PS3 Reviews: Killer is Dead Review

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Killer is Dead Review

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Graphics:

 

6.5

Gameplay:

 

5.2

Sound:

 

5.9

Control:

 

4.8

Replay Value:

 

5.0

Overall Rating:       5.4

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Grasshopper Manufacture

Developer:

Kadokawa Games

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

Action

Release Date:

August 27, 2013

There are times when you wish a game’s captivating style would automatically translate to quality and success. Grasshopper Manufacture has always delivered a singular, compelling style. Lollipop Chainsaw was distinctly tongue-in-cheek with plenty of over-the-top action and humor, while Shadows of the Damned adopted a similar tone, only with a much darker, otherworldly theme superimposed over that quirky backdrop. You know this team made Killer is Dead; their signature is on every slice, every line of dialogue, and every carefully aimed camera shot. Problem is, the game isn’t any good.

Visually, the team tried a different artistic style. It appears to be an aggressive, highly creative cel-shading that results in an interesting presentation. At first glance, the colors appear muted and understated for the sake of the artistic approach. But then you see some brightly – and crazily – designed levels, along with meticulously crafted and appropriately freakish foes. The blood effects are just out of control. Due to the niche nature of the graphics, most players will either fully connect with the visual flourish, or they’ll really dislike it. I found it somewhat disconcerting but I appreciated the effort.

Those who are familiar with hardcore Japanese productions such as this won’t be surprised at the audio. There are heavy-hitting metal tracks mixed with electro undertones, and the voice performances are purposely exaggerated. Considering the production, this works. But not everyone will like it; for instance, many might find Mika absolutely insufferable. I have to admit, her childish ranting, while common in the world of Japanese culture and anime, really grated. Mondo is too one-dimensional, as are most of the actors. Only the special effects really stand out, which means you’ll be craving a return to action when watching one of the many cut-scenes.

As you might infer from the title, Killer is Dead is loaded with action. Mondo Zappa is a killer of killers, an assassin who hunts predators. He’s armed with a katana and a special high-tech left arm, which is essentially a sci-fi long-range weapon. With his speed and power, Mondo is well prepared. However, this isn’t about one dude running around slashing a million enemies with reckless abandon. What he must face is often demonic in nature, and you’ll notice a twisted creepiness the minute you start. Sure, Mondo is basically superhuman but then again, he needs to be. The darkness is very real and the supernatural beings aren’t playing nice.

The story has plenty of promise and given that awfully intriguing visual style, you’re immediately interested. It’s creepy, dark, and oddly thrilling. In many ways, it reminds me of the film “Sin City,” only with a lot more horribly deranged monsters. This is why I said you’ll immediately recognize this as a Grasshopper production. It has all the earmarks of that talented team, and the foundation is rock solid. …but then you start to move and fight, and that’s when a palpable sense of disappointment sets in. You tell yourself— “Okay, I can deal with it; it’s just a little loose and I’ll get used to it.” But try as you might, you never really do.

It’s just so crippling. The movement is too fast and loose, so you don’t feel as if you’re in full control. This is a serious issue, especially when playing a game that requires a mastery of fast-action concepts. Then you toss in a wild camera that’s even looser than the base control, and you get a gameplay mechanic that is, sadly, the polar opposite of “stable.” With a gentle hand, you can deal with these drawbacks. Still, you get tired of battling such mechanical issues within the first hour and eventually, you realize the adventure is a chore. Nobody likes a chore. Gaming is about entertainment; it’s what you do to relax after your daily chores.

Again, the ideas are perfectly sound. You attack and chain strikes together with the Square button, and you can block, dodge, and use your fancy gun arm. The latter requires blood to operate, so you have to slash through quite a few foes before that long-range weapon becomes effective. But switching to the third-person aiming feels clumsy and awkward, and you’re vulnerable when in the process of aiming. After a while, you start to loathe the thought of using it and unfortunately, you have to use that gun during many boss fights. The camera, which swings crazily about, gets too close, and never seems to encompass all  enemies, is just a colossal pain.

The enemies range from stupid to challenging, and there’s a definite penalty for death. When you run out of free resurrections thanks to Mika, you won’t be able to pick up exactly where you left off, which certainly increases the difficulty. Action aficionados might appreciate this and even embrace it, but not when they feel as if their deaths are cheap. My definition of a “cheap” death in gaming is one that isn’t really your fault. You died, not due to a lack of a skill or a mistake, but due to a clear design flaw. In this case, you’ll die a lot due to control that is mediocre at best, and a camera that never seems to cooperate. It's so erratic that you feel like giving up.

Unlocking new abilities and mastering the intricacies of the fast, furious melee combat is fun. That much is true. I liked being rewarded for successfully dealing with a bunch of pesky enemies, or when I took down a boss that – by the way – could result in nightmares for those who balk at horrific imagery. And as I said, I liked the story because it clearly has multiple levels, and progression is sorta like peeling an onion. Unfortunately, the writing isn’t very good and the dialogue is even worse. Japanese developers have fallen way behind in these categories over the past generation, and it takes me right out of the experience.

It’s just plain disappointing. All the pieces necessary for a great action game are here: Visceral, highly stylized presentation, solid level and enemy design, a deep, robust combat mechanic, etc. But it’s all lost beneath the glaring shortcomings. Some of them I’ve sadly come to expect from Japanese productions these days, but I did not expect to encounter the control issues. Kadokawa has usually done a good job with movement and camera, but it’s just a mess here. Factor in the clichéd characters and a plot that suffers from poor dialogue and unfortunately, you’re left with a game that feels more boring and frustrating than entertaining.

Killer is Dead has a lot going for it. The foundation is there. But the positives are mired beneath a poor gameplay mechanic that makes even simple control a chore. The story isn’t allowed to shine due to simplistic writing and stereotypical characters, the difficulty can be very erratic, and too many deaths feel cheap and unfair. There’s a very big difference between a polished, well-constructed challenge, and a game you have to battle every step of the way. The only battle we should face is the virtual combat; trying to overlook the obvious drawbacks is just plain tiring. It’s too bad because this one could’ve been a definite gem.

The Good: Great style and presentation. Promising, multilayered story. Learning and upgrading new skills is appropriately satisfying. Decent level design.

The Bad: Visual palette isn’t for everyone. Plot goes unfulfilled due to mediocre writing. Terribly loose control and a wild camera. One-dimensional characters. Too many cheap deaths.

The Ugly: “It’s not good when the control is uglier than any freakish monstrosity you fight.”

9/3/2013 Ben Dutka

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Comments (20 posts)

cLoudou
Tuesday, September 03, 2013 @ 11:35:16 PM
Reply

Yeah, I would have to agree with this even though I am kind of a Suda fanboy.

Wait for it cheap, unless you're a Suda diehard, and know what you're in for.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

KidPresentable
Tuesday, September 03, 2013 @ 11:54:29 PM
Reply

Wow. This review is something else. And by that, I mean something else other than good.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 4 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 10:37:51 AM

Since when is the review itself in question? The subject matter is the game.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 11:15:26 AM

World, don't bother. We all know this kid's game by now.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 2:41:52 PM

Yeah, I just feel the need to combat this scourge that is taking over the internet. It's like people want reviews and news and rumors and then when you give it to them all they do is criticize you personally or your work. It's like hey, f*cker, go start your own site or blog if you can't hang.

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Teddie9
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 11:32:16 PM

What's odd is that your review Ben isn't out there at all, most critics are giving it sub-par and mediocre reviews.

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___________
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 5:29:26 AM
Reply

another boring repetitive game from the typically boring and repetitive suda.
well, i wont say i told you so!

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Lawless SXE
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 6:19:27 AM
Reply

So... Is Suda losing his touch? Is he devolving into self-parody? Or is it just that his team isn't really up to the development pace that it's setting for itself? I mean, since No More Heroes 2, it's been a downward slide with each new title performing worse than the last (with the outlier of Diabolical Pitch, which is the lowest of the five titles. No surprise there, though. It was Kinect exclusive).

Normally developers either get better with time or just remain erratic. If something doesn't change, I predict the next game will be nigh unplayable.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 10:38:38 AM

I think they are just putting these games out way too fast. I don't think this is a big studio and it seems like LPC just came out.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 10:39:58 AM
Reply

Looks like I'll just wait for it on the cheap and grab it for the crazy different experience. I still appreciate a poorly executed attempt at wildness more than an expertly made generic game.

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Neo_Aeon666
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 10:52:10 AM
Reply

This game is getting HIGH and LOW scores... But 99% of user ratings on meta say it's awesome. I will have to forge an opinion for myself. I also know for a fact that some critics are bashing it because they want to look good in front of girls by dissing the Gigolo mode lol stupid white knights. Well nice review anyway I will have to try these flawed gameplay mechanics to see if it also frustrates me. Thx

Agree with this comment 3 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 11:16:28 AM

No decent critic is bashing the game just for that reason. And I don't see many high scores from reputable sources.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

KidPresentable
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 12:04:32 PM

There not much wrong with the control mechanics of this game. Its a great combination that rewards you for having a great offense AND defense. I'm sure there are some gameplay vids out on the web. Watch any with a decent player and see how many cheap deaths they had. But skill is required. You can't just bang away at the buttons and get results like some other recent titles. Or press triangle ten feet from a dude and watch something happen on screen. EASY controls do not equal good controls. Critics got this one wrong. It happens. From what I'm hearing its two camps: those unskilled enough to be successful at it and the male feminists offended by a small amount of sexual innuendo. Yet, they want to be attached to little teenage female characters. Weird as hell to me.

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KidPresentable
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 12:06:29 PM

The switch from sword to firearm is a little wonky, especially the drill. I agree with that.

Last edited by KidPresentable on 9/4/2013 12:06:56 PM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 12:46:22 PM

Yeah, that's what it is, Kid. All the critics got it wrong but you're right.

This has nothing to do with skill. I've beaten some of the hardest action games ever made. This has everything to do with loose control and a terrible camera, which you must also battle every second. This is not opinion; it's fact.

Some are willing to deal with it and enjoy what's underneath. Some aren't. Doesn't change the fact that the base control mechanics are extremely unrefined.

If you really think me and every other reviewer just wanted to slam away at buttons, couldn't do it, and then knocked the game for being too hard, that's your own delusion. It's insulting to those who actually know what they're doing.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 9/4/2013 12:47:21 PM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 2:44:15 PM

"deal with it and enjoy what's underneath" that's a great way of putting the reason I can still enjoy games that get these kinds of scores. Ya can't let it blind you though if you want to argue stuff over the internet.

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KidPresentable
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 3:24:52 PM

Ben- I'm going by the fact that I had no problem playing the game. And it's not just me who believes this. There is a huge disparity between critics and gamers on this one. Its happened before. Deadly Premonition. Nier. White Knight Chronicles. Yakuza. Sometimes critics are too much sheep, mainstream, and fad driven to appreciate a game for what it is. Personally, this is my favorite Grasshopper game in terms of how much fun the combat is. The story as crazy as it is is fun becauae of that. You and your ilk may wish for games to be art and taken as serious as Hollywood, but every game does not need to be shoehorned into your desire. And no mention of another amazing soundtrack from Yamaoka in your review either.

And World, come back and question my position when you get the game off Ebay for cheap in a couple years. Maybe it will still be relevant, yeah?

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 4:03:32 PM

Me and my "ilk?" Me, who was one of the first critics in the Western hemisphere to give Nier the credit it deserves? Me, who understood why White Knight and White Knight II did a good job of catering to the core audience? Me, who has called Yakuza one of the best franchises of the current generation and has never scored one of the games below an 8?

Wow, you sure know a lot about me and my "ilk." You don't have to do any research, mind you, and you accuse me of "shoehorning" when you ignore my review history, but I'm obviously the problem.

Oh yes. Critics got it wrong. We're just all "sheep" and the "true" gamers are the ones who know what's up. ...I've heard this many times before, my friend. It's called the egotism of the hardcore and it never goes away on the Internet. But by all means, continue to "educate" us because we're just in dire need of your expertise. Go yell at GameSpot, too, who gave this game a 5. Or any of the other critics who scored it even lower but OBVIOUSLY have no idea what they're doing.

Really. We all thank you for your superior enlightenment.

Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 9/4/2013 4:05:01 PM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 4:36:31 PM

I never questioned your position in the first place, nor do I intend to waste my virtual breath doing so.

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Neo_Aeon666
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 @ 11:05:24 PM

*No decent critic is bashing the game just for that reason*

Yeah but it's sad you don't have to be decent to be big T-T lol. (Kotaku and friends)

That's y this website is my first pick for game opinions. And yeah I'll be buying it by the next payday so I can comment more on it lol

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