Review by jehonaker

Reviewed: 04/16/09

Four years later, Killer7 is still remarkably unique and refreshing.

Killer7.
Easily one of the most polarizing games of the sixth generation, this Grasshopper publication surfaced as one of the "Capcom 5". There was nothing that was like it, be it in actual gameplay or overall story, when it saw release in 2005.

Simply put, it is more semblant of an experimental film or an arthouse production than anything else. The atmosphere, story, and mechanics that propel this game are without parallel, both in good and bad ways. Yet it comes together in a strange way, truly more than the sum of its parts.

-Gameplay
Let's be frank...Killer7 is not known for amazing gameplay. It's an unorthodox rail shooter with puzzles, in simplest terms: hold (A) to advance, press (B) to reverse course, and hold the control stick to change path at the frequent junctions. Hold (R) to convert to a first-person perspective and aim, press (L) to scan for Heaven Smiles, and press (A) to open fire. Dead enemies spew blood that can be used to upgrade characters, solve puzzles, or recover life. Items to solve puzzles are used automatically, as are the seven rings you have access to while equipped.

While the gameplay is simplistic, it actually works a lot better than it sounds. While the inability to explore is initially jarring, the on-rails aspect actually makes some sense in the grand scheme of the game. The shooting element works very well, similar to Resident Evil 4 in certain aspects.

Unfortunately, certain aspects are problematic. The puzzles are largely intuitive and easy, but some of them are rather clever. You have to change between the characters often, which can disrupt the flow of the game. Death is handled in a weird way: the seventh character enters the level to retrieve their head in a bag, and his death results in a game over. Again, this is rather irritating when you have to retread a portion of the level, invariably infested with the lethal Heaven Smiles, just to charge back through when you return to that character. In a way, it helps in that it keeps you from seeing the Game Over screen, but this tends to make the game easier...easier than it could be.

The main issue is how unorthodox it is. Saying that the controls are bad would imply that they are somehow clunky, counterintuitive, or unworkable, and they aren't any of those things. They're just...weird, and they take a lot of getting used to. And, somehow, Killer7 pulls it off without coming across as too experimental or too insane.
Gameplay score: 8/10

-Story and Presentation
The game, simply put, is gorgeous. The art style is excellently done, and the actual movements and actions of the characters clock in as among the best to grace the Gamecube or Playstation 2. There is a lot of blood in the game, and it's done just right so that it's never too overbearing or too cheap.
Music and sound are other positive points...the tunes of the game are very well done, conveying the atmosphere of the game perfectly and mirroring the mood of the characters, and the sound effects (especially the creepy laughter of the Heaven Smiles) work out nicely.

The story, on the other hand...needless to say, Killer7 has one of the most intricate and unusual stories ever to grace a video game. It's deep, with many levels of analysis and allegory, and the chances of anyone understanding the story fully are microscopic. You need to play through multiple times to fully grok what is going on, and even then more playthroughs would not hurt. The crazy cast of characters adds an additional element to the story...they may not say a whole lot, but you want to listen to them because what they say might come in handy. Oh, and most of the characters you talk to are dead.
Also, saying anything about the story risks a spoiler. There are all of these intricate details and unusual quirks, so much that everything seems related when it might not be and might be when it's not.

That being said, the story is very, very good, one of the best of the sixth generation of games. It's almost cinematic in overall structure and presentation, and it stands out as the game's strongest area.
Story and Presentation score: 10/10

-Replay and Length
This game is pretty high on the replay value, thanks to the completely whacked-out story. You will likely want to play through again, but for another reason: the Killer8 mode, which adds another character into the mix and turns the difficulty up to "Bloodbath".

As for length...the game's not that long. There are nine levels to play through, divided into six targets, with a final extra level at the end to wrap up a couple more details (and even that level throws out more curveballs than the entire story of most games.
All in all, you'll probably burn anywhere from nine to thirteen hours on a playthrough, depending on how stuck you get or how much you die. Not too short, but not long to the point where the game drags on for a period no shorter than eternity.
Replay and Length score: 9/10

+Final Thoughts
Before I give a final summary, Killer7 is a rare game that actually earns its M-rating from the ESRB. There is a lot of blood, cursing, and content otherwise you would only find in an R-rated game. Think carefully before you let a kid play this game...while it's excellent, it is clearly a game meant for a more mature audience.

It's very tough to write at length on Killer7, simply because it's a game unlike any other. The mechanics, art style, and story are very unconventional and unorthodox, and it's a game you can't just hope to let you in...you need to jump into the story. If you let yourself get into Killer7, though, you'll find an unusually witty, well-done game that offers relevant commentary and makes you think...unusual for a game with more blood and profanity than the conventional R-rated movie.
All in all, it's a game that deserves to be remembered, remembered for all the right reasons.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Killer7 (US, 07/07/05)

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