Killer7 (PS2/GC)

In a nutshell: A guy with MPD fights hysterical suicide bombers, the Power Rangers, a killer 'Fro, and makes the world... well, no safer a place for anyone.

I've found there's really no way to explain your actions in this game in a way that sounds positive to people outside the gaming community. "Yeah, I shot the suicide bomber in the head, collected his blood and made a serum to strengthen myself. Then I went into the boardroom and blew a couple of old men's brains out. What?! They were already dead!"

Rated "M" for "Teenager Mounting A Sixty-Year-Old."


May the lord smile, and the devil have mercy

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:


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...