Review: Killer is Dead Richard Berry 27 August, 2013 Features, Game Reviews, Retail Games Suda51 returns to take another stab at realising his rather ‘interesting’ mind into a video game. If Tarantino made video games it would probably play something like Killer is Dead. It’s cool, stylish and would fit the style of Tarantino’s Kill Bill. The last Suda51 game I played was Shadows of the Damned in which he was the Executive Producer, I can’t say I was a fan and thankfully I found KiD to be far more enjoyable. The graphic novel style is gorgeous The game unfolds in episodes, some of which are rather short. This gives variety to the levels which never drag on too long although the use of episodes can be quite jarring and break what little cohesion there is in the story. You are Mondo, an assassin with a soft-boiled egg addiction tasked with completing contracts for your clients, to say that the missions are weird would be the understatement of the century, then again the clients you work for aren’t exactly normal. How about taking on a contract that sees you travel to the dark side of the moon or to fight someone riding a huge tiger? One of your clients even turns into a small bird when you complete their job! This is just some of the craziness that awaits you in KiD. You’d be forgiven for feeling a little confused during the opening half of the game and even though the story is beautifully delivered you probably won’t have a clue what is going on during the initial throes of the game, even despite some exquisite voice acting. Just when you think you’ve caught up with what’s going on the game draws to a close, its conclusion spins everything on its head and leaves the door open for a sequel – it’s weird but wonderful. The Japanese voices are equally brilliant and KiD deserves to be played in its native tongue with English subtitles. The soundtrack is also rather sublime, it’s beautifully composed and used perfectly throughout the game. Combat is simple but it’s only when you put all the techniques together that it ‘clicks’ Similar in style to Devil May Cry, you start with a limited number of combos and abilities, to upgrade them and unlock new skills you must collect Moon Stones which are dropped by enemies. Each combo and slash of your sword sets off a blaze of stylish effects which compliment the fantastic looking visuals of KiD, it’s a shame that I suffered a fair amount of screen tearing. Pitched somewhere between a graphic novel and a well shot action movie there is plenty to enjoy about the environments as they unfold onscreen – it’s a shame that the menus were rather bland. Your main weapon is a Katana, by hacking apart the various enemies your steel absorbs ‘blood’ which is the game’s power supply. Blood is used to pull off special moves or to heal. You also have a cybernetic arm (although initially not even Mondo remembers how he got it), the weapon adds projectile attacks to your repertoire using a supply of blood as ammunition. The combat is slick and fast, KiD never gets bogged down with complicated moves. From block, dodge and guard break to the various arm and Katana attacks, combat may sound simplistic but it works extremely well and gives a satisfying feel to the action. KiD can also be played by button mashing, you can stumble your way through even the hardest of fights on normal difficulty although you’ll have little appreciation for the real beauty of the combat system. There were only a handful of times that the camera crashed into Mondo making it impossible not to button mash my way out of trouble. Timing is key to KiD, haphazardly attack bosses or dodge without care and you’ll find yourself at the wrong end of a blade. If you wait until the last possible moment to dodge you can use a ‘burst rush’ to unleash a flurry of attacks – mash the x button as fast as you can. Once you’ve worn your enemies down, particularly the tougher ones, you can use the Adrenaline burst attack which uses blood to unleash a powerful strike, essential for quickly finishing some of the tougher enemies or exposing weak spots and destroying bosses. The only downside to the combat is the lack of aerial options available – for all Mondo’s competence in fighting it seems he has forgotten how to jump! It’s not a huge problem but you feel rooted to the ground, unable to vault over the smallest of objects. Aerial attacks could have doubled the combat options available to Mondo and I think it’s an oversight not to include them. This does however mean you’ll need to rely on your arm weapons to reach elevated enemies, had you been able to jump I fear your arm abilities may have been surplus to requirement. Killer is Dead sure has a confusing storyline There’s a combo counter in the top of your HUD and if you can rack up a high enough streak before you finish an enemy, you may pass judgment on them. By choosing A,B,Y or X you can perform four different executions each rewarding you in a bonus item drop – from health recovery to Moon gems, be quick in deciding though because the execution wheel doesn’t appear for long and button mashers may find themselves at the mercy of their clumsy presses! KiD features several mini games for you to tackle. Challenge arena missions are unlocked when you find the nurse ‘Scarlet’ who is hidden throughout each mission. She challenges you to a show of style and you must take down a group of enemies using a particular technique – great for honing your skills in one of the combat disciplines. The other combat mini game is taken straight from Devil May Cry, upon completing a mission you unlock its challenge mode – a timed combat objective, but the most random and rather juxtaposed mini game is the Gigilo missions. The reward is some sweet unlocks for your cybernetic arm but first you must sit through a rather strange game where you must perv at a lady without getting a slap in the face. Fill your blood meter and you may present her with a gift, fill her heart meter and you’ll get a reward. It makes total sense doesn’t it! Killer is Dead is certainly one of my favourite titles of 2013 KiD will certainly be one of those ‘marmite’ games, with some being discouraged by the awkward use of sex, a bit like how Shadows of the Damned divided opinion for its sexual overtones. For me the graphics, combat and style of the game really griped me whereas Shadows of the Damned didn’t strike the same chord. It took me a few levels to master all the techniques available and tie them together and when it clicked I felt the game was rather easy, although this did mean I could sit back and enjoy the ride, able to appreciate the beautiful ‘firework display’ visuals pouring across the screen. There’s plenty to get your teeth into and like a tough piece of meat you just have to work at it. It’s quirky and one of the weirdest games that I’ve played but it’s unique and makes for a great change in pace to the usual games that we see released. So here’s to one of the most random and possibly best offerings of the year.