Killer 7 is one of those games that you just can’t put your finger on. It delights and dismays in equal measure. The things that make it great are also the things that make you want to poke your eyes out with a stick rather than play another second.
But before you do poke your eyes out with a stick I advise you to look at Killer 7 because it is stunning. It’s like playing the "Sin City" movie as a game. Despite being cel-shaded, Killer 7 manages to maintain a look all of its very own. Purely monochrome apart from splashes colour such as of acid green and harsh pink, the mood is modern noir.
What it has in innovative styling, Killer 7 doesn’t really seem to deliver on when it comes to gameplay. It’s pretty much your standard on rails shooter with a few Resident Evil style puzzles thrown in for good measure.
The basic premise is that Harman Smith, wheelchair bound assassin, has seven personalities that the player can use to advance through the game. Intrigued? You will be, for a while anyway er"I think.
Each of the seven personalities has their own special moves and abilities. For instance, Coyote Smith, one of my personal favourites, is a crook so he can pick locks. But he also has gravity-defying jumping abilities. Mask de Smith is an ex-wrestler who just explodes stuff with these dual mini grenade launchers. And the only woman in the gang is Kaede Smith. She limps about in a blood spattered slip dress and has a supernatural ability to absorb blood and break down barriers. She also has a handy zoom on her gun.
As the game progresses you become accustomed to each character’s abilities and can use them accordingly to solve puzzles. But don’t be fooled by Harman’s wheelchair because it has an armor-piercing rifle strapped to the back of it. The basic message is "don’t mess."
At this point I’m just going to say that this game is weird. It’s the craziest thing I’ve seen since David Lynch’s last outing. Surreal is a word I could use and alongside that I could use dark. Some might find the weirdness too try-hard, but I enjoyed it, it intrigued me.
Things like, why is Iwazaru, your in-game helper, in a gimp suit. And why does Harman have seven other personalities? All these questions and the new ones that sprang up at every turn kept me coming back for more. However, the intrigue was ill-served by an unfathomable plot to rival Metal Gear Solid. Did the cut scenes look gorgeous? Yes they did. Could I tell you what the feck was going on? Could I hell! If you understand the plot then I think you have issues because that’s not normal.
The weirdness of the game is truly underlined by the fact that there’s no tutorial to ease you into the all round kookiness. Nope, you’re just thrown in there. Now, some may see this as a flaw. But in hindsight I think it just serves to propel you into this strange universe without the foggiest idea as to what’s going on. The first level was an utter mystery. I knew I was enjoying it, but didn’t have a clue what was happening.
Even the control system is a little left of centre. The character is on rails, so there’s not much room for error. However, when you come to a point where you have a choice of routes the screen is split into shards, each going in the different directions. On the GameCube use the left analogue to select the path you want to take. It takes a little getting used to, but soon falls into place.
Moving around couldn’t be simpler; just press and hold down A. That’s it – lesson over. The only freedom of movement you have is the B button, which turns you by 180 degrees. Now this is where the gripes start cropping up, but more on that later.
On traversing this dark and weird universe you will come across demonic, zombie foes called Heaven Smiles. The first inkling you have of their presence is maniacal laughter because the Smiles are cloaked. Hold down the trigger button to scan the area and unveil the Smiles and then shoot.
When you shoot a foe you collect blood, which can be used in two ways. Leave it as is, thin blood, and it can be taken to boost health. Alternatively head to the blood bank, where it is turned into serum, which is used to level up your characters. Beware though, only a certain amount of serum can be produced per level, so make sure you keep all characters up to peak performance.
Now, back to the gripes. Sometimes you can hear a Smile coming for you, but because your movement is so restricted it’s on you before you know what’s hit you. Other times you reach a junction, which splits the screen up, then you hear a Smile coming your way, but you don’t know which route to choose – too late the Smile’s blown up in your face. Frustration is a word that springs to mind here.
As the game progresses, the only thing that seemed to progress was the difficulty was ratcheted up with each level. However, the actual missions were fairly repetitive. Objective – kill somebody. Puzzle – find some bit of broken something, put in likely hole, open secret door. Boss battle – wait for certain area to be revealed and shoot boss in that area. I’m sorry, but no amount of slick styling can keep my interest doing level upon level of the same old thing.
I can’t be too harsh on Killer 7 because it is one of those rare things; the product of a team that has taken some risks and tried something new. It is gorgeous and mysterious and intriguing. It’s hard not to expect more of Killer 7, which is maybe a little unfair, when it’s different in so many ways. This game is definitely not for everyone. For some it’ll just be too weird, for others the staid gameplay won’t inspire enough and for others it’ll intrigue and delight. In some ways the only way to tell if you’re going to like Killer 7 is just to play it. And that’s not a bad thing.