. None of these issues are noticeable enough to completely break the experience, but they further accentuate the low-budget nature of the overall production.
Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka’s diverse soundtrack at least offers the illusion of a more expensive endeavour, with audio experimenting with elements of soft rock and jazz. None of the themes necessarily stand out, but they add to the unusual nature of the world itself, and provide a suitable backdrop for the action. The voice acting is similarly solid in both English and Japanese, although the ear-shattering screeches of sidekick Mika will find you reaching for your remote control’s mute button faster than the first few notes of a One Direction song.
A slice or six short of a solid recommendation, Killer Is Dead shows that Suda51’s schtick is swiftly running out of steam. The title’s sharp art style and snazzy soundtrack will no doubt lure you in, but the schlocky story and garish gigolo missions will leave you swatting at the air in regret. This is not a bad game, it’s just a boring one – and we never thought that we’d say that about a release that sees you chasing a tiger on a motorcycle.
Its a shame about the score. Still might be worth checking out when the price drops. Looks really nice in these screenshots tho! @get2sammyb So is it worse than No More Heroes? I though that wasn't too bad
@MadchesterManc I don't think this is as good as No More Heroes or Lollipop Chainsaw.
Sammy - does the art-style make it difficult to see what's going on in fast battles, or is the vision okay? As someone with an awful eyesight I always wonder about that when a game is particularly stylised.
It's a shame that most reviewers have commented that Killer is Dead is very 'average', you know I'm a sucker for a good Suda game.. Will buy it and try it anyway though
Also, how the hell did you manage to mention Suda and One Direction in the breath? Shame on you, sir.
@Superconsole It can be difficult to see what's going on, yes. I never found I was dying because of it or anything, though — you just keep pressing square next to an enemy and watch the pretty colours flash until you "win".
@get2sammyb Straight to the point. I like it. Although I dont like the voodoo going on here. The screenshots keep changing! lol Ill have to give it a go if I find it cheap enough somewhere. Ill regret it if I dont. @Superconsole If you grab the game soon let us know how you get on
@MadchesterManc The screenshots in reviews are automatically selected by the system. You can see them all here: https://www.pushsquare.com/games/ps3/killer_is_dead/screenshots
@get2sammyb Mad World on Wii gave me a headache and Sin City was an awesome, yet squinty experience, but I'm sure it'll be okay
@MadchesterManc I'll probably grab it on launch, and later cry about it on Twitter
Very sad that XSEED wasted their time on garbage from Suda 51.
@get2sammyb So thats how its done. Suprised its taken me a few years to notice lol
@Superconsole Madworld was awesome tho! It led to me affectionately labeling my console the Wiiga for a couple of months as it seemed to have a few awesome Sega games on the system at the time. Didn't last long tho lol and Ill await your tear fueled tweets over Killer Is Dead with baited breath, although there has been some positive reviews so they could be joyous tweets instead...
It looks like the Killer was -put on sunglassed- Dead on arrival.
@get2sammyb I knew you would feel the same about it as I did playing it over the weekend......such a tragedy, could have been so much better.
Very, very disappointing. Can't help but agree with this: "Killer Is Dead shows that Suda51’s schtick is swiftly running out of steam." Insanity does not substitute good gameplay.
First review on here I've disagreed with in a while - and only second after The Last Of Us (everything is great except the game play which is just tedious, and the few people I know who've played the game all agree) - have to say I've played a bit of the Japanese version and absolutely adored it. It's one of those genres were if you're not a fan you never will be or if it just bores you I can easily see how it would. Personally though I love them so can't wait to get my hands on the English copy.
You love him or you hate him.
As a result, reviews around the internet are controversial.
I'll give him money, because i love him.
@Bliquid @rastamadeus I'm glad you're both excited for it. There are glimmers of a great game in here, but I found the whole thing a bit tedious. Hopefully you have more fun with it than I did!
@get2sammyb: I'm sure that what you saw and experienced is truthful, i trust and will trust your reviews.
What i meant is that Suda fans can't take off Gigolò Glasses from their eyes.
Nor they want to.
i don't think i've enjoyed any of Suda51's games to be honest.
I really liked both No More Heroes games and Lollipop Chainsaw was decent fun so this is pretty disappointing. But the way I look at it, 5/10 is average so just based on how much I've enjoyed some of the previous games from this development team I'll give it a try at some point.
I just picked this up today and I'm super stoked to play it. I didn't expect a review to be up so soon. I haven't been disappointed by any of Suda51s games since Killer 7 so hopefully this doesn't disappoint me, either. Flower, Sun and Rain was the only one I played that I didn't like.
Ill buy anything suda-51 , this could have gotten a score of "2". but since i just love No more heroes ive been supporting his works, i didnt buy lollipop chainsaw though, the only one i wont buy
@odd69 How come?
i'm not entirely sure, but maybe its because cheerleaders dont sit well with me hahaha. i pick up the copy all the time ,just cant find it in me to purchase it. Im sure one day ill have to get it if i want to complete my suda collection
@odd69 : Honestly, Lollipop Chainsaw is unfairly underrated.
It's a great game with lots of good ideas, style, and an amazing soundtrack.
I can understand the doubt regarding a cheerleading main chara, but trust me, this game is pure genius, and Juliet is a great character who goes around with the severed talking head of her boyfriend attached to her hips.
It is a game that puts a big smile on your face, and there are very few games that can do that.
LOL okay im sold, im picking it up on payday, im gonna get the disc, ima see if its cheaper via PSN, be nice if PSPLUS would give us a nice discount on it cause that would force me to buy it at such a cheap price
@odd69 @Bliquid Yeah, I enjoyed Lollipop Chainsaw more than this. I thought it was pretty funny, to be honest!
I liked No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw, but probably won't pick this one up until it's in the bargain bin or used for $9.99 or less.
I'm a big believer in the idea that every game is good if you can get it at the right price. If a new game retails for $50.00 USD, how much would it need to cost for you to think you're getting a good deal?
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