Killer Is Dead: Maybe Punk Is Dead After All

By Jamie Love . August 31, 2013 . 6:00pm

A killer runs through dark and rain soaked streets with Mondo Zappa in hot pursuit, easily blocking machinegun fire with his sword while moving ever closer to his target. These first steps in the assassin’s shoes found me anticipating some mix of Blade Runner’s future noir and Cowboy Bebop’s quirky episodic bounty hunting thrown together in a Suda51 blender, and a fair amount of drool ran down my chin over that idea.

 

Unfortunately, those first immersive moments quickly gave way to a game strangely eager to throw the player back out of this world, unfolding to reveal a game that feels more like a fan fiction written by the president of Grasshopper’s fan club, rather than the hands that created No More Heroes.

 

Players join Mondo just as he gains employment within a state sponsored executioner office, where people come with targets they’d like dealt with. While Mondo’s targets all share a loose connection to a dark energy running throughout the game (which is never really explained), it’s unclear what qualifies a person for execution—maybe you can have your neighbor killed for playing music too loud; I just don’t know.

 

The office is run by Bryan and Vivienne, with Mondo bringing along his bubbly schoolgirl assistant Mika for good measure. There’s an immediate attempt to establish a level of comfort with this grouping, with episodic assassination missions that find characters spouting recurring concerns with familiar attitudes. And I very much wanted to fall into that world, but the invitation to do so is never really extended, instead acting as if the player should both “get” and care about these characters simply because they exist. Some small attempt is made to draw a connection between one target and Brian, but otherwise these might as well be four strangers completely devoid of motivation, aside from moving the game forward toward a conclusion that players are equally expected to simply accept because it exists.

 

It’s a very strange state of affairs. I kept waiting for more, for the connections of No More Heroes’ contentious, subtle, complicated and rather lovely relationship between Travis and Sylvia. But there’s none of that here. These characters never really express personalities that explain where they are coming from or where they are headed—everyone is just doing their job. By the time the game rushes to draw fuddled connections linking them together, there’s zero reason for the player to care, given the lack of incentive to invest any feelings toward them.

 

But this is a Grasshopper game, so maybe there’s something clever being said in all this, aided by a few lines referring to the idea that this is a videogame, with players expecting certain things from a Suda 51 title. I encourage you to dig for that meaning, though I really don’t think you’ll find it. Killer is Dead rushes to create a weak plot stringing together the space for a random array of missions that offer no substance to snack on when the ride is over.

 

The truly confusing bit is that the game still provides ample cinematic sequences that could serve such a task, but instead opt to create a space for slowly delivered lines and snippets of conversations that act as if we should all know far more than we do. The pervasive cinematic breaks actually tear the player away from the few enjoyable moments of action, slicing through missions like a hot knife intent on cutting the player further and further away from investing in the events unfolding.

 

The game will confront you with a Yakuza boss who summons a tiger from his tattoo and then suddenly throws you into a twenty second motorcycle chase before tossing you back on foot, breaking all of that up further with the load times needed to do so and cinematic sequences offering more chances for dialogue that might mean something if we knew anything at all about these characters. And I really want to stress that this is not meant to leave you imagining the quirky opponents of No More Heroes that offered cryptic words worth reading into. Those have been replaced here with a series of bosses that simply bend to the needs of the game rather than dominating and changing the space with their own attitudes.

 

You can ride Killer is Dead’s blue unicorn around in circles looking for some significance, but it isn’t for lack of a code book to understand what’s going on here. It’s just weak writing carrying you to a final confrontation against a villain that you slash through just to be done with the experience. If there is a deeper joke at work here, I’m afraid it’s at the player’s expense.

 

But here’s a twist—Grasshopper is getting better at the bits of combat leading toward these bosses.

 

Each strike of Mondo’s sword builds a combo gauge that persists so long as Mondo doesn’t take damage. And the game offers an evasive move as well as a block to aid that cause. Aside from some well-animated moments of Mondo throwing back an attacker, the right timing can also find Mondo slipping to the side and tasking the player with hammering the attack button to gain bonus strikes. As your combos reach a threshold, Mondo’s attack speed will increase. Keeping the combo meter at max will additionally allow Mondo to deal final judgment finishing blows to enemies, offering players four techniques for a final move that will reward players with one of four key items. It’s a simple and straightforward system that gives one hell of an invitation to players to dodge and counter rather than simply mashing and taking a little bit of damage as par for the course.

 

Mondo has a fair amount of meters to keep an eye on, with his health signified by a series of diamonds, which increase as he gains health gems from fighting. Mondo also has a blood meter represented by roses, which fuels his gun arm and is also used for adrenaline burst moves that cleave larger enemies in two, and play a big part in finishing bosses. This also means that you can’t just go off on a fun run with the gun arm, or “musselback” all the time because you won’t readily have the means to finish a boss at the right moment. Enemies with defensive shielding can be dealt with via a punch button, though it’s entirely more efficient to evasive roll behind them and get down to business.

 

Moon shards gathered from enemies and a few breakable items give Mondo points used to upgrade his abilities, and even here the game shows a baffling lack of imagination. There’s a few additional strike moves to unlock, but the handful of upgrades seem like abilities you should have from the outset, like swinging your sword in a circular defensive move. Aside from upgrading the musselback and adding regenerating health, I stopped paying attention to this small distraction early on. There are three additional modes for the musselback, freeze ray, drill, and charge cannon, which seems to match up with the predictability of everything else going on here just dandy.

 

I suppose the entertaining thing about the combo system is that the game offers a host of challenge missions, both from bonus tasks unlocked by completing story missions and from finding nurse Scarlett hidden throughout stages, who then adds more challenge tasks to her own selectable stage. Ensuring that combat isn’t always fun however, I often found myself losing sight of Mondo temporally throughout claustrophobic set pieces that really haven’t evolved since No More Heroes released back in 2007, which is a hell of a long time to raise the bar even slightly for environmental designs.

 

You may have heard about Killer is Dead’s other draw, Gigolo missions, during which Mondo will hit a bar and take a seat alongside a few select ladies in a pickup mini-game. While Mondo and his potential date are drinking, there are two gauges to keep an eye on—a guts gauge represented by a head and another gauge that looks somewhat like a penis.

 

The guts gauge will fill red in increments as you stare at a girl, faster if you stare at her chest and crotch, and even faster still if you use the gigolo glasses to see through her outer clothing to her underwear. If she catches you staring, the penis looking gauge will drain until you stop staring, and if it drains all the way you fail the mission. If you manage to fill the guts gauge, you are then able to offer presents, and repeat the process until you fill another gauge with hearts to win the girls affection. If successfully seduced with gifts, the girl goes home with Mondo and initially unlocks the previously mentioned added modes for his gun. It’s an experience that comes off as tedious and several shades of creepy, and more than anything suggests that Killer is Dead is a creature of marketing gimmicks rather than a real game.

 

It’s a shitty state of affairs, because the elements are here for a better game, for a noir classic building on what Grasshopper has already accomplished. But all that can be found is a checklist of things you might expect from a Grasshopper game, and a weak showing of that to boot. I can report that the game is competent, but that only seems like a compliment if it were the first game Grasshopper had ever released.

 

Ultimately, Killer is Dead is simply a hurriedly cobbled together release that clearly could have been more with time and attention. It’s a huge missed opportunity, and if it represents the future of Grasshopper releases, then it gives me absolutely no joy to suggest that maybe punk is dead, kids.

 

Food for Thought:

 

1. Even with Akira Yamaoka on board, Killer is Dead’s soundtrack seems as confused about creating an identity unique to the experience as I remain regarding what exactly said experience is, and that’s really disappointing.

 

2. There are twelve primary mission stages, three of which take place in dream states, which just seems superbly short. I ran through the main game missions in just a little more than a single afternoon.

 

3. Even the menu systems lack imagination, with bland mission select screens and a gift shop that looks like it came straight from a 16-bit RPG.


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  • Revorse

    Hmm. I’ve seen reviews and they all say the same things. But I’ve watched it played and it seems nowhere near as bad as people are making it out to be.

    • 60hz

      yeah i’m feeling the same way – but i’m on a tight budget so i can only hope to convince a friend to purchase it mwahahaha…

    • Cameron Ward

      it really isnt as bad as people make it out to be. it isnt a 10/10 game, but for me, its a 7-8, I need to think about it more.

  • Andrew A

    Someone linked this Killer is Dead plot analysis to me a day ago. Its a pretty good read and they make it sound like all the strange design choices were thematically intentional:

    http://globegander.tumblr.com/post/59534088268/love-killer-is-dead-eros-and-thanatos-in-grasshopper

    This post contains massive spoilers so I wouldn’t check it out until after you’ve beaten the game though.

    • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

      This guy looks like he’s trying REALLY hard.

      I know it’s a stretch, but it’s worth considering that maybe, just maybe, the game looks, sounds, acts and smells like an undisciplined fucking mess because… it actually is one.

      • TheCynicalReaper

        How is he trying hard? Dude, everything in that article is proven in the game’s events and dialogue. If you watch the cutscenes and play the game you’ll notice these crucial plot elements that many are overlooking because “random Suda is random”.

        Seriously, if you can’t play the game then watch a playthrough from beginning to end and you’ll notice these things, like how Moon River is not exactly what she seems (ep4 opening), and how the Queen of Dreams was actually helping to stir up the memories Mondo had inside instead of just messing with him and how it foreshadowed the end (moon is reflected as red in water, water splashes are not water but dark purple, signifying it’s dark matter river is drowning in, etc.). David being the original executioner, the execution office being shadier than it seems, Mondo’s and David’s subtle themes in their actions, it’s all in the game.

        It’s just that no one is looking into the game. They just see flashy stuff and gigilo missions and strange twists, so they only skim across the surface. The game’s smarter than you think.

        • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

          Suda is a smart guy, and I’m sure there are vague echoes of something intelligent in the game. But by all accounts, the end product is just an incoherent mess, and not an enthralling incoherent mess like Killer7 was. Just a scattershot pastiche of Suda’s previous successes with a fraction of their originality and appeal.

          This guy’s articles look very much like Literature 101 attempts at reading meaning into a work (as opposed to deriving it FROM the work). Just because he can formulate an explanation using the evidence at hand – a theory of a meaning – doesn’t mean the meaning’s there.

          Also, consider Occam’s Razor: is it more plausible that the game has this deeply convoluted hidden meaning that was meticulously planned out in advance, only for it to be completely lost on the vast majority of the audience, or that it’s just a murky, undisciplined jumble that one author has managed to ascribe this code to? One explanation seems a lot simpler than the other. And even if it DID have all these layers of meaning, would that rectify the fact that the meaning is conveyed through a medium of grating incoherence that has managed to provoke zero intellectual or emotional investment from players not going into the experience with their minds already made up about what they’re going to find?

          (Approaching the derivation of meaning from texts like a decrypting process, by the way, is a very amateurish method of literary interpretation.)

          And incidentally: if that author is trying to make the case that “Gigolo Mode” is thematically important to this game, he might be interested to know that it was an idea Suda had years ago and wanted to incorporate into Shadows of the Damned. It ended up getting scrapped during development, so he had it put into this game. Kind of sticks a wrench in the idea of the author as mastermind here, huh?

          • Andrew A

            “It ended up getting scrapped during development, so he had it put into
            this game. Kind of sticks a wrench in the idea of the author as
            mastermind here, huh?”

            Not…really? This happens in game development all all the time. In fact, Gigolo mode makes way more sense in Killer is Dead than it would have in Shadows of the Damned.

          • Asura

            Did you like… miss his entire point?

          • Andrew A

            I didn’t miss his entire point, I chose not to address it because its pretty silly. Using Occam’s Razor on a piece of fiction? When has that ever been a good idea?

            “Guys, all those interpretations of Waiting for Godot? Trash. They’re just waiting for Godot. Done. We solved it.”

          • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

            Turning “maybe this ridiculously convoluted attempt at deciphering a super-secret hidden meaning from a bunch of fucking nonsense is kinda BS” into “all metaphor is BS” is kind of a mischaracterization of my argument. We’re talking about the difference between people discussing The Shining as a narrative of American guilt and people discussing The Shining as Stanley Kubrick’s insanely convoluted coded message that the moon landing was a hoax. It’s the difference between literary interpretation and conspiracy theories.

          • Leitiso

            Exactly. While I did want this game to be another Killer 7 I also wanted DMC to be another Devil may cry 3. Unfortunately you can’t expect anything these days. I have enjoyed Killer is dead, the combo system is very fun and I find that in action games the plot is never going to be very good. Sadly that is just the truth these days. Outside of MGS I can’t stand the plot of any series or 98% of the games today. Don’t know why anyone would downvote you, must be bitterness. Gigolo mode makes sense because Suda went for a “bond” like character, devoted to his job, but would “rather chase women”.

          • Raltrios

            “Suda is a smart guy, and I’m sure there are vague echoes of something
            intelligent in the game. But by all accounts, the end product is just an
            incoherent mess”

            That sounded like you pretty much just wrote off everything he said with what amounts to little more than ‘lol nope.’

            While it’s true that the article may be grasping at straws, it might also be digging up truths. I don’t think it’s fair to just brush it aside so casually like that without acknowledging the possibilities. If you ask me, it seems pretty sound.

          • loempiavreter

            Just because the game doesn’t have a narrative that spoonfeeds you, it has a convulted bad story? We are all individuals, if someone spots something that you didn’t and he can put the pieces together well more power to him, but lso power to you because your opinion is yours, his is his and mine is mine, all perfectly fine. We don’t need to diss ones observations.

            Personally after playing Killer is Dead, I came up with quite the same analysis. I also caught up some pieces from the interviews which weren’t told in the game, like how Killing the Bin Laden of the KiD universe released all the dark matter, and how it corrupted Damon & David in the first place.

            We act like sheep these days, be a Tabula Rasa and form your own opinion.

            Besides, why can’t GhM take the Gigolo Idea from Shadows of the Damned and build Killer is Dead setup around it?

            Personally I enjoyed it quite a lot, but I was a bit dissapointed in the boss roster. Ioved Giant Head and Tommy the most though. Sure was better then Lollipop Chainsaw personally for me.

          • BlueTree

            Your logical reasoning as to why the game doesn’t have a plot is as feasible as that post you feel is trying too hard… the thing is that I would argue that there’s entirely more substance to the guy who’s “trying too hard.” If your goal is to be convincing that you have a belief, well, I think you’re there. If you’re trying to convince me that it also applies to everyone else, well… I think you’re not trying hard enough.

          • https://twitter.com/Ni_Go_Zero_Ichi Project 2501

            “I’m right and you’re wrong! I don’t need to explain myself because you’re wrong!” – your post

          • BlueTree

            “I think this is a contest” – your post

  • Göran Isacson

    So it’s pretty much what I’ve heard elsewhere: the game isn’t BAD… that is, the gameplay isn’t bad. It’s one of Grasshoppers TECHNICALLY soundest productions with really slick and engaging gameplay, but the story is their weakest yet and there’s just nothing to really think about. It’s like… well, like they say: a fan-fic written by someone who’s very technically proficient, but who completely missed out on all the themes of old Grasshopper games and thought he could just throw in wacky asides and everything would be gravy.

    Have to admit though, stage designs like No More Heroes without that games interesting gameplay gimmicks that switched up the approach to each stage sounds… well, that just sounds plain tedious.

    So yeah: fun to play, not fun to think about. I read someone else put it very well: Suda 51 has long since ceased being punk, and is now unabashedly sleaze-rock. He’s gonna put tits and he’s gonna put violence and as much exploitation as he can fit into his games with little regard to how it all ends up. It may not be as daring or as engaging or challenging as his old games… but eh, if you’re a fan of sleaze you’re probably gonna like it?

    • Asura

      From a technical perspective I’ve heard it has the worst camera of any Suda game and screen-tears at literally every point in the game.

      • Leitiso

        The main thing is that there is no “lock-on” so it is like a monhun game where you have to use the other analog stick to move the camera. I actually like that about it because you can aim your attacks without being forced or magnetized towards the enemy you are locked onto. Many players are not used to this. “Screen-tears” are only one technical issue and I haven’t seen many of them but grasshopper has never ever been known for environments. They are usually very minimal and bland, although that is part of the charm IMO.

  • SuBw00FeR

    I’ve been playing the game and I really enjoy it. The gigolo missions are a side thing and you don’t have to do say like, 5 in a row or anything. You can choose when to do them. It only takes a few minutes to do each gigolo mission so it’s not even that tedious. I really like this game so far, the combat is great.

  • Raltrios

    This is probably the fairest review I’ve heard of the game so far:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuuWRodHq8w&feature=youtu.be

    Everything else just sounds like bandwagon hate to me. But I’m less than halfway through the game so far, so I’ll have to wait to form a final opinion of my own. But so far? I’m having a blast :)

    • BizarreJelly

      It really does seem like bandwagon hate doesn’t it? I’m having a blast with it too, it’s one of sudas more polished games – and they never have a big budget, so for what they fork out I think it’s pretty impressive. The gaming journalism scene is far too hung up on gigolo mode which is a “duh” because video game feminism(lol) is the in-thing right now, so of course anything that can be portrayed as sexist is going to be a no-no, don’t wanna be seen as a woman hating misogynic pig now do we? Gotta get them clicks! Here’s to the slamming reviews of senran kagura to look forward to!

      • Raltrios

        Oh right, Senran Kagura will be getting reviews, too…well, at least in that case they shouldn’t be able to complain about women being treated as objects because the ladies should have much more character definition than in this game, and there aren’t any men around to obnoxiously try to get into their pants.

        • BizarreJelly

          It was already met with some bad press when it was announced for western release – so I wouldn’t hold my breath lol fan service is sexist!!

          • Raltrios

            Sigh…I wish people would realize how big of an audience games like that have. It’s still small enough in the west to call it niche, but you need only look at the huge attendance of various cons to see a small percentage of how many fans of eastern games/anime there are. Granted, you can’t assume they’d all like things with the level of fanservice as Senran Kagura, but it still shows a high figure of appreciation for the area they’re created in. If so many people can accept the gaming standards of another country, why can’t reviewers?

            Besides, it’s not like the west doesn’t have games with sex appeal in them, either :/

          • BizarreJelly

            Absolutely, notice a majority of the games that get hit with the sexist claims are Japanese? They know exactly who to bait and how to do it, it’s quite pathetic really. No doubt there are some serious sexism problems out there – video games however, shouldn’t be the main focus, but it’s proving lucrative for some of these websites so I don’t expect it to vanish anytime soon.

            Video games – your number 1 for social issues and political correctness!

          • Raltrios

            I remember back in the day people used to think Pokemon was satanic. I haven’t heard anything like that in a long time, so I figure people’ve accepted it as a perfectly natural thing. If Japan keeps pumping out games like these to the west perhaps people will be desensitized towards it in the same way. Then they won’t make such a fuss.

  • M’iau M’iaut

    Folks, lets be careful here and leave the social polemics elsewhere.

  • idrawrobots

    I need to play more of this but most of my attention has been put into EarthBound.

    • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

      Keep on with Earthbound and you’ll be ok.

  • http://denpanosekai.blogspot.com denpanosekai

    CTRL+F “Killer 7″… nothing. I’m disappointed, I really thought this was somekind of spiritual sequel.

    Anyway I’m still under media blackout, so I’ll play the game first before reading this review.

    • Leitiso

      I was 5 hours too late but I mentioned it. it has some thematic elements of Killer 7. The gameplay however is nothing like killer 7. It is more just like a Killer 7 skin over a NMH game with some great elements like upgrades and the closest combat system to my beloved Onimusha series. It is sooo rewarding to counter enemies, basically just play this the way I play onimusha where I wait for the right moment, the enemy makes a wrong move and then the entire room is clear in a flash.

      • http://denpanosekai.blogspot.com denpanosekai

        Sounds good to me! I’m sure I’ll have a blast.

  • supervamp

    Can one reviewer not put their moral compass on during this game’s review?
    It’s fine if you think it’s creepy but that should never dictate the score of a game, it just makes you look like your putting more biased opinion into it then actually putting out the games faults and strengths

    • Asura

      Omigod, it’s as if reviews are subjective and about the experience of the player!
      NEWS FLASH AT 11!

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      …what exactly do you think reviews are? They’re opinions.

      • supervamp

        I know but honestly i think reviews should take a more non bias approach, I don’t want to hear about how the person feels about the content i want to hear about how the game plays and if it’s any good or not. Those gigolo missions aren’t doing anything to improve or lessen the overall game mechanics, there’s no reason to even mention that you felt its morally wrong.

  • Zak Ledward

    Meh, I bought this game 90% for the Gigolo Missions and 10% because my friend said Suda51 is a good company, so I’m not too concerned with the story (which so far isn’t that bad; on mission 9/10). The Gigolo missions could have been a little more deeper than just go in and have a good night (Subarashii). I was hoping that each encounter with a woman would teach you something new about her. Even without that though I still enjoyed being able to (inner man coming out) ogle a beautiful woman with the only consequence being a small deduction to my “penis” gauge that regenerates instantly anyway. In any case, I live and breathe for Scarlett now so any amount of “bad gameplay/storyline” I have to go through so I can get her next scene is fine by me.

    • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

      Suda51 isn’t a company, he’s a person. Grasshopper is the company.

  • SeventhEvening

    That “penis gauge” is an image of a man with his arm around a woman’s shoulder. It’s a romantic atmosphere gauge. That said, I did find the gigolo missions tedious and disappointingly repetitive. The x-ray glasses were a relief, not because the reward of seeing underwear, but for the mechanical effect of speeding up the gigolo missions.

    Overall, I have mixed feeling about the game. I’m shocked to see the game get such bad reviews, because it is quite a fun and interesting game. But at the same time, it is a bit disappointing. It doesn’t quite live up to NMH or Killer 7 and the story and characters have a lot of potential that is never touched. The plot doesn’t have as much nuance as Killer 7, but I’ve noticed a lot of strange little details and complexity that reviews seem to gloss over. The characters are left a bit bland, but the world of Killer is Dead is pretty fascinating and left me wanting more. And mechanically, it’s pretty sound (although yeah, the upgrades are disappointing)

    I find it hard to judge it properly. Maybe it’s a great game that didn’t live up to the hype, the expectations, or the pedigree, or maybe it is a bad game that has just enough of Suda’s bizarre charm to make me desperately want to like it. Either way, I’m hoping his next game is better.

  • Ouch My Head Said Dionysus

    Punk’s not dead, Suda’s just not punk anymore.

  • http://www.segalization.com/ Kuronoa

    Hmm, I like mixed reception stuff and I have a Flower, Sun and Rain avatar so it doesn’t bother me but so many games so I’ll wait on price drop.

    • idrawrobots

      Flower Sun Rain is overwhelming, one day I will finish it.

    • British_Otaku

      Flower, Sun and Rain is weird as hell bro, but I’ll finish it someday (maybe after the rest of my current DS backlog). I haven’t got too far, so I may start over when I get back to it.

  • anarchy_panty

    “You’re not punk, and I’m telling everyone…”

    • Jose Mossel

      Jawbreaker <3

      • anarchy_panty

        Excellent taste, my friend.

  • rurifan

    I can’t help but notice you go into excruciating detail about the dating minigame and yet somehow fail to mention the glaring technical flaws in the actual gameplay. Focus on the important stuff, right?

    You’d think constant intolerable tearing would be worth a passing mention.

    • QueenDecim

      It’s not constant, or intolerable. I had it happen maybe a handful of times through my entire playthrough, and that was mostly at the beginning. Furthermore, episode 7 is the only one with any sort of bad technical flaws. It is the only mission where the fps drops.

  • BlueTree

    This is going to sound incredibly goofy to a lot of people, but I don’t think Grasshopper Manufacture’s games often hold up to the criticism of “Is this video game fun.” I think there are a lot of points in Video Games that are not fun, but their presence is justified and gives the medium a spectrum of depth. Most people who play video games are trained to essentially distill it down to one experience, fun, without trying to justify/explain/ponder why it is they felt other emotions/sensations than fun.

    If you were to ask me if No More Heroes 1′s point is put across by making the segments between bosses “fun”, I’d tell you no. The game would have completely wasted its time showing off how much of a loser Travis Touchdown is by allowing him some sort of enjoyment between what Sylvia feeds him in the form of assassinations.

    I’ve been on the fence about this game because I’m NOT a fan of Grasshopper Manufacture. That being said, I think game criticism has such low standards at the moment that I’d be hard pressed to find a true analysis of this game that wasn’t looking to fill bullet points rather than formulate some kind of concise thought on what this game is trying to say. It is very easy to isolate one seemingly obvious element from the whole, that is often the crux of very bad criticism. It doesn’t mean that element isn’t harmful or terrible in the grand scope of things, but whether criticism is meaningful will depend on how you choose to express that element in relation to the whole.

    Basically, I’m not trying to see if this game is fun, because I’m fairly certain that Grasshopper doesn’t really churn out that type of game. Rather, I’m trying to see if it has a point. Game criticism, at the moment, isn’t up to that task.

  • Zonder88

    I find it funny how every review from gaming news sites are hating on this game, yet everyone who are playing it are having a blast.

    The game is fun, as games should be. Simple as that. And I bought it for that very reason.

  • Tincho D

    Jesus, the first half of the review forgot Killer is dead is a friggin’ action game instead of a movie.

    Food for thought: Grasshopper got away with releasing mechanically mediocre hack n slash games because there was a big amount of people searching for 2DEEP4U messages in them.

    The review’s author seems to have realized just now that stylish games with pop culture elements and random quirky shit going on don’t necessarly imply the pretense of some deep hidden meaning. Rule of cool, baby.

  • queazy

    “A killer runs through dark and rain soaked streets with MONDO ZAPPA in hot pursuit, easily blocking machinegun fire with his sword while moving ever closer to his target.”

    Oh lord, even the first sentence of this article is wrong.

    PROTIP: Look at the eyes.
    What color are David’s eyes? What color are Mondo’s eyes (not counting the flashback dream in chapter eight)? Had you beaten the game, you would know this is a significant detail. Also, have you ever noticed at the chapter end results, it says Mondo’s name and his signature gets written on the screen, and this happens at the end of every chapter…except a single specific chapter?

    See attached image. You might learn something.
    Until then, please stick to reviewing games like Bioshock Infinite or The Last Of Us and throwing praise at them. That’s what’s on your level it with no need to think, the story spoon feeds you everything. After all, it is “finally a smart games for smart people” such as yourself.
    http://youtu.be/l_u18_BKczg

  • Raltrios

    Excuse me? We were complaining about other people complaining, and now you’re complaining about us complaining about other people complaining? What does that accomplish?

  • BizarreJelly

    You mad or something? typed a few multiples there. I’m sorry if I’m not offended by video games and feel the need to see negatives in every trivial aspect of a character/gameplay aspect, I’m so sorry for being backward! I wish I was offended by tits.

    “Feminism in video games” truly important stuff!

  • Göran Isacson

    Hopefully, creating a more diverse discussion.

    See, I get where you’re coming from. This may be one of Sudas most polished games thus far, from a graphical and mechanical standpoint. To those whose primary concen is what a game plays like, seeing all this criticism for things thatto you are completely arbitrary must be pretty odd.

    But to the peope who are concerned with more than that? To the people who looks at a games story, its subtleties, its message and above all else, its pedigree, who tries to incorporate ALL factors of the game? Its pretty damn hurtful to them to see their complaints completely disregarded with “lol femnism”.

    Truth be told, I am pretty darn uncomfortable with most of what I hear about this game. The Suda I adore made games like Killer 7, No More Heroes and Contact. These were games that stood for something, games which had something to say, games that did something few other games would do. But this game? I admit that I have not played the game, but nothing in its marketing, its reviews or even its defenders statements tell me anything of what it does to truly stand on its own. What does it do that no other game doesn’t already do better? It’s obviously Grasshoppers most polished game so far and hey, good on them for that. But is it better than, say, Revengeance? The upcoming Bayonetta 2? Any other action game out there? Everything I hear surrounding this game just makes it sound like Suda didn’t try or care about the story. He markets it with tits and ass, so that’s all I’ve seen.
    And frankly? He can and should do better than that.

    So to summarize: We complain about people complaining about people complaining because those people don’t acknowledge our complaints as valid for some pretty backwards and petty reasons. They are mad that we are mad that one of gamings sharpest minds seems to have settled for gloss and spectacle instead of depth, a complaint which I dare almost guarantee that they themselves have aimed at the game industry in the past but which sudenly doesn’t apply HERE because people are complaining about gratuitious and mindless t&a! And surely the only reason anyone would ever do that is if they’re pawns of the feminazi agenda, not because they have different standards, opinions or exectations of video games than I have!

    Maybe this doesn’t apply to you.Maybe you’ve never complained abiut video games being dumbed down before, so other peoples concerns doesn’t concern you. Fair enough, different strokes for different folks. But don’t act like other peoples opinions and complaints are part of some massbrainwashing conspiracy just because they run counter to yours or touch on matters that you don’t care about. It’s a demeaning and dishonest argument, and nobody likes that kind of thing.

  • BlueTree

    From the perspective of game craft as a sort of thematic message, Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda51 do intrigue me… from a holistic perspective, sometimes they really just piss me off. I’d say I think No More Heroes is my favorite game by them to date, but mostly because the mechanics, which I feel are deliberately unpleasant in areas, don’t belabor the points he tries to make with the experience.

    I think there are a lot of people sort of smashed with the doctrine that “The gameplay is what matters”, which I think it does, but I think that doesn’t exclude the craft from having a message or working toward a message. I also feel that developers, for the moment, will be able to get away with murder in a lot of respects.

    I think it does matter, but the craft aspect is incredibly complex and nuanced and bears discussion beyond just having an agenda. I don’t want games to be a springboard for a sales motive as much as I don’t want critical analysis to take a backseat to internet lamp-shading of issues.

    Sadly I feel like the Gigolo Missions were an easy portion to isolate and immediately turn off the brain in regard to that. Either with “It’s sexist” or “It’s just people being politically correct just because.”

    That being said, I think Sine Mora fucking sucks. lol

    I love video games.

  • Raltrios

    That isn’t exactly what I meant. I’m more distressed about how people limit their own vision when it comes to games with questionable content. Most of the reviews I’ve seen have just latched onto Gigolo mode, and their disapproval of it has blinded them to the rest of the game subconsciously. Even I think Gigolo mode is silly, but it feels so unnecessary to the plot that I personally have it put to the side as sort of an easter egg feature for those that want it. But some people can’t look past it, and I think that dampens their ability to perceive the more subtle aspects of the game. I get where they’re coming from – everyone has their own morals – I just don’t appreciate how they come off as the creator is a pervert and a failure because they aren’t being open-minded, I guess. I know they can believe whatever they want, but it irks me whenever someone writes off something without being able to see it as the creator intended.

    I haven’t played any of Suda’s works before this one so I’m not able to talk about his style, but I’m picking up on a few things through extrapolation that can’t be seen when you play the game like it’s nothing more than an action movie. The artstyle alone feels somewhat abstract, and once your mind gets into that sort of groove things start to get pieced together. At least, that’s how I feel.

  • Göran Isacson

    I see. As someone who HAS played many of his previous works (not all though), I suppose that I’m coming from a position of someone who’s willing to believe that there IS depth to the game… but is also kind of skeptical to it.
    Yeah, we are definitely coming at it from two different perspectives here. Over the years I’ve seen Suda go from making some really THOUGHT-provoking games, to games that are just plain provocative for luls. It is a development I am not a fan off.

    No More Heroes had a pretty interesting storyline, and most of that wasn’t really what they SAID so much as what you had to infer and read between the lines. No More Heroes 2 however was a bit more technically polished but ultimately didn’t have as many interesting things to say: essentially the first No More Heroes had been a big joke on the player, and now all of a sudden they tried to make us take the joke seriously and it just fell flat. And MAN did it ever up the fan-service. Like, there wasn’t a point to it really, it was just there because, quote Yathzee, “someone had introduced jiggle physics to Suda 51 and a love affair that would last through out the ages begun”.

    Shadows of the Damned was another game which had decent gameplay and a fun plot, but which also ultimately didn’t have anything to say. You COULD read something interesting into it, but the interesting reading directly conflicts with several other things included in the story so it just ends up feeling… weak. Split between wanting to do something interesting, and something the expected shooter audience would enjoy… also tits again. Bare ones, this time.

    But the funny thing is, that the title which COULD make me go “hmm maybe there’s more to Killer is Dead than I think” is actually Lollipop Chainsaw- the game with the cheerleader you could dress up in skimpy (or not so skimpy outfits if you preferred that) outfits. Because that game, shock and awe, actually contained less male gaze than NMH2 and SotD combined in it’s camera angles and images (which is to say it was still THERE, but the camera lingered WAAYY less on Juliets body than I thought it would) and the characters show some interesting depths that I wouldn’t have expected of them. Some of them felt kinda weird, some of them really uncomfortable, but it felt like there was a THOUGHT here, a message of sorts.

    On the other hand- from what I hear most of the English dialogues for that game, which was were said interesting character moments could be found, seemed to be more courtesy of James Gunn, Sudas partner for that game, than Suda himself. So as you can see Suda has had some REAL ups and downs over his career and after all that I’ve seen him do and the course he’s chosen, I just don’t know if I can really give him the benefit of the doubt anymore. Because he has proven he will unironically put fanservice in his games just for sheer exploitations sake and write stories that don’t really go anywhere truly interesting. I want to be interested by a new Suda game, but I can’t find it in me to cut him any slack or give him any leeway with these “easter eggs” because he just hasn’t earned it lately. It just feels like I’m seeing a theme here with him, not just “wacky shenanigans”, and it’s a theme I’m none too fond of.

  • Göran Isacson

    Man, so do I :)

    You have a point there- it’s easy perhaps to point at the biggest point of controversy in the game and forego any thought and actual analysis, but at the same time it kinda feels like Suda’s worked himself into that very reactionary corner. So many games where he inserts fanservice just because has eroded peoples good will, at least in my case, so when I see him market a game with ten minute trailers where pretty models sit around in skimpy outfits, I just… I feel like I don’t WANT to give him the benefit of a doubt anymore, you know?

    I do want to play the game, just to make my own actual opinion. I can’t honestly give a true opinion on the game until I’ve played it and seen the story for myself. but eGAD, if the PR and the marketing for it doesn’t turn me right the heck off.

    Also man did Sine Mora suck? I just bought it pretty cheap off a steam sale and I’m a pretty big shmup fan, those news cut me deep.

  • BlueTree

    Don’t take my word on Sine Mora, lol, at least if you bought it. I think it’s a good example of what I want to mention, related to something you said:

    Yeah, I think in a much clearer way, it’s easy to make an appeal to art in the case of Gigolo Missions, but I feel the same way you do about it. Sort of disgusted, in that no matter what thematic message is at work, there’s something about it that feels hackneyed and ill-conceived. Because it doesn’t work like doing tedious bullshit to get to the next assassination mission does in No More Heroes.

    I sort of look for that in reviews of games I am on the fence about, because I don’t have the time or money to play everything under the sun, but I feel that if we don’t step up the criticism, if we just go “Well maybe the story is just shit”, it’s incredibly lazy.

    And if you felt turned off, let me just say that every time I see Grasshopper Manufacture’s name on a product, I really have to pause and ask myself “Am I going to get a No More Heroes or am I gonna get a Sine Mora or Killer7?”

    I do think there is such a thing as belaboring a point, even if that point is made with some kind of mini-game or gameplay mechanic, but if someone is being paid to experience the game, it’s their fucking job to tell me that, and I just feel like I’m at odds with reviews because they’re either forcing some anti-intellectual, juvenile argument… or they’re just not even equipped for the discussion.

    That being said, I just bought Killer Is Dead because, welp, looks like morbid curiosity is taking over. I don’t come at this with enthusiasm, I just want to know for myself and possibly even speak where, as you say, observation doesn’t do an actual playthrough justice.

    Beats getting into a pissing contest with some ass on the internet lol.

  • Göran Isacson

    That it does indeed. Got a blog where you post impressions or something so one can see how this little experiment turns out?

  • BlueTree

    I don’t, unfortunately. I’m willing to share, though primarily I’m doing so as it relates to an independent research opportunity I was given for next semester here at University.

  • Touma

    -looks at last line- ugh. i hope it was just as hard for you to type that as it was for me to read it.

  • Göran Isacson

    Ooh, gaming for research purposes? Always a good idea. Would indeed be very interested to hear whatever you come up with,though I dunno how to PM people over Disqus…

  • BlueTree

    It’s more or less related to proving there’s narrative in unconventional game genres. I find that Killer Is Dead is more describing about how there’s a fine line between getting your point across and possibly doing something that is sort of hamfisted or poorly communicated. In the case of a game, it’s really hard to say, I feel like a lot of developers are going to be trapped by not having the “proper label” for not being obligated to entertain constantly.

    Like, an Indie Game, I imagine, could have done the exact same things this game did and possibly it wouldn’t have turned any heads whatsoever.

  • Göran Isacson

    Interesting. While I do want to play the game myself one day and don’t want TOO much spoiled for myself or build an opinion based purely on talking about the game instead of playing it, I have to ask: what do you think would have made the game less controversial (if that is what you mean by “turning heads”) if it was an indie game (with, I presume, less advanced graphics or something along those lines)? What about being a… not triple A, but basically a “mainstream” industry game works against the game in your opinion?

  • BlueTree

    I think a lot of the ruckus, and it’s not even a particularly interesting or large ruckus to me, is perception. Society, people look at anything in life with expectations shaped by many factors. I just happen to think the ones at work for Killer Is Dead are related to hot button topics, be that anti-intelligence or knee jerk lampshade awareness.

    As for what specifically would have made the game less controversial: I don’t know, here’s my guess:

    If the creators don’t know, I certainly don’t, at least from a standpoint of immediacy. My only desire to contribute to the situation is to just think a little more critically about what it is I play. A lot of people already have, but that kind of voice, insight needs to be better and louder. Better in the sense of quality of what is said, and louder in the sense that we need more people speaking critically and being truly critical in a constructive manner.

    For instance, applying Occam’s Razor to art is not being critical. It’s not even helpful, it’s just being dumb. Talking about themes like Freud, that’s helpful. It may not resonate with everyone, but the more it pops up, the more value it will seemingly communicate and have.

    Allowing games the space, showing that it’s possible to play a game and still see value in it even if there’s “not fun parts”, dissecting those, that I think will be most helpful of all. I’m not trying to give free promotion to any developer or company at the moment, I think people just need to see there’s room to speak critically without some of the more frown worthy responses, such as “You’re thinking too deeply.” The more we do that, the more we can also try to balance craft with message.

  • Göran Isacson

    That was an interesting response, but I must confess that I may have been a bit too sloppy in my writing: I should probably have put more emphasis on the other half of my question:
    “What about being a… not triple A, but basically a “mainstream” industry game works against the game in your opinion?”

    That was the part in your previous post which stood out to me: I felt as if you were saying that if this was an indie game, something fundamentally different in the way indie games are perceived counter to “mainstream games” would have somehow made this game less controversial. I was pretty much just trying to get an explanation for what you perceived this “indie factor” to be. Perhaps something along the lines of how indie games, which often deliberately break molds and rules, often have reviewers and gamers thinking and approaching them in new ways since they know from the onset that their old way of thinking can’t be applied, whereas mainstream games often are made after common design rules which are so wellknown by now, we judge their worth by whether or not they follow our inner “design rule checklist”. That is at least the answer I thought of.

    But maybe there was just a misunderstaning at play here. It was still an interesting reply. I admit that I often apply Occams Razor to games simply because my experiences as a reviewer has often encouraged simplicity and sparse words, and discouraged long excursions of philosophy and rethoric. To put it simply and crassly: I don’t see an inherent value in reading things into games which I perceive to not have a lot of thought put into them. It’s a matter of budgeting my time and mental energy: if the designers didn’t care to imbue this part with value or layers, why should I try to read those things into them and give these thoughts valuable wordspace in my reviews, when the majority of feedback I get from my reviews is about wanting to know about mechanics and how well they work, and discouraging me from talking about the “fluff”?

    Hence I only bother going into such depth when I feel a game REALLY resonates with me and I really HAVE to talk about something deeper than pressing buttons in the right order, and if a game doesn’t give me that I just give the audience and editors what they demand of me. A check-list, more or less. It’s to the point where I often do this even for games I play and don’t write reviews for, it’s simply become habit at this point.

  • BlueTree

    Oh, as far as perception goes… yes, I was definitely saying something along those lines, close enough to it in any case.

    This game faces a lot of the expectations that Triple A games receive by nature of a title actually being a Triple A game. I think having the label “Indie Game” or at least the perceptions of being one, carries with it an ability to make a certain type of game and get away with certain types of design decisions, yes.

    “This is one of those ‘fluff/art games’.”

    The coverage and attention that Suda51 gets along with Grasshopper Manufacture are not along those lines. While Grasshopper Manufacture has made games like Killer7, they’ve also made games like No More Heroes, its sequel, Shadows of the Damned, and Lollipop Chainsaw. These are games which seemingly straddle the line between having a very clear artistic commentary and being “just entertainment.” Look at what we’ve read in the review above:

    But here’s a twist—Grasshopper is getting better at the bits of combat leading toward these bosses.

    That abstraction creates the kind of dissonance we see with Killer Is Dead where, despite Suda51 and Grasshopper’s penchant and history for developing games that cover subversive topics, critics and reviewers don’t always review the game beyond the context of craft and performance. They’re not regarded as an Independent Game Creation Studio, though they definitely should be.

    Good criticism of a video game means that the critic is going to have to ask questions and find their own answers about “Why am I being asked to experience this?” “Why is this boring me?” “Why do I feel this way about this game?”

    “What am I being asked to experience and why?”

    I think when the job doesn’t ask for that, when it discourages this level of thinking, or even if a game does have technical flaws, it will encourage this idea that it isn’t always worth pursuing answers to these questions unless, as you’ve admitted, there is some sort of resonance that you feel with the title.

    I think it’s one thing to say that a game was “difficult to play through” for things like load times or framerate issues. To me, those are to video games as costume accidents and flagrant continuity in shot problems are to movies. It’s fine to just say “This game wasn’t put well enough together for me to really consider it a worthwhile experience” if you choose to go that route… but a lot of what I see with Killer Is Dead is commentary where it seemed like the reviewer was willing to see past that then, oh, wait, hot button topic issue NOW I have to leave rather than see it through.

    On the subject of that:

    I had a chance to play the game last night, and I did a few Gigolo Missions as well as played the regular scenario missions up to the assassination of Alice… for the moment, what stood out to me so far that I really disliked was the typical heavy use of scene and narrative scene style cutscenes along with some irritating load times on the PS3 if I want to do, say, a Gigolo Mission. Something that tedious, thematic or not, kind of hurts to experience when it isn’t snappy. I’d liken it to a book with that feels like a slow crawl, a difficult or pasty/arduous read.

    That being the case, my desires in a review are often about finding the stasis between craft, graphics/mechanics/performance and “fluff”/presentation. Because it’s not just fluff, but how you go about presenting your “fluff” is something I feel needs to be addressed. Because it DOES matter, no matter how many people think it’s unimportant. They have willingly chosen to narrow their perspective, that same standard does not have to apply to everyone else.

    Being a critic doesn’t mean you have to like everything you play, but I know for a fact that I learned something very important about writing:

    Laziness is unethical.

    If we’re going to be lazy in our analysis for the sake of expedience or convenience, not merely because the material itself is dramatically poor in terms of quality of performance, it’s time to consider letting someone else make a statement instead.

    To close, for Killer Is Dead… I can see why someone would find it a slog to meet Suda51 halfway on his story here just by nature of loading and what not… but I still need to play more.

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