Killer is Dead review: The Midnight Cowboy gets a katana

Suda 51 has almost always managed to hit my G-spot. Whether it’s slashing up zombies, or trying to solve bizarre murder cases admittedly it was less on target with games like Super Fire Pro Wrestling, but generally, he’s been awesome.

So when I heard about Killer Is Dead, I knew I wanted it. I didn’t really know much about the game even though I personally reported on it a lot, it seemed like the usual insane tale from Suda 51′s mind; gigolo missions, executions and robots, which was perfect for someone like me.

If you’re unfamiliar with Suda 51 and his work, then I’ll explain a little, if you know who he is then I suggest you skip this paragraph.

Goichi Suda (a.k.a. Suda 51) is the CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture, who are probably most notable for No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw. Suda has been the producer, director and writer on a bunch of games and he’s always had a wonderfully perverted and insane way of looking at things. He also wrote the lyrics to a couple of songs, one was titled “The Virgin Child Makes Her Wish Without Feeling Anything“, just to give you some insight. In this particular video game Suda both directed and wrote the entire thing.

Story:
The game has, what I would call, a difficult story. It wasn’t until my second playthrough that I understood what was actually going on. There’s no real attempt that I could see of the characters trying to connect with me, and yet I felt as though I wanted them to do well, I wanted them to save the day despite Suda not putting in any emotion or depth into the characters.

The game follows Mondo, a gigolo and executioner, who is also a bounty hunter paid by the state. On his journey we see some very unexpected twists that actually made me feel sympathetic towards him. At first, the twists are really difficult to follow, but you begin to understand what’s happening the more you pay attention to detail (Hint: watch the eyes).

Being the main character, Mondo is the only one with any amount of depth and the only one we see any emotion in. He’s also the only character we see in day-to-day life, and that’s ruined how? With eggs…allow me to explain what I mean.

You see, Mondo follows a strict diet of eating only soft boiled eggs. One of the other characters even shouts, “Eat your soft boiled egg before it goes hard”, but there’s an issue, when we see Mondo eating his egg, it’s not a soft boiled egg, it’s a fried egg.

The game is just so crazy that this almost adds to the charm – it’s like it should make me annoyed but it just made me laugh, I can’t even work out if it’s intentional or not, to be honest.

Then we have our back-up characters of which there’s quite a few; but most end up getting killed by you, or only appear twice in the game. We do have three that make regular short appearances but we don’t really exchange dialogue with them, so they’re kind of like cardboard props that just get in the way on several occasions.

Something that did jump out was this character, who seems to be a mash up of Metal Gear’s Mistral and EVA.

There are also some amazing characters like the bad guys that you’re assigned to kill, who range from a samurai to a “train.” Yep, you read that right, and the train’s named Tommy for some reason (I mean, holy shit! That’s a great idea calling a train Tommy!). But even though they are amazing in concept, these characters are still a little simplistic, and oddly I think the friggin’ train is the one with the most emotion of all the bad guys.

Everything in the story just seems to flash by so fast, we never really get a second to think about what’s happening. It was kind of upsetting, and at the same time, the sheer insanity whenever we actually begin to wrap our heads around it makes it worthwhile.

Gameplay
For the purpose of clarity, I’m diving the gameplay sections into the “main” (core” gameplay, and the various side-missions the game offers.

Main Gameplay
Killer is Dead is a hack ‘n’ slash game, but it’s one of those gems that’s really fast-paced while not getting overly confusing. You can unlock costumes, weapons and abilities as you progress.

The frenetic action really gets your blood pumping and is simply great to play, the buttons are all responsive and perfectly timed dodges will even slow down time so Mondo can cut his enemies to pieces.

You can get health upgrades and blood upgrades. Blood basically lets you use special abilities like extra weapon and heal.

If you build up a high enough combo, then you can perform an “execution” kill. Doing this grants you extra health, blood, money or points towards a health upgrade.

There are four weapons to use, which you unlock through Gigolo missions and they are: Blaster, Ice Blaster, Drill and a fucking awesome laser.

The biggest issue I had with the game was the difficulty curve, some bosses took me ages to finish off and I died constantly, but when it came to the final boss I took him down within a few minutes — literally within like ten minutes. But even so, the last boss encounter was pretty damn epic regardless of the length.

Once you’ve completed it though, the game just doesn’t really pose a challenge with repeated playthroughs. Heck, I didn’t find much of a challenge in the first playthrough either, to be honest.

Gigolo missions and side-missions
Playing through the gigolo missions will unlcok the extra weapons in the game. Truth be told, it had me at “gigolo.”

Sadly, they didn’t play as much of a role as I had hoped, they’re more of a mini-game that runs alongside the main game. They’re not challenging at all, even on the hardest difficulty. Basically we have to “perv” on a woman then give her gifts, everything from bubble gum to sexy new lingerie which they can then wear.

To win all you really have to do is tap the left trigger a few times then flick the stick in the opposite direction to look away.

You then get to pound your catch into the bed, but there’s only three that you can “seduce.” In short, good but needs more women.

There’s a bunch of other small side-missions which are pretty fun, they’re pretty broad and have a big range of different things to do and not all of them involve killing everything. Some have you running around within a time limit to find a special item, which when acquired, will also appear in your office (your oofice is where you can swap costumes and such, like a headquarters.). Unfortunately, you can’t interact with the special items, but it’s nice to see the fruits of your labour appear in-game.

And finally there are “Scarlett missions.” Scarlett whom you can seduce is hidden around levels and you have to find her, each time you find her you get a new challenge, I’ve not actually managed to beat or even find all of the challenges yet.

Presentation
The game has an interesting art style, this weird cell shaded glossy look. I actually quite like it, but it’s certainly niche and I wouldn’t be surprised if not everyone digs it.. The colours are also really bright but this plays into the the artwork and lively gameplay.

The soundtrack of the game is fantastic in some places but a little odd in others. We see the use of Antonin Dvorak Symphony’s 9th Symphony again, which is a favourite in Japanese games particularly for over-the-top-battles, but no matter how many times I’ve heard it before. this track will always have a special spot in my heart.

Overall, though, the soundtrack isn’t exactly groundbreaking, nor are the graphics. They are pleasant and serviceable enough — just don’t expect them to make your eyes pop out.

“WTF” FACTOR
The “WTF FACTOR” in this game is amazing. Fans of Suda know that he’s just batshit crazy and that comes across beautifully in this game. One of the pieces of dialogue that had me scratching my head was a back and forth about trains, where one of the female characters was left behind because trains are a “man’s passion”, and because they’re “too powerful for women”.

This was perhaps the most insane though, Alice, a character from early on in the game, gets a bit of a make over…

DAY ONE DLC
Yes, the game comes with on-disc day one DLC. It has two side missions, one main mission and one beauty. But if you don’t get the DLC pack because you’re thinking of buying it secondhand then you’ll notice something: some of the Scarlett challenges are missing! That’s right, they’ve actually taken out Scarlett Challenges and hidden them behind some locked content, which truthfully sucks.

The main mission, “Mission 51″ pits you against a vampire and does introduce some new enemies, which is nice. It’s an interesting level but I must have spent around half of the playtime running around in the dark getting lost in some bizarre “light these torches” puzzle.

It did add a little to the gameplay though, but nothing over an hour, even with the constant getting lost and extra missions.

Conclusion
I loved this game, and fans of Suda 51 will, too, without a doubt. But the story just confused me, and the lack of real character development means that this game fell short on one side, but it made up for it with the amazing, exhilarating gameplay. Regarding the plot, the story does make sense…once you’ve actually worked out what’s going, that is.

So if you’re a fan of Suda you’ll love this and if you appreciate a good hack ‘n’ slash then you’ll appreciate it more. It could do with a crank up on the difficulty, and it’s way, way too damn short (you can finish it literally in a day). But if you like your action fast, intense and all sorts of kooky, Killer is Dead will fill that gap with a fried egg and then some.

Pros
Fast-paced action never gets dull
Crazy Suda51 madness

Cons
Too short
Not challenging enough
Day One DLC locks the Scarlett Missions

Final Verdict: 8/10 (Killer is Dead is a perfect example of how the sum of a game is better than its parts, go buy it if you’re a Suda51 fan or just dig batshit crazy action games)

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A promotional copy of Killer is Dead was supplied to me by Deep Silver, I played the game on Normal and Very Hard. It took around 9 hours to finish on Normal and 6 hours on Very Hard. I had sex, lots and lots of sex. And stabbed lots of enemies, but mostly had sex, to replace my lack of sex in real life.