Goichi Suda’s latest opus retains his trademark insane style, but it might just be his most playable game yet.
I love Goichi Suda games. I loved Killer7 from the moment that I saw its iconic first screenshot, and I played through No More Heroes and its sequel multiple times. I think Shadows of the Damned is one of the most underrated games of this generation, and I even forced myself to play through Flower, Sun and Rain. While a lot of modern games seem like they were focus tested and designed by committees in order to have as much mass market appeal as possible, Suda has continued to make games that are distinct, daringly unique, and… well, they just have a soul that most triple A titles are simply lacking.
… Of course, while Suda’s games have been filled with avant-garde stories and visuals, the gameplay in his titles has always been a little more utilitarian and basic: Killer7 only featured the simplest of puzzles and action, and No More Heroes was basically River City Ransom with Lightsabers (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) With the possible exception of Shadows of the Damned (which was co-developed with Shinji Mikami, the creator of Resident Evil and the director of great action games like GodHand and Vanquish,) the action in Suda games has always been pretty basic and simple. People have played Suda games for the stories and the imagery, and the gameplay has simply been there to pad out the experience and not get in the way.
Killer Is Dead seems like it might change all that: in addition to some incredibly stylish visuals, the game also features some genuinely fun and rewarding action segments.
Killer Is Dead lets players step into the shoes of Mondo Zappa, a stylishly dressed, sword wielding assassin (who also has a gun for an arm.) The demo was divided in multiple sections: a short tutorial that explained the basic controls, a short demo set in a bar that made you use Zappa’s “Gigolo Vision” to seduce a buxom woman (you have to zoom the camera in on her breasts without her noticing, which was incredibly embarrassing to do in the crowded E3 exhibition hall,) and finally, two assassination missions that gave players a chance to experience Killer Is Dead’s surprisingly robust combat system.
Like I said before, I loved No More Heroes, and Killer Is Dead’s combat features whats basically a more polished, fleshed out version of NMH’s fighting mechanics. Mondo can string together a long combo by simply mashing on the attack button, and he can also do a Zelda-style spinning attack if you hold the button down. Once you’ve weakened an enemy, an on-screen prompt will appear displaying the controller’s four face buttons — depending on which one you press, Mondo will execute the enemy in a variety of brutal — yet incredibly satisfying — ways. It sounds simple, and it is, but there’s just a nice flow to the combat that makes it feel good: response times are quick and every successful attack lands with a rewarding “crunch.” The enemies put up a decent fight, too: instead of simply standing around, waiting for you to hit them, the enemies were constantly on the offensive, trying to swarm and attack players simultaneously; I spent as much time dodging and blocking in the demo as I did attacking.
You can also use Mondo’s gun arm for long range attacks. At the start of the demo, I only had to use the gun arm to pick off a few isolated enemies from a distance, but the game started sending waves of enemies my way that featured close-up melee fighters as well as long range snipers who stood at the far edges of the stage and tried to pick me off. I had to learn to mix my melee attacks with some quick gun play. The shooting mechanics aren’t quite as polished as the melee combat — switching over to your gun moves the camera closer to Mondo, creating a Resident Evil 4-style, over-the-shoulder aiming view — but Mondo would often automatically center his aim onto the nearest target, which was annoying when you were trying to quickly shoot at a more dangerous, sniper-type enemy that was farther away. Still, even within the span of the short demo I was playing, I got use to the shooting mode’s quirks, and working crowd control on both short and long range enemies at the same time was a genuine challenge and a lot of fun.
Based on my previous experience with Suda’s games, I knew I was going to like Killer Is Dead before I played it, but I didn’t expect to like it this much. I was simply interested in the game before, but now I can’t wait to play more of it: the brief snippets of the game I played today made it seem likely that Killer Is Dead is going to be the best game that Suda’s ever been associated with.
Killer Is Dead will be released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 on August 27th of this year.