21 July 2014 | nateevans3
Suda51 touts his most obtuse and ambiguous work to date with K.I.D.
Killer is Dead isn't an easy game to review, at least from a narrative standpoint. Which is a shame. Considering this is a Suda51 game, the narrative is the most interesting thing about it. Between all of the opaque commentary, off-putting and thought provoking satire, as well as a downright gorgeous aesthetic to every aspect of the game that compliments said commentary, there's a lot to note, and quite frankly, a lot to really love here.
Gameplay wise, Killer is Dead is a linear, level-based hack 'n slash game, with health and weapon upgrades, as well as some wildly inventive boss fights. The action is fast, smooth, and the gorgeous high-contrast visual style doesn't hurt a thing. It would be nice if it ran at 60fps, or if the screen tearing were absent, but as it stands, Killer is Dead is an enjoyable hack 'n slash game, and one of the best in the genre if you allow yourself to be taken in by its convoluted narrative.
While the narrative may seem convoluted, especially for the first couple of hours, this isn't inherently a bad thing. The game really starts coming together a little over halfway through, if you've managed to gain enough interest in the story that's told here. It's easy to scoff and disregard a story about Moon gods, unicorns, vampires, and a villain that wants to conquer the Earth. It's a whole lot more satisfying to actually sift through the narrative pieces the game presents you with to unravel what's really going on, and what the writer is trying to say. Discussing the story and piecing it together almost turns into a meta- game, in that sense.
To me, that's the main appeal of Killer is Dead; unraveling all of its commentary, satire, themes, and, hell, even piecing together its base- level story. Initially, nothing seems to tie itself together. It seems as though things are happening just for the sake of it, and if you don't care to read into any of it, the whole game will likely appear this way to you. Believe me when I say that it's not random, though, and that there is a well crafted, smart, sexy, funny, and sometimes extremely dark narrative in place, here.
Without going into spoiler territory, Killer is Dead is about a man with simple, carnal desires versus a man with grandiose, sociopathic desires. The way all of the seemingly "random" characters, lines of dialogue, and settings all piece together by the end of this fever-dream type story is what makes this trip so worth it. If you allow yourself to be drawn into it, Killer is Dead and its story will really stick with you, effectively turning it into much more than your run-of-the-mill, mindless, hack 'n slash title. Killer is Dead is so much more than that.
Being a huge Suda51 fan, I find it only fair to compare this game to his other works. Killer is Dead certainly isn't a perfect game, or even the man's best work. However, it is close. Its only real problem (besides some odd performance issues) is its high entry level wall. Not with its gameplay, mind you, but (again) with its narrative. It doesn't play out as fast-paced, clear, or energetic as something like the fantastic No More Heroes, and it's not as full of outright ridiculous slapstick humor as something like Shadows of the Damned. The tone of this game is far more in line with Suda51's possibly most incredible work, killer7.
The reason to play Suda51 games aren't for the "lol so randumb" humor that most mistake these for. His games (particularly Killer is Dead, killer7, and No More Heroes) are filled to the brim with snide, unrelenting social commentary on video games, video game players, popular culture, politics, and so on. It's just all wrapped up in such an incredible and striking style that these things can be easy to overlook, at least for those uninitiated. However, they shouldn't be overlooked, as these are the traits that make Suda51 games truly worthwhile. Killer is Dead, along with killer7, are two of his most ambiguous titles, since your overall enjoyment from them won't necessarily come from their gameplay mechanics, audio design, or visual style. Rather, it will come from how much you're willing to read into what these games are saying from an artistic standpoint.
On that level, Killer is Dead is a near masterpiece. It does everything it set out to do, and it does it exceedingly well. For those that complain about the game's misogyny, sexist portrayal of women, or whatever else "game journalists" feel like throwing a pitchfork party over these days, these people are prime examples of those who completely miss the point. If you look at what these "sexist, misogynist" aspects of this game are actually trying to say within the narrative, there's simply a lot more to it than "omgz look! bewbz! This game is offensive!" In regard to the outcry of people complaining about this game's portrayal of women, way to take the Fox News/Mass Effect approach, everyone. Well done.
Killer is Dead is a fantastic game, and despite what you've been told, there's nothing "random" about it. It's all very meticulously crafted, and story segments are told in just the right order and in the right time span for what Killer is Dead is trying to say. Again, on that level, it's absolutely fantastic.