I met with Grasshopper Manufacture CEO Goichi Suda and Xseed Games for a first look at Killer is Dead. Although we’ve seen a trailer and concept art, we haven’t seen much about the gameplay.
Killer is Dead follows Mondo Zappa who is an executioner and his job is to kill people who live in the Underworld, not everyday people like an ordinary hitman. He works at Bryan Execution Agency, which is government funded. Suda gave him a suit and a tie so he looks like he’s a government official. Mondo carries a katana in one hand and his other hand is a transforming cybernetic arm.
Mondo will be sent out to work whenever a client stops by the office and tells the Execution Agency about a “problem.” When Mondo takes care of the target players complete a mission and get a reward. The whole game, Suda explained, is designed like one season of a TV drama and each mission is like an episode.
Sticking with the TV analogy, I caught the trail end of an episode. The Killer is Dead demo started at a boss fight. The villain in this episode is Victor who looks like a metal skeleton was the target. Victor stole all of the sound from the world so when Mondo meets Victor you can see his mouth moving, but you can’t hear what he says. Mondo picked up a helmet that allowed him to hear Victor talk. This build of Killer is Dead already had English voiceovers in it so I got to hear Mondo wisecracks like “I’ve come to take back my ears” while pointing his katana at Victor who wants to “mass produce sounds of madness.”
Mondo’s augmented arm was a gun for this fight, but bullets didn’t chip away much of Victor’s life. The gun basically knocks Victor off balance so Mondo can dash in and use his katana. Mondo has a basic set of slashes and a sidestep move to evade melee attacks. The key to boss battles is to hit and then use Mondo’s super fast speed to retreat. After injuring Victor, the boss changed from a humanoid form (Victor says he no longer needs a body of flesh) into a giant mecha-like creature that can make cones of static shoot up from the ground. “One of the strong points of Grasshopper Manufacture, is we like to have different kinds of fun boss battles with different styles of gameplay that players can enjoy,” Suda said while Mondo was weaving through columns of gray static. The boss battle ended with a finishing blow that decapitated Victor. Each boss ends with a gory scene because Mondo has to bring the head back as proof that he completed his mission.
“We concentrated on is how to visualize the game. As you can see, we wanted to have a distinct look. We didn’t want a photorealistic look or cel-shading because that would make it look a little too cartoonish. We’re calling this high contrast shading and it has a different look than our other titles,” Suda said when talking about the game’s art style.
A feature we didn’t get to see, but is in Killer is Dead is something called “gigolo mode.” Mondo can seduce women in the story. Other side missions reward players with unlockable outfits, materials, and money to upgrade his weapons.
Killer is Dead is slated for a summer release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.