Killer is Dead Review

Blending No More Heroes, Killer7 and James Bond Into One

Site Score
5.7
Good: Rewarding Combat, Bold and Beautiful Design
Bad: Story Lacks Depth, Gigolo Missions, Technical Issues
User Score
6.7
(13 votes)
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Suda51 is at it again. Him and the rest of the Grasshopper Manufacture team have crafted another unusual (to say the least) experience that will probably fly under the radar for most. Killer is Dead is the latest crazy concoction to make its way out of GM’s lab of mad scientists and it looks like they’ve taken a piece of their popular past games, Kiler7 and No More Heroes, and mixed it with certain aspects of James Bond films. The game takes place in the near future where cybernetic enhancements (a la Deus Ex) and vacations on the moon are commonplace.

Our protagonist, Mondo Zappa, is a suave, sharply-dressed assassin equipped with an even sharper sword and a transforming cyborg arm. This assassin works for the Bryan Execution Firm, a government agency which takes on assassinations at their own leisure and where payment is primarily taken care of through taxpayer dollars. Sure, it sounds straightforward now, but as you might expect from a game with Goichi Suda’s name on it, things get a little weird.

Let’s find out what’s HOT and what’s NOT in our review of Killer is Dead

HOT

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Rewarding Combat
Killer is Dead sports Grasshopper Manufacture’s best combat yet. The combos, while limited, are fluid and satisfying as Mondo’s sword slashes through the opposition. The combat is standard fare for what releases nowadays — a basic attack button, a guard breaking heavy attack and a dodge button — but it’s in the execution of the combat mechanics that makes controlling the assassin so entertaining. The basic attacks utilize the sword whereas the heavy attacks see the use of Mondo’s fist with later upgrades bringing in bigger blows with the cyborg arm. The combat shines once you get combos and dodging down. Perfectly timing a strafe can leave an enemy completely open and the game will drain all color except red and black. In this state, Mondo will hack away at the enemy with superhuman speed as their health steadily plummets.

Mastering these counters is a highlight of the game. Furthermore, keeping the combo up rewards the player with a finish option called Final Judgement, which comes in four flavors: Assassination, Slaughter, Punishment and Execution. Each one provides a different item, ranging from the life-bar extending diamonds to the Moon Crystal currency. The latter can be used to buy combat upgrades for Mondo or gifts for the ladies, but more on that later.

Let’s not forget about Mondo’s left arm,. His cybernetic arm named Musselback may come off as a Mega Man blaster, but it turns out it goes a bit deeper than that. While it is capable of firing plasma shots (projectiles that can one-shot unarmored enemies with a headshot) similar to Capcom’s blue icon, it can also transform to take on a variety of needs. You can change to the Freeze Shooter to slow down enemies or the Drill to barrel through armored opponents or weak walls. Regardless of which of the four unlockable sub-weapons you choose, you’ll need “BLOOD” to power it. Fortunately, enemies are all too willing to spill their BLOOD, along with health and other items, to charge up your arsenal. The fluidity of combat is something to be admired given Grasshopper Manufacture’s past clunky offerings.

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Bold and Beautiful Design
Killer is Dead sports a cel-shaded art style with a darker vibe. The heavy emphasis on black and red, especially during the counter attacks, really brings this stylistic action game together. The art style is one of the main draws here and it only gets better when that style is laid over some truly insane environments. Early missions see Mondo going through an Alice in Wonderland inspired madhouse infested with insects while another has the suited killer battling a man, whose clothing option would make Soul Calibur’s Voldo blush, with a god complex on the moon. The interesting design options are also prevalent in the game’s structure as well. Mondo will conduct part of a boss battle through the eyes of the boss. So the player has to maneuver Mondo toward their screen and dice themselves up. Design decisions like this span across nearly all of the boss encounters, making each one a memorable battle.

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Killer is Dead Review, 6.7 out of 10 based on 13 ratings
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2 Comments

  1. Desfunk
    September 1, 2013, 5:42 PM

    I’m curious if we played the same game? I just beat the ps3 version. And other then load screens for new locations and/or cutscenes, i didn’t see anything excess throughout the game.

    Yes, the gigolo missions are creepy. But they’re just in their as a joke. I’m not sure why so many people are getting their panties in a bunch over them. You can easily beat the game without ever use them. And if you can trudge through each girl at least once, you get a new gun out of each one. The rest is just trophy farming i believe.

    Having beat the game in a relatively short time (7 hours). I don’t find the story as confusing as everyone else has made it to be. To stay away from spoilers, the game starts off throwing you in the middle of everything. But as it goes on, you get little glimpses through dreams of back story. By the end, all the major points have come together. And although it’s one hell of a messed up ending, i still liked it.

    But i’ve always had a soft spot for everything Suda makes. He has this knack for making games so damn mentally messed up, that you kinda just go along for the ride. Waiting to see what next piece of craziness will come from his mind. His monster and character design is always top notch. And using Yamaoka for the soundtrack was perfect. Since it adds that extra touch of subtle creepiness to the game.

    I haven’t touched many of the side missions. But i definitely plan on going back to it! And will be yet another game in my Suda collection. Yeah, it’s not his best game. But it’s still up there as one of the better ones he’s made. Mostly considering it’s getting just that much closer to having proper controls lol

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  2. Josh Garibay
    September 2, 2013, 6:48 PM

    I, too, am a Suda51 fan. His style and design choices are very unique and worth experiencing. But when reviewing a game, one must try to remain objective. I have to view this game as if it were developed by anyone else. I can’t let my personal view of Suda sway my decision of the game. The fact is, if any other current-gen game suffered these technical issues, it would be unacceptable. And I do believe the loading screens are excessive. Inserting them between short cutscenes breaks the immersion. This isn’t the PS2. These issues can not be written off simply because Suda’s name is on it.

    While the Gigolo missions may be a joke, it wasn’t a funny one. Some jokes just don’t deliver the punchline well, and this is one of those instances. Even though they are optional side quests, the sub weapons are tied to them. To maximize your combat effectiveness, you’ll have to obtain these weapons, meaning most people will feel forced to trudge through this sleazy addition.

    The story finally reaches an interesting point toward the end, but it takes 3/4 of the game to get there. While the bosses are wild and entertaining, they don’t make a great story themselves. What it comes down to is you have to assess the game’s strengths and weaknesses without letting your “soft spot for everything Suda makes” override what you’d normally find acceptable in a full price ($60) game.

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