Review by ReDead01
A masterpiece in its own unique way
Over the last few years the gaming industry has been on top form. Its more profitable than cinema and the standard of truly great games has been plentiful recently. However, one thing its lacking is creativity. Im not saying its non-existent, but games that truly go against the grain and try something new are being greatly smothered out by more generic by the book titles.
Killer7 defies this statement, however. Honestly, you will never have played anything like this in your life. Thats not to say that this is an irrefutable masterpiece no matter who you are, quite the contrary. Like all pieces of media entertainment that attempt to distance themselves from the crowd Killer7 lacks qualities that make it accessible to everyone. This is a love it or hate it type of game- but if it finds its right audience Killer7 is an unrivalled experience in style and originality.
THE STORY OF SEVEN ASSASSAINS
Killer7 is seeped in overall weirdness and that fact begins in its storyline. Its set in an alternate present day where the worlds biggest threat is a terrorist group known as Heavens Smile. Now, Heavens Smile arent your standard terrorists; in fact they consist of zombie-like creatures that wear constant grins on their faces and detonate on contact. Like I said; Killer7 is far from normal in almost every regard.
To combat this threat the American government enlist the help of Killer7- a deadly assassination squad consisting of seven multi-ranged assassins, each with their own abilities. The thing is, however, that these assassins only exist within the mind of Harman Smith- and aging wheelchair-bound killer, who is able to manifest his form into each member of the Killer7. You play as each assassin, but in reality youre only Harman. Put simply, the game is about the Killer7s battles to eradicate the Heavens Smile and their enigmatic leader Kun-Lan, but suffice to say things are a whole lot more complex than that. Giving anymore away would be sin though.
Odd though it undoubtedly is, I must say that Killer7s plotline was one of the most interesting and colourful stories Ive encountered in the gaming industry. Its not the most structurally sound though- its made up of several chapters and, quite strangely, the middle chapters completely abandon the main plot of the game in favour of side stories that dont contribute to the overall action. But this isnt really a complaint. The stories youll be playing out are so rich with originality and weirdness that, if youre like me, you wont mind.
Not the mention the fact that this games narrative is ripe with heavy themes and applicable statements on modern politics. It may be weird, but its far from dumb. Killer7 has a lot to say; only its method of saying it is never quite clear. This is an ambiguous story; if youre the type of person who loves to dissect plotlines and form your own interpretations then youll love Killer7. Its purposefully indefinite but constantly intriguing. It ranges from darkly disturbing to laugh-out-loud funny. And youll encounter some truly disconcerting characters along the way- after playing this Iwazaru will linger in your memory. Trust me.
Luckily, the assortment of oddballs that appear in this game are all voiced quite expertly. Theres nothing more satisfying than playing a game with wholly solid voice acting, as such an accomplishment is rare, but Killer7 takes the prize. Characters are brought to life through their voice actors and even if theyre just spouting random badass lines during gameplay, the work done here is very much appreciated.
But one of the truly disappointing aspects of the story is how little is revealed about the central characters. Youre treated to a fascinating range of main characters (Ill outline them in the gameplay section) yet, aside from a couple of exceptions, we learn very little about them. Most dont even have any line of dialogue to speak in cutscenes, making them nothing more than lifeless characters for you to play as. This is the one slip-up in what is otherwise a gripping story.
Importantly though, this is very mature stuff. There are few games that Id say are truly inappropriate for young gamers, but this is definitely one of them. Its violent, albeit cartoonishly, with plenty of faces being shot at point blank range on display. The dialogue is full of profanities and its suggestively dark. Youll encounter plots that deal with very dark material so if youre a young-un Id give this one a miss.
One of the most resounding aspects of Killer7 is its unique style. The developers use the cel-shading technique to great effect and really manage to create their own unique style- a feat achieved in few games and certainly not in ones as mature as this. A realistic approach has been discarded in favour of a more comic book feel. You wont find realistically detailed environments on offer; instead youll be treated to canvases of colour that ooze with elegance. Ranging from moody corridors to vibrant city streets, Killer7 offers a hefty variety of areas to play in and theyre all brilliantly displayed.
Characters are also drenched in this unique artistic approach, giving them very anime looks. The character design is pretty solid, but the use of cel-shading results in annoyingly shiny character models. This is especially noticeable upon close-ups of faces, where they can be seen to be glossy and slightly distorted. This is a small complaint however and it probably wont bother more lenient players.
To add to the games excellent style we are also treated to numerous animated cutscenes. Seriously these are fantastic. Like the game itself theyre drenched in style and are evidently professionally created. If youre like me, some of these will blow you away, especially the ones that appear in Chapter 3.
Upon its release Killer7 received a lot of negative press when it came to how its played. Firstly, I wont deny that its unique take on play mechanics isnt exactly as inspired as its unique style or interesting narrative. But one fact that remains is that Killer7 is very functional- it works and it doesnt feel like a chore to play.
So how does it play? Well, while it may appear to be a third-person shooter, it hides a terrible secret. Killer7 has no free-roaming exploration- meaning your characters are stuck firmly on set paths that you can go back and forth on. Theyre on rails. You hold the A button (Gamecube version in mind) to move forward along a designated path and when you reach a fork or a junction you select the direction you want to go on a list that appears on the screen. You can also press B to turn around.
Ill admit that in this day and age playing like this is a large step backwards, but as I said- it works. It really does. At first itll feel annoyingly restrictive, but as you ease into the game it becomes less of a problem. It can be quite irritating to be running around in a beautifully designed area and being robbed of the ability to explore it properly, but I can see Capcoms reasoning behind this method of playing.
The hard fact of the matter is that, quite controversially, Killer7 is perhaps an interactive story first and a game second. A pretty damning thing to say in a game review I know, but thats how it is. The on rails method of exploration gives off the sense that the story is being perceived by the player through a designated perspective, rather than the becoming the character approach that many games would normally take. Then again, I have a haunting feeling in the back of my head that the developers were just trying to be as different as possible for arty reasons. Whatever it is, it worked for me, but depending on your views this could be regarded as the biggest reason not to play this game. But Id like to stress that in my opinion it really isnt bad as it sounds. If the game grabs you youll sink into the mould and this distinctive control scheme wont even be noteworthy anymore. But Id imagine that youd know pretty quickly if it wasnt for you.
AN AIM TO KILL
So youre stuck on rails. But naturally, theres more to this game than walking back and forth on a set course. While navigating through levels youll encounter the Heaven Smile creatures and things will start getting violent. Any time during play you can hold down the R button to go in first-person view with your gun. You cant walk around in this view, only aim.
Heavens Smile creatures are invisible at first so youll only know theyre near by the sound of their laughing. But pressing the L button in first-person view will allow you to scan the area in front of you and all hidden enemies will be revealed. Then the idea is to kill the things before they make their way to where youre standing and explode in your face. This can actually create some pretty tense moments as you shoot wildly to kill the damn things as they near, blowing limbs off in the process. Youre given unlimited ammo to work with, but the need to reload will slow you down so youve got to be efficient.
Some enemies possess weakspots in the form of glowing yellow segments on their bodies. If you bullseye one of these youll take the suckers down in one shot and watch as they evaporate in a very stylistic way. As you progress the Heaven Smiles will taken on various different shapes with more elaborate and difficult ways to hit their weakspots. Not only will killing enemies in this way help save your skin, but itll also yield more blood for you to collect.
Yes, you collect blood. Two kinds of blood actually- thin blood to heal your characters and thick blood to upgrade them. Blood streams out of enemies when you kill them, but you can get it in higher amounts by blowing off limbs or striking a weakspots. Collecting both kinds of blood is essential, as youll need it to make surviving easier.
When you reach certain havens throughout the levels called Harmans Room you can spend your thick blood to improve each of your assassins attributes. For example you can put blood towards improving the power of your gunshots or decreasing the time it takes to reload. You can also learn character-specific skills, such as the ability to take an enemy out in one blow if theyre crawling on the floor. It all works very simply and helps add a bit of depth to the game.
A BUNCH OF BLOODY KILLERS
So what about the Killer7 themselves? Well, there are seven of them (obviously) and they all possess attributes and skills that set them apart from each other. For example- Dan Smith possess a magnum and is capable of charging up shots using blood to create extra powerful attacks, while Kevin Smith is able to become invisible and avoid certain traps. Youll need to utilize each of the sevens different abilities throughout the game, be it Mask de Smiths hulking strength, Con Smiths super speed, Coyote Smiths amazing jumping and lock-picking or KAEDE Smiths peculiar power of spraying blood everywhere to reveal hidden things.
Rounding up the team is Garcian Smith who, although features the most prominent role in the story as he is the only one of the killers who can communicate to Harman, youll probably use the least. Hes the cleaner- his expertise is revitalising deceased characters. So if one of your assassins is killed youll have to switch to Garcian and make your way back to the place of the death and revive the character or you wont be able to use him/her again. Its a neat idea at first, but proves to be nothing more than an annoyance as you play. Backtracking because of a mistake is never fun. It doesnt help that Garcian is absolutely rubbish, equipped only with a small little pistol.
Different killers possess different kind of weapons too, allowing for a bit of strategy to be brought into play. Con packs two fast shooting handguns that gives him the fastest shooting out of the killers while KAEDE has a scope for zooming. Personally though, this diversity went to waste on me, as unless it was absolutely necessary I usually stuck with Dan or Coyote who both have pretty standard single-shooting weapons. So while I appreciate the effort of adding diversity, it was wasted on me. However, you will NEED to use certain characters for certain enemies. Mask De Smith uses two grenade launchers so if an enemy is wearing armour youll need his extra firepower. But as I said, I usually stuck with the two.
PUZZLES FOR DUMMIES
Now for a bit blatant criticism- Killer7 features some pretty horrible puzzles. Puzzle solving can add a whole new depth to a game, but the developers largely missed the mark with this one. Perhaps it was in an effort to keep the game moving along nicely and not have players getting stuck, but this game hold your hand a lot when it comes to puzzle solving. There are areas youll encounter in levels where youll need to make use of a certain killers abilities. A simple example- you reach a high ledge and need Coyotes proficient jumping talents to get up. Even if it wasnt incredibly obvious what to do, the games map will feature a little icon of Coyote at that place. And it does this for all parts where you need to use a character specifically, leaving little room for error and dropping the difficulty somewhat.
Then there are the countless Resident Evil- style puzzles youll encounter- the ones that are completely unrealistic and stick out like a sore thumb even in a game as improbable as Killer7. And its not like theyre challenging- they usually incorporate the usage of special types of rings you collect throughout the game. So you reach a toilet that has no water in it- use the water ring. Or you find unlit candles- use the fire ring. Thats all it is. Actually, in regards to the candle puzzle, you need to light them in a certain order but luckily they have numbers written on them! Is that even a puzzle? Admittedly, there are a couple of clever, yet still easy, puzzles youll come across. I wont spoil them, as theyre the only positive parts of this aspect of the game. Theyre rare, but you do encounter them.
DIFFICULTY AND REPLAYABILITY
Its not an overly difficult game, but it does have its moments. Some of the crazy, demented boss fights youll take part in can be challenging to suss, even if defeating them isnt really that taxing. Its also not exactly a lengthy quest; Id estimate it could take 10-15 hours on the first play through. But it does offer different difficulty settings to replay it on and the highest of these, the Killer8 mode, will add quite a lot of playtime and reward players with stuff they havent seen. But its undeniable that some games offer way more.
NOT JUST A GAME
So okay, thats everything about Killer7. So how does it all add up? Well, its gameplay is far from perfect- functional but flawed. But on the other hand it features one of the most brilliantly distinctive styles and narratives youre likely to ever experience in a game. Its because of this that I give it full marks. Judged squarely on its gameplay, you can remove two, maybe three points from my score.
But Killer7 has so much more to offer. Dont look at it as just a game, but a fully diverse form of entertainment. Youll spend a lot of time merely watching and it could be argued that when youre playing youre not really playing properly, but this is an experience like no other. When I finished it, it stayed with me. Its an experience that resonates for a long time after in a way that few games do. Its a shockingly successful experiment and really is one of the greatest games Ive played. Not for its gameplay, but for the whole ensemble. It achieves what movies have attempted and in some regards accomplishes a lot more than most games have.
But I know for a fact that not everyone will take this stance. Like I said, its not for everyone. But I definitely think its a game that deserves to be tried and definitely one that deserves to be remembered. For some, like me, it could be an unbridled masterpiece but for others nothing more than an arty piece of trash. But you wont know unless you try.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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