411mania’s Marc Morrison takes a look at the PC release of this Suda 51 game. See what he thinks of the game inside!
Title: Killer Is Dead
Developer: Kadokawa Games, Grasshopper Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Rating: M for Mature
Killer is Dead is a bit of a weird game on Steam. I like to imagine that Grasshopper Manufacture looked at the PC port of Metal Gear Rising and said “Hey, we can do that.” So they did. Truth be told, KID is an average enough game, that doesn’t really excel in any one area, but is reasonably decent in what it sets out to do. Except for possibly the “Gigolo Missions”, but I’ll talk about those later.
KID is mostly a third person action game. The gameplay is basically “DmC gameplay without the air combat”. There is also a mixture of shooting elements due to your left being a transforming robotic gun. I played this game with a Xbox 360 gamepad, so I’ll just use that button configuration when explaining moves. Your main attack is with your katana (X button), while you can also guard-break enemies that defend against it, with the Y button. You can use the B button to dodge attacks (when moving out of the way), or else holding it down lets your guard against enemies attacks. You can also press the RT button to activate the “Adrenaline Burst” to insta-kill certain enemies you come across, but it requires some meter to do it.
Holding the left trigger activates your weapon arm. A targeting reticle will appear on screen where you use the left thumb stuck to move around Mondo (your character) and the right thumb stuck to move around the reticle itself. You can press RB to cycle through the different firing types, which you unlock on the dating missions.
The two unique hooks for the combat though is the ammo for your gun and the countering system. In the game, you use blood to fuel your gun arm and your Adrenaline Burst powers. You start off with a few blood units, but can level up or buy more. When you use your arm, the blood meter goes down, and when it’s empty, your gun won’t function correctly. To restore blood, you need to attack enemies with your katana which causes the meter to fill. Blood packets will also fall out of defeated enemies occasionally, if you’re in a pinch.
Countering is the other different mechanic. Right before an enemy is going to attack they will flash red. This is your visual clue to dodge out of the way. If you time it right, Mondo will dodge out of the way and an “X” prompt will appear. You can then mash on the X button, while the game slows down around you, dealing a massive amount of damage to the enemy you countered against. You can also counter against ranged attacks with a later upgrade.
As you fight, you’ll pick up items that can extend your health bar, blood level, or “Moon Crystals” which is how you upgrade Mondo. Upgrades range from increasing your melee or ranged damage, enabling the ranged counter, learning a counter smash, increasing the number of dashes, or letting you heal yourself with blood (which is very useful). Most abilities have a few different levels to them which increase their effectiveness. You can get Moon Crystals in the game by breaking stuff in levels, fighting enemies, buying them in the store, or selecting them during the combo system.
When you fight, your combo meter builds up the more times you hit enemies, you know the general score. However, once you hit above the number 25 in any given combo, Mondo will enter a slightly more powered up state. During this state, he deals more damage, but more importantly, when you kill guys you are given a choice over what you want to drop out them. You can opt for either a Wire Synapse (health refill), a Bloody Rose (upgrade your blood level), a Blue Crystal (upgrade your health), or Moon Crystals, which is general upgrades. You can keep getting items from every successive enemy you kill, but if you get hit, you get knocked out of the combo.
The odd thing, as I said above, is that Mondo doesn’t have any aerial attacks, or maneuvers. There are a few instances where he transitions from one level to another, but it is a button prompt. You can’t just do it whenever you want, it is very situational specific. Occasionally enemies will be on a level above you, and you’ll have to shoot them down, when the natural inclination is just to jump up there and stab them do death.
This third person action game takes up about 85% to 90% of the main game. The remaining 15%/10% are the “Gigolo Missions”, which…isn’t good. The crux of these missions has Mondo taking a lady out on a date. You have to stare at the women in key spots (her breasts and vagina) to boost Mondo’s guts gauge. Once it is full, you can give the woman a gift to try and capture her heart. Certain gifts fill the heart meter more, but if you keep giving a gift, she’ll eventually succumb to your charm. You do have to watch out that she doesn’t catch you spying on her, or else it fills her creepy meter (there’s probably another name for it). If that meter fills, the date will be ended and you won’t seduce her. You pretty much have to do at least three of these missions though, to unlock the sub weapons (drill, charged shot, freeze shot) in the game.
Here’s the problem with this setup: even if you could discount the insanely misogynistic and creepy element of these missions, which is hard especially when “Mondo Vision” is turned on and the women wear bikinis, the gameplay and interactions themselves are just bad. It’s boring just to stare at these women, trying to catch them off guard so you can ogle them. The women themselves have almost zero personality, but so does Mondo, so it kind of fits. Essentially it is two robots talking to each other, trying to be romantic. My advice is to play these missions to unlock the sub weapons, and that is it. Annoyingly, the women will start to call you during missions asking you why you haven’t seen them. I had this actually happen right after a saw them in a mission. This doesn’t give the player an incentive to see a corny love scene; it gives the player an incentive to try to not even bother with the whole thing at all.
I’ll mention the graphics also, they really aren’t for everyone. The game has a cel-shaded look, which is usually fine. However, there is an ungodly amount of black in some missions, so much so, it can make it hard to tell what is going on. There is some good designs in the game, notably a train boss, but you may need to crank up the brightness some, in order to see what is going on.
The PC version subtitled “Nightmare Edition” comes with the DLC from the console editions, as well as a new difficulty mode. It’s probably not enough to keep you coming back for very long, but it’s nice they included it.
Juggling between melee and ranged combat is fun
The sub weapons are different and useful
Combat is easy to grasp but hard to master
The graphics can be hard to see in some situations
The gigolo missions are embarrassing
The story is almost completely nonsensical
I view Killer Is Dead as a third person action game trying to be more thought-provoking then it really is. The gist of the combat is good, and you’ll have probably 7 to 9 hours of playtime with it, to finish it, without the side content. But the story is so self-serious as to kill any interest the player might have with it, and the Gigolo Missions are just plain bad. If they had just cut those out, the game would be improved drastically.
Cel-shading works and the characters have good designs, but certain levels are almost unplayable
The biggest knock is the Gigolo stuff. Aside from that, it’s a straightforward action game.
Surprisingly good music actually. The sound effects are Spartan though, and voice acting is odd.
The extra difficulty mode is crazy, and there are side missions, but they are somewhat hollow
I did have fun with the game, almost despite itself. It needed to be less weird to be better.