I don't know why I love you, but I do.
Publisher: Capcom/THQ Australia
Tue, 16 August 2005
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What the f*#k is this? When I began playing Killer 7 that is exactly what I asked myself. As a matter of fact, Iâ€™m still not sure of the answer (which isnâ€™t necessarily a bad thing). This game messed with my head and confused the hell out of me. At times, it frustrated me greatly. On a few occasions, it even reduced me to some sort of raving lunatic, as I sat screaming abuse at my TV.
However, it also captivated me. The well worn phrase "not for everyone" has never been truer than it is here (in fact, Iâ€™d expect there wouldnâ€™t be a single review of this game that doesnâ€™t feature some variation of those exact words). Still, I believe there is something truly special about this one. It took me a while to get there, but I wound up becoming a massive Killer 7 fan.
Back when I wrote about this game in one of my E3 articles, I said I hoped it would be (forgive me here, as I allow myself to be one of those wankers who quotes themselves) "the good kind of weird, like Panzer Dragoon and not the bad kind of weird, like Michael Jackson." As it turns out, Killer 7 might actually be weirder than Jacko playing Panzer Dragoon, while sitting in his tree, stark naked.
Killer 7 reaches a whole new level of weird of its own. But, indeed, that kind of weird is a good kind. I welcome the originality of the gameâ€™s story, characters and presentation as a breath of fresh air. Iâ€™d also have to say that it is all executed with supreme panache. Killer 7 just oozes style, more expertly than most any game I can think of. But does it also have substance? Well...in some ways, yes, it definitely does, although it is not quite so impressive in that regard.
|Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead. |
The gameâ€™s setting is a (very) alternate version of planet Earth. The player takes the roll of wheelchair bound (but still heavily armed) Harman Smith and the seven personalities that live inside his head, each of whom have their own unique abilities and killing skills.
As for the rest of the gameâ€™s plot, this article would amount to a small novel if I went into detail about it all. So Iâ€™ll leave it for you to piece the rest together. Suffice it to say, I couldnâ€™t quite grasp all of it, but I enjoyed attempting to. I think thatâ€™s the basic intent though, for the player to interpret things however they may. I highly recommend checking out the official Killer 7 website for more info. By doing so, you can see for yourself that all those responsible for this game must be nuttier than fruitcakes.
The actual gameplay of Killer 7 is equally difficult to describe. It has elements of survival horror, particularly in the basic structure of the levels and the absurdly obtuse (though, in this instance, mostly not all that difficult) puzzles you have to solve. Then thereâ€™s the massive amount of combat involved, which feels sort of (but not exactly) like a First Person Shooter. Killer 7 is also 'on rails'; you hold the walk/run button down and your character travels along a set path. The environments arenâ€™t free roaming, but in practice that really doesnâ€™t feel as restrictive as it sounds.
At times Killer 7 even reminded me somewhat of a light gun game; like Virtua Cop, or House of the Dead. Hmm...you know what? If I keep trying to explain the gameplay of this thing, or attach it to any familiar genre, I suspect my head will explode. So, Iâ€™m throwing the towel in here and giving up on that idea. Just play the son of a bitch and call it whatever kind of game you want.
The characters and presentation are the main things that enabled Killer 7 to rock my world. Throughout the majority of the game you can (and are often required to) switch back and forth between the different "Smith" personas. What a lovely bunch of coconuts they are too. I canâ€™t recall any videogame with a more endearing collection of psychopaths than this Smith mob.
Youâ€™ve got Kaede Smith, the chick who, in an example of lateral thinking being taken to the extreme, overcomes numerous obstacles by spurting blood out of her wrists. Or the masked wrestler (and rather lazily named) Mask de Smith, who sometimes busts out his wrasslinâ€™ moves, but usually makes do with his double grenade launchers. Then thereâ€™s the dual automatic packing blind kid, Con Smith, who has super speed. The rest of the Killer 7 team is just as bizarrely funky too. I never managed to decide which one I liked most. You can â€˜upgradeâ€™ them throughout the game too, making each of them stronger, faster and able to use more special moves.
Killer 7 uses cel-shaded graphics, but does so in a unique fashion. The visuals are stark, often not very detailed and sparingly coloured. The focus is more on shapes and contrasts of light and shadow.
|Why do I have to be Mr. Pink? |
The game also makes liberal use of â€˜camera anglesâ€™, or fixed viewing perspectives, to heighten the atmosphere. While that is not uncommon in movies, it is fairly unusual for a videogame. Presumably thatâ€™s because, for most games, it would be impractical. Here theyâ€™ve managed to pull it off successfully and it helps to provide some strong moods to the environments.
Iâ€™ll sum up the graphics like this: hopefully you have seen the recent Sin City movie, with its unusual, eye catching and extremely cool visual style. Iâ€™d say that, in terms of looks, Killer 7 is the videogame equivalent of that film. They are both about equal when it comes to their level of ultra violent content too.
The sound quality is fantastic as well, with a diverse and eclectic mix of musical types, all of which fit the action superbly. The sounds effects are great too. What lets the sound down just a touch is that all 7 controllable characters have certain phrases they repeat if you score a direct hit to the glowing targets that are the enemyâ€™s weak points. Hearing your character say "F*#k you" the first few times you blow an enemy away is funny, but after about 1000 times more, it becomes decidedly less so.
The pace of the game can drag during some sections and every so often I had trouble figuring out what to do and where to go. That was especially true right at the beginning, where I felt utterly baffled by it all. Eventually though, it clicks and you get much more comfortable with it. So, my advice is to stick with it. The maps give you a pretty good indication of whatâ€™s required most of the time, thanks to their use of various icons.
Killer 7 is a game that you donâ€™t just play, you experience it. Sure, that sounds a bit pretentious, but this game really is pretentious. It still works though. On their own, each of this gameâ€™s elements probably wouldnâ€™t hold up, but brought together, something special has been created. It requires a great deal of patience, but if you give it the chance Killer 7 can burrow into your head and park itself inside your brain. I believe that is a good thing. Whether you will feel the same way, I couldnâ€™t say.
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A bizarre and twisted experience that I won't soon forget. At its best Killer 7 is more damn cool than mere words could explain.