Decently fun combat system and a fantastic art style.
It's just sad that everything else is an uninspired mess.
Killer is Dead is the latest from Suda 51, creator of Killer7 and No More Heroes, and as a longtime fan of both those games, I was very excited for this game. However, since I’m not the only Suda 51 fan at The Game Fanatics, I talked Greg DeVries into reviewing the game with me. The following is the raw discussion of the merits of Killer is Dead.
Ben: So I was really looking forward to this game. The trailers made it look like a return to form with a Killer7-esque storytelling and graphical style. Since I know how we both feel about how things turned out, let’s start with the positives. The art style and direction are both fantastic.
Greg: I too was very much looking forward to the game. It really is a beautiful game. If there was ever to be an HD remake of Killer7, I would want it to look just like Killer is Dead. The characters are visually impressive and the action looks great, especially the rush counters and executions. It’s very visually fluid and enticing. I love games with unique and stylized visuals and on that matter, Killer is Dead succeeds with flying colors.
Ben: Agreed. Speaking of the action, I really enjoyed the melee combat. It was very fast and encouraged a lot of dodging, which I like. It is limited to only one button though (two if you count a move that isn’t comboable and is only useful to break guards). There are enough enemy types to keep things interesting as well.
Greg: The combat, when it’s on, is very good. When they’re throwing a bunch of enemies at you and you are dodging from enemy to enemy, slicing and dicing, it’s not only impressive, but looks great as well. Comboing kills and getting a huge chain of execution moves going, that’s when the game is at its finest. However, I do feel the combat to be really basic. I really only used two buttons, square to attack, and circle to dodge. I hardly ever used the sub weapons (only if an enemy was flying), and didn’t touch triangle. I mean, at least Dynaty Warriors has light and heavy attacks that chain together. What about you Ben, did you use the sub weapons much?
Ben: Mostly it was for the flying guys as you said. Towards the end there are more sniper dudes that you have to shoot though. And the unlockable drill weapon is handy for the shield guys. The charge gun is sort of useful. Overall, they aren’t that meaningful.
Greg: Lollipop Chainsaw had better combat. Killer is Dead feels like a step backwards by oversimplifying as well as not throwing enough enemies as you. Naturally Chainsaw had hordes of enemies, as zombies do tend to do that, but for a game that’s supposed to be focused on killing things with a katana and looking good doing it, there doesn’t seem to be enough enemies to kill. Most of the time, you’re going to be mashing square, killing about 6ish guys, then running for a bit to the next kill room.
I kinda long for Metal Gear Revengeance’s Blade Mode. That really felt like you were using a SWORD, controlling the cuts, instead of just hoping your hits connected.
Ben: Well, to be totally honest, you didn’t finish the game. There are more and more guys as it goes on but still it is pretty basic. It had more than enough style to it to keep me coming back though. Let’s also mention the boss fights, which to me were a highlight. The majority are super unique, challenging and fun. I would say that they were the best part of the game but some were uninteresting and required no strategy. It’s a bit of a mixed bag with them.
Greg: This is true. I did not finish the game. I tried, I really did. I wanted to like the game so bad but I just couldn’t do it. The bosses, when good, were good. They were quite fun unless they were cheap and annoying. And I know that each game should be judged on its own, but Grasshopper games are supposed to have some of the best boss battles.
No More Heroes 1 and 2, and Lollipop Chainsaw had incredible boss battles that were challenging but not unfair for the most part.
But yeah, I couldn’t finish the game. I was bored, frustrated and confused to the point I had to say it just wasn’t worth my time. I really did want to love it as much as I do previous games
Ben: Me too. Let’s talk about how it all fell apart then: the story. I really enjoyed the first 3-4 missions. I thought they were intriguing and showed a lot of promise. That quickly fell apart as I realized that, not only was it being confusing just to be confusing, it wasn’t ever even going to try and tie it together. Suda games have always been weird but they were grounded in that weirdness. Killer is Dead is weird just to be weird and it comes off as a poor imitation of his past work. The main plotline goes nowhere for half the game and then tries a twist that makes no sense and is largely irrelevant to everything else. There is no motivation for any of it.
Greg: I think therein lies the main problem. Suda games have always been weird, that’s a large part of the charm, but they’re coherently weird. Disembodied assassin with severe MPD. Ok. Messed up, but followable. Chainsaw wielding high school cheerleader zombie killer. Sure, why not? The plots are confusing, but followable.
Killer is Dead just feels like random words put together. Like an extremely poor mad lib. Killer7 ended with a huge awesome reveal that completely changed the rest of the game. Mind blowing. And the characters. I am huge on characters. A game can have a groundbreaking story, but if there aren’t characters I can like and latch onto, forget it. As well as vice versa. Awesome characters in a mediocre story, and I’ll still love it.
Taking a quick look back at previous Suda leads, Juliet, Travis, the Smiths, they’re VERY memorable and likable characters. I found the cast of Killer is Dead either boring (Mondo, Vivienne) or outright annoying (Bryan, Mika). Without those characters to latch onto, I couldn’t deal with the rest of the game. It felt like they were trying to make Mondo a cross between Dan Smith and Travis and just failed at every turn.
Ben: It’s like it didn’t quite know what it wanted to be. The opening tone is dark but later there are stupid jokes about how ‘every man loves trains’ one mission followed by battling demons in a dream the next. It’s all over the place and none of it works. Vivienne and Mika have zero character development and the things that happen to the other two are insignificant. It’s kind of frustrating when you think about how great this concept could be when it falls apart so horribly.
Greg: Even as early as the second mission, he mentions that he has to kill the boss ‘for the sake of the game. It IS an action game.’ A 4th wall breaking joke that feels very out of place. Is it serious? Dark? Funny? It feels very disjointed. There are plenty of good ideas, but they all fall flat. Not that games can’t change pace, but they need to have at least a consistent tone to them so you notice the change and what the change signifies.
Ben: I think that quote is in the 4th mission actually but it really doesn’t matter. It not any one thing and therefore is nothing. The whole game suffers for it. There’s no direction at all. I only kept playing because I enjoyed the combat and to see what the next boss was going to be. The side missions were interesting as well.
Greg: I did like some of the side missions. They changed the pace a bit, as much as one can in this type of game. And then there’s those, other missions. Ben knows what I mean. The really awkward ones where I hoped no one would walk into the room and I would have to explain why I was trying to look up girls skirts.
The gigolo missions (awful, awful name) are essentially an extremely horrible dating sim that’s technically optional but the only way to get your sub weapons. They’re kinda of like a game of red light green light, as is you’re trying to look a girl’s naughty bits when she’s not looking.
Ben: Yeah the whole goal there is to get enough guts to give them a gift to win their heart and then have sex with them. It’s at the very least super awkward and unnecessary. To be honesty the sex scenes afterwards really aren’t worth it either. It’s just another strange thing that doesn’t fit in this game.
Greg: In a time when there are many 3rd person action games around, I find it extremely hard to recommend Killer is Dead to anyone. The visual style is impressive, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that it falters in literally every other area. I can’t even recommend it to huge Suda fans, as Ben and I ARE huge Suda fans. I found the overall endeavor frustrating, confusing, and simply not fun. It has nothing to merit it worthy of your time or money, sadly. That said, I will happily give Suda and Grasshoper Manufacture a chance on their next game
Ben: Agreed, but I will be very cautious about their games from here on out. I liked the combat more than you did but there’s much better combat to be found in this year’s DmC or Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, so just pick up either of those instead.
Greg: Exactly. If you’re looking for a high octane action game, you’ll need to look elsewhere. I really just kinda feel bad for the game. It tries but fails so bad
Ben: That sums is up rather nicely.
I hope everyone enjoyed this laid-back, conversational review style. It’s something I want to start doing more of when multiple people on staff play the same game. Until next time, Killer is Dead. (That’s totally a reference to Killer is Dead that no one will get because this review just scared away anyone who was left thinking about trying it.)