When you hear that Suda 51, the mind behind such games as Killer 7, No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw, is working on a new title, you immediately have a certain expectation on what the game will be like. You expect crazy character, fantastic style and, though the game might not be the most fun, it will likely stick with you. That’s what you expect. Killer is Dead, the newest Suda 51 game, however, is sadly missing much of what makes his previous titles stick out so much.
Killer is Dead has you playing as an assassin known as Mondo Zappa. As a contract killer, you’ve killed a number of people. Recently, though, the clientele have all had one thing in common: They are all connected to a man named David. The games plot revolves around figuring out exactly what David wants, and how he is connected to Zappa.
The game’s plot is, often times, a jumbled mess, with half completed thoughts that never are actually explained in much detail. The plot gives you the sense that there is a massive world in Killer is Dead, but it’s almost never explored to any great detail. At one point, the game just decides to say, “Hey, you need to have a fight on the moon now.” You’re never given any details on how you got to the moon. One scene you’re in the office, the next you’re in a business suit on the moon. Even something as simple as a line of dialog saying, “Hey, we need to use the spaceship” or something like that could have at least provided a minimal amount of context.
In fact, that’s probably the biggest weakness that Killer is Dead suffers from. Sure, the game has a ton of weird things happening in it, but hardly any of them are given any context. One scene takes place in an Alice in Wonderland inspired area for almost no reason whatsoever. It feels forced, almost as if Suda 51 just said, “Hey, we’re the guys who make weird things, so let’s just make something weird. No, we don’t need context for it, fans will just love that it’s weird!” It feels oddly pandering in that sense.
That said, the levels all have a lot of fantastic stylistic choices. The games cell-shaded, high contrast color scheme works wonderfully and looks extremely smooth in motion. However, in a few small instances, the colors seem to blend together too much. One mission has you searching through an area for a series of small statues, but they can be extremely difficult to make out among all of the other bright colors the game has.
The gameplay itself is extremely reminiscent of Lollipop Chainsaw and No More Heroes. As the linear story unfolds, you progress through each level. For the most part, you will be using your katana and gun arm to tear through waves of enemies. The combo system is fairly light, allowing for some minor upgrades to your character to add more attack options. For the most part, though, you’ll be hammering away at the attack button, while simultaneously trying to block enemies at the precise right moment to counter their attacks.
Much of the time, the levels are just there to give you something to do before the boss fights. While the levels are decent enough, there is a high amount of repetition in them and you’ll quickly fall into a pattern of knowing exactly how to dispatch enemies quickly and efficiently. However, the boss fights are, for the most part, extremely inspired. One fight has you facing off against a Yakuza member who has a living tiger tattoo that can attack you. Another has you fighting against a living steam locomotive. That is, until you reach the last level of the game.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, the final level is just a repeat of an earlier level, including some of the boss battle from that level. While they do add in more forms for the final boss fight, you still had to repeat the exact same level that you already went through earlier in the game, with slightly different enemies. It feels phoned in, to say the least, especially when a game’s final level will often times be the culmination of everything you’ve done. You’re supposed to go out on a high note, not on the same song you played an hour ago.
No Killer is Dead review would be complete, however, without mentioning the Gigolo Missions. These missions have you bringing out women on dates. During these dates, you have to move your first person camera to try to catch a quick glance down their shirt or at their legs before they turn back and catch you doing it.
Whether or not you view these missions as misogynistic or not, it’s almost undeniable that they feel extremely lazy and uninteresting. They feel like that sort of Flash game that you would find in the Newgrounds Adult section. All you have to do is keep looking at breasts for a few seconds, turn away, look again, turn away, rinse and repeat.
These might not be as unacceptable in the context of this game, however, if they didn’t block your access to getting new weapons. If you want to be able to get all of the games secret challenge levels, you need to be able to access the Drill Arm upgrade, which is only accessible if you complete a Gigolo Mission. Are you uncomfortable with these missions? Too bad, because it’s the only way you’ll be able to get more than 7 hours of gameplay out of Killer is Dead.
Killer is Dead can be fun at times. It has flashes of brilliance in the boss fights and the art style is absolutely gorgeous. There is so much tedium, though. Oftentimes, nothing is explained clearly enough for you to feel immersed in the world and as a result, it feels like it was phoned in. It’s sad because Suda 51 and Grasshopper can create better games. They can create better worlds than the one Killer is Dead occupies. It’s incredibly depressing and one can only hope that this is not the direction that Suda 51 will be going in for the rest of his career.
SCORE: 4.0 out of 10
A copy of Killer is Dead was provided to Pixel Related for review.