Review by Mestevron

Reviewed: 07/26/05

A Polemic Cel Shaded Multiple Personality Third Person Shooter On Rails?

The contradictory nature of Killer 7 almost defines the video game. On one hand, all the graphics are done in cel shading, a style that is synonymous with children's games. Yet, this game is definitely not for the hands, eyes, or even the ears of children, as it is easily the most offensive video game ever released. At first glance, Killer 7 appears to be a third person action adventure game with a very unique artistic direction. Virtually all games of the action adventure genre have a heavy emphasis on exploration and puzzles that require the player to search every bit of each level for clues. Unlike these games, Killer 7 deliberately takes many steps backwards by limiting the amount of exploration that can be done by putting the player on rails, and by giving away clues on almost every puzzle. In the end, the question that needs to be answered is, does this game succeed because of its attempt to be different?

The surface of the story works fairly well, as Killer 7 is about a shape-shifter assassin with seven other personalities. With each personality comes an individual physical form and specialized abilities. Depending on the circumstances, it is ideal to change to change to a different personality to deal with the varying enemies, obstacles, and puzzle elements. The personality switching is not the only novelty behind this game, as there are many more.

The most noticeable difference in between the game-play of Killer 7 and other third person shooters is its unorthodox controls. Whereas most on-foot video games rely on the directional pad or the analog stick to move the player, Killer 7 uses the "A" button to move forward, the "B" button to turn around, and the "Z" trigger to change the camera to and from a second person perspective. Although this sounds awkward, considering that the player moves on rails, it actually works quite well. The only real limitation of these controls is that the player is not able to strafe or walk backwards. When retreating from an enemy, the player must turn around and then move forward away from the enemy. One of the benefits of putting the game on rails is that it allows for some deliberately cinematic camera angles that would be totally unacceptable in any other 3-D game. The cameras in most third person adventure games are located a little behind and a bit above the player. In Killer 7, the camera is usually at a lower angle just above the ground, and a little to the side. Another benefit of the rail movement system is that it significantly reduces the time wasted on mindless treasure hunts that plague so many of today's video games. Another addition to minimizing the amount of time with puzzles is the inclusion of hints on the map. Certain icons will appear on the map, almost giving away everything a player has to do at a specific location in order to progress through the game.

Unlike moving, the attacks are a little bit less obscure, but still unique in its own ways. Shooting is accomplished by holding down the right trigger to enter the aiming mode, the left analog stick is used to aim, and pressing the "A" button to shoots. There is the option of locking onto enemies by pressing the "B" button, and changing enemy lock-on by using the directional pad. When the right trigger is depressed, the cross hair will appear in first person mode. The cross hair is very realistic, as it takes into consideration recoil and an unsteady hand. Although it is necessary to reload the firearms with the C-stick, oddly, the player has infinite ammunition. While reloading, the player will be seen from a second person perspective, and as soon as reloading has been completed, the camera will return to the first person perspective if the right trigger is still held down.

To add to the bizarreness of this game, all of the fodder enemies are invisible suicide bombers. In order to see them, the left trigger needs to be depressed along with the right trigger. As a result, the player will be moving around in an environment that is seemingly devoid of enemies. Without using the left trigger, the player only becomes aware of the presence of the enemies when their sinister laugh is heard or when accidentally running into one of them. The invisible enemies and the need to use the left trigger feel like a pointless and silly addition to the game. It would have made more sense to have the right trigger do both the work of aiming and making the enemies visible, as the left trigger does nothing unless the right trigger is pressed. All the enemies being invisible to the naked eye is also questionable. Upon hearing a sinister laugh, the player will need to go into first person mode to look around for enemies, thus ruining the pace of the game.

Another element that attempts to separate this game from almost every other video game is its mature rating. This game has non-stop blood and guts. The visuals are explicitly graphic, leaving nothing to the imagination. People will be brutally murdered, limbs will be blown off, and bodies will be set on fire, all of which ironically, are rendered in the cartoony cel-shaded style. The environments aren't very detailed, but the artistic direction makes for some very interesting and unique scenery that contrast with all the brutal killings. Accompanying the odd visuals is the equally as odd audio. The audio consists mostly of some strange electronica noises for music, but the music inevitably plays second-fiddle to the competent voice acting. This game is filled with countless swears, and although the same swear-filled catchphrases will be said over and over again, this will never agonize the sort of person that enjoys M rated games.

For a video game that is abundant in mindless violence and crude language, it is ironic that Killer 7 contains a fair amount of intelligent political commentary. Some of the topics that this game touches upon include the relationship between Japan and the United States, the ministry (department) of education, elections, terrorism, and subtle elements of theology. It's not just the politics of both country that gets satirized, but the culture as well. For example, in one particular stage all the cut-scenes are in anime, and the stage ends as a parody of a Japanese media product.

All of the above points may or may not be interpreted as innovative by most gamers, but there is one contribution that stands out about this game that deserves its own paragraph of commendation. One of the biggest problems of modern video games is that there is a tremendous amount of senseless backtracking. This is a prime example of developer laziness, as the game developers would rather have the player use the same level geometry more than once instead of going through some new environments. In Killer 7, the complete opposite is true. The fine folks at Capcom actually bothered to create extra paths for the player to backtrack as shortcuts in case the player missed an item or objective. These paths are an unnecessary part to explore if the player has completed everything that had to be done in that area.

The idea of including shortcuts for backtracking is an example of unrivaled generosity of the developers to make the game more player friendly. But then again, the whole game is devoted to making itself as player friendly as possible. In recent times, many people have started to find that video games have become too complex and tedious, and the innovations of Killer 7 are attempts to fix these problem. This game tries to please many of the older gamers with its mature and complex themes, but manages to keep the game-play as simple as possible while pursuing the less travelled road of artistic creativity Although the unorthodox controls will inevitably alienate a lot of gamers, Capcom can not be faulted for its attempt at originality, as the gaming industry is over-saturated with cookie-cutter games.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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