I don't like Survival Horror. I
believe I've made this clear before. I also don't particularly care
for the 2004-2005 wave of Grand Theft Also's and generic 'crime dramas',
which is what I originally thought Killer7 was. So, had I not been repeatedly
assured by my friends and the (insert humorous mispelling or butchered version
of the word 'internet') that it was a thrilling and artistic experience,
I probably would have skipped it assuming the high point of the game
would probably involve a mobster falling into a wood chipper or something,
then an O.G. cusses and bangs a girl on-screen. Well, it's nice to be wrong
sometimes, as Killer7 IS a unique gaming experience. And really fucked up.
(Note: I have the PS2
version. It's apparently identical to the Gamecube edition, but with even
more hideous loading times, and some slowdown when a lot of large enemies
are onscreen at once: read, ALL OF "CLOUDMAN" BASICALLY"
Trying to sum up what the game is about in a single
sentence is hard. Gameplay wise, saying "You control _____ Smith, a
multi-personality assassin who fights Kun Lan and the Heaven's Smile terrorist
organization" would do, but that doesn't really address the overreaching
Good vs Evil (remember that show? Anyone?), or West vs. East theme. On top
of that the extra-high-contrast cel shading gives the whole affair a sort
of vaguely Sin City-ish vibe, which to be frank looks terrible in stills
but works in motion. It's very much the opposite of the pre-rendered backgrounds
on Resident Evil, which seem to be designed to be as busy and hard to navigate
as possible. Honestly, most of the game is textureless. Add to
these high-gloss, slightly dreamy environments a lot of dramatic angles
and random color shifts, and it starts to feel more than a little like you're
either playing on a bad TV or need a new head.
Consider this summary of the actual gameplay to be
sort of a disclaimer. It's a pretty huge cop-out to say a game isn't for
everyone, but that's the first thing that comes to mind given the unique
approach to the run and gun process the game engine uses. You're pretty
much glued to one path through the level, running forward by holding a button
down and reversing gear if need be with another. Running around takes place
in third person, but when you hear/see an enemy and draw your weapon, it
shifts to a first person aiming view. It's a little bit like an arcade shooter
(stylish RELOAD! cutaways if you need to during a fight) but much deeper
by necessity given all of the exploring and fetching key items you need
to do in the course of the stage. You dash along in a more or less straight
line until the path forks and panels will pop up giving you a choice of
which way to go. It's not the easiest system to get used to, and it's certainly
anything but natural feeling if you're a veteran of FPS's or well, anything
where you move with the joystick (Hell, the right analog is used entirely
for reloading.) So you have to be willing to work with the system until
you get hooked in by the story. Once you get used to aiming and scanning,
it's fairly easy to get by, and with the 'track' system there's no danger
of getting lost looking for an unclear exit.
The main character/persona (is that a spoiler? Maybe?)
is one Garcian Smith, one fast SHUT YO MOUTH uh, guy, who
takes the jobs and meets with the mostly invalid Harman. Garcian isn't so
much of a fighter as the team negotiator, but he does have the invaluable
skill to revive the other personas when they've been Smiled to death. Most
of your fighting will probably be done with the Angry Young Man, Dan Smith.
He packs a giant revolver which both packs a good punch and reloads in a
flash. His special skill is firing off a massively destructive Collateral
Shot, necessary for killing some enemies, but overkill for about everything
else. Nextly, is Kaede (they're all Smiths, ok?!), a soft spoken young lady
who's soaked in blood, sprays blood from her wrists to shatter magic walls,
and sometimes sucks blood back into her arm. She also has a handy pistol
with a scope for zooming in on targets, which surprisingly doesn't shoot
blood or anything. Kevin Smith is a mute invisible knife tosser instead
of an overrated tub, but he is confirmed to be gay. So I can say, in this
context, without fear of reprecussion:
KEVIN SMITH IS GAY
Then there's Con Smith, who is a blind kid who has
Daredevil's super power to basically, well, see. He also runs and shoots
super fast. The fact that you can see what you're aiming at rather clearly
in aiming mode befuddles me to no end. Coyote Smith is a Puerto Rican tough
who likes picking locks and breaking and entering. Just saying. Then comes
the strongest and most amusing of the personas, a friggin' MEXICAN LUCHADOR
named Mask de Smith. He suplexes enemies, breaks rocks and really seems
like about the only 'nice' guy of the bunch. Of course, since your enemies
are hysterical, exploding freaks, he also DUAL WIELDS grenade launchers.
He also is given new masks over the course of the game and powered up. The
children love him, because their purity shows them who the strongest is.
Harman himself appears only sparingly- as an invalid
with his caretaker Samantha, who you might say has a love/hate relationship
with him. When he does appear though, he oozes with badassedness, quietly
squeaking along with an anti-tank rifle bolted to the back of his wheelchair.
There's also Harman's personal advisor Iwazaru, who descends from the ceiling
in a gimp suit and speaks in vague, extra cautious terms (Master, this is
harsh! Seriously harsh!)
The enemies.... Ugh. I'll be honest, Killer7 is the
first game to give me nightmares since the days of the NES where EVERY DAMN
GAME had an 'internal organs' level. The Heaven's Smile are a bunch of human...ish
somethings, who are programmed to feel total ecstasy at all times, and come
running as soon as they see a victim to latch onto and explode them both
to the next world. You generally hear them long before you see them and
they begin trudging/running toward you in their translucent state. Drawing
your gun, you have to scan them to reveal them and make them vulnerable
to your attacks, then blow them away. They start off simply, but as the
game wears on, the Smiles start to take on more erratic appearances and
behaviors. Like skydiving, or appearing in the form of 20-foot
cyclopes who attempt to kill you by simply falling over on you. The bosses
are an appropriately freakish lot, ranging from a mutated cult leader with
a sentient killer Afro to a pair of elderly, genial old Japanese salarymen
who just happen to have half of their skulls blown off and launch brains
around. Oh and a team of Sentai heroes. No foolin'.
The majority of cutscenes are done in-game style,
but the chapter Cloudman has some chunky, vaguely Gorrilaz-looking 2-D animation,
and Alter Ego (see above Sentai comment) features full anime sequences.
The various styles mix and blend together a lot more convincingly than what
was attempted in the likes of Kill Bill. The soundtrack kicks ass too, ranging
from mellow ambient music to RAVE MUSIC at the gate to the level boss. There
are even some 8-bit sounding musical cues when you ressurect people. Nearly
the entire games' dialogue is voiced over, though the 'Remnant Psyches'
(fancy for 'ghosts') speak through a heavy filter and need subtitles to
be understood (One of whom is the severed head of an unbalanced girl named
Suzie who ends lines in cute emoticons. \(^o^)/) I would be remiss to not
bring up Travis, the ghost of the first person the Killer7 killed, who always
seems to be just chilling out and hanging around while you're risking life
and limb. His trademark is a purple tank top with ever-changing text on
it, which sometimes offers a clue, but more often is just creepy. Like when
he perches on a rooftop in a crane stance wearing one that says RAINBOW.
Or SEXUAL. BAD GIRL. And much, much more.
It's too easy to just sit back and point yelling
WTF! of course, and that detracts from the story. There are enough layers
to peel at for a good while, and more symbolism than you can shake a stick
at. If you have a GC or PS2, Killer7's a worthy mindfuck of an addition
to your library, and it shouldn't set you back too much.
In the name of Harman...