Developer(s) – Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher(s) – Deep Silver
Director – Hideyuki Shin
Producer(s) – Yoshimi Yasuda & Shuji Ishikawa
PEGI – 18
Killer is Dead was launched at the back end of 2013 and was released to mixed reviews in different countries. In Japan, its country of origin, it was released to mostly positive reviews, whilst the western world was far more critical of the game, citing it’s alleged nonsensical story and repetitive gameplay. Ray Carsillo of Electronic Gaming Monthly even went as far as to say that Killer is Dead had “the most ridiculous, nonsensical plot yet”. I was torn between reviewing this and Batman: Arkham Origins for the sake of the week’s subject of games influenced by comic book culture. But although there are a few things I pointed out wrong with Arkham Origins, I found that there are many more flaws in Killer is Dead to point out; including in the storyline.
Graphics – 8/10
As with many games I’ve reviewed up to this point in the blog, the best thing about it is how good it looks. There is a great deal of very decent use of cel-shaded graphics in this game. The game’s style is pretty compelling and the settings are exceptional, with many segments of the game transpiring in maze-like houses and even in a mansion on the moon. Although there are a few glitches here and there, they’re barely noticeable. What players will be concentrating on most is the very effective use of lighting. This adds a very prominent sense of grittiness to the overall feel of the game, as the plot has gritty elements to it with plenty of violence to accompany it. Blood sprays out in comic book-like geysers, similar to other cel-shaded games like Madworld and No More Heroes. Some of the characters, including the main character, also have robotic limbs similar to Deus Ex, which make for a few unique character designs too, albeit amidst some fairly generic-looking characters.
Gameplay – 5.5/10
After the first three hours or so, I found myself getting particularly bored with this game. It’s an action hack and slash game very similar to DMC: Devil May Cry, but just a lot more linear with equally unrefined combat. The game is set out in stages requiring players to essentially get from point A to point B with a boss at the end of it. Although some of the boss fights at the end of each stage were pretty well thought out and some of them even fascinatingly disturbing (particularly the boss fight with Alice around the beginning of the game), they weren’t enough to save it overall, in my opinion. There is only one side quest, which involves the main character working as a gigolo and wooing clients into bed by giving them presents and having players taking suggestive snapshots of them. More explicit content is shown with every time a player successfully woos one particular woman into bed, which in my opinion is a particularly cheap way to get people to continue playing the game, as there doesn’t seem to be much more incentive to players other than gaining new weapons. The game for me lacks substance overall. Particularly, in chapter 5, there is not much to do rather than walk around a strange moonlit landscape in slow motion, watch a few cutscenes, and kill a boss at the end of it. That chapter was clearly added as filler the way I see it.
Controls – 9.5/10
Apart from the one minor flaw of it sometimes being difficult to hit breakable objects, which hold in-game items, there’s nothing at all else to complain about in terms of controls. Although the combat system is pretty bland and unelaborated on, that’s down to gameplay.
Lifespan – 6/10
If the cutscenes are skipped, which is a good idea given how ridiculous the game’s story indeed truly is, this game can be easily completed within ten hours. For me, the incentive to play through the side quests was far too cheap, and the main gameplay can become far too monotonous to keep players engrossed in it for any extended amount of time anyway. There are much better and longer hack and slash games that were released last year, including God of War: Ascension.
Storyline – 3/10
The game’s story centers on an assassin called Mondo Zappa, who carries out assassination missions for the Bryan Execution Firm along with his infinitely annoying and dim-witted assistant, Mika. They’re both tasked by their boss, Bryan Roses, to kill dangerous criminals all around the globe. Like Heart of Darkness, which I reviewed last week, there are certain elements of the story, which make it overall seem very farfetched, and makes it seem like a lot of stuff was randomly put together in order to create a fully cohesive concept, and for me, it fell apart very quickly. It doesn’t help that there is some pretty bad voice acting in it as well. In particular, the character Mika is without a doubt one of the worst characters I’ve ever seen in a video game. She throws tantrums, cries a lot, and becomes far too childishly enthusiastic about her situation for me to be able to take her seriously. I don’t even think the main character Mondo can be taken seriously, like his catchphrase “The job… killer is dead” makes little to no sense.
Originality – 6/10
In terms of conceptual design, this game was always going to be able to stand out visually, as there are some unique settings and character designs, but no uniqueness lies in gameplay, which for me, lessens it way too much for me to be able to call it a decent game. But with no standout personalities and a few fairly good boss fights, the overall feel of the game can get boring after a while.
To summarize, Killer is Dead is playable, but shouldn’t be considered a classic by any means. There are other games of its kind that I would more highly recommend than this. I may have found a few decent games released in 2013 following my initial skepticism, but I think this is definitely one to steer clear from.