Whether you’re a fan of his work or not there’s no denying that Goichi Suda (aka SUDA51) and his team at Grasshopper Manufacture have made some very influential videogames. Eschewing modern convention as if the studio spun off onto a different timeline at the start of the current-generation, the likes of No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw exist in a world completely removed from the DmC: Devil May Crys and God of Wars from recent years. These are videogames that build their mechanics on yesteryear, modernising with their auxiliary conditions instead: theme and delivery. Killer is Dead is exactly this shape also; a videogame that arguably could’ve been delivered on the GameCube had any publisher had the passion and courage to match SUDA51’s own.
Nowadays having SUDA51’s name attached to a videogame means a lot more for the success of a title than it did a decade ago. Despite the fact that most of his works are distastefully obscure, he himself is not: a known and respected face in the videogames industry that openly pushes against the boundaries erected for interactive entertainment. He is keen to tell his tales and doesn’t let the limitations of the medium hamper them, instead choosing to engage with them.
Killer is Dead is fairly formulaic in its combat system. Standard attacks are complimented by guard breaks, parries and dodge manoeuvres, all of which are designed to give the player the upper hand when overwhelmed by enemy numbers or raw power of a single foe. The player must manage two meters, health and blood, the latter of which determines both the strength of your abilities in combat and the availability of long range attacks. Blood is earned by inflicting damage on opponents, and fallen enemies will often drop body parts that will eventually offer permanent boosts to the maximum capacity of both health and blood.
This is the long and short of Killer is Dead; it’s a videogame that lives and dies on its combat system. There’s the occasional distraction but for the most part the core missions will see the player fighting an impressive variety of enemies that demand you adapt your knowledge of the combat system to fit specific scenarios. Along the way you’ll unlock side missions, the majority of which also follow this formula. Some however, will set you a very different task.
Killer is Dead features a number of mini-games wherein the main objective is to woo the woman you desire. In doing so you’ll unlock a special bonus that will help you in the campaign, such as new abilities for your robotic left arm, but doing so will require a little more than simply being nice. You must also be fairly creepy, ogling the girls every time they look away and showering them with an odd assortment of gifts once your arousal has piqued. It’s odd and a little distasteful, sure, but it’s also in keeping with the character whose shoes you are walking in.
As might be expected from a videogame set in the same universe as Killer 7, Killer is Dead is a unique videogame experience. However, unlike the GameCube and PlayStation 2 classic, Killer is Dead is pretty close to the standard expectation of an action videogame. It too feels like SUDA51 has ignored the current-generation advances for the genre and pushed in a different direction all of its own, and it’s not a direction that will appeal to everyone, but it should be recognised as inspired in it’s delivery nonetheless.