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Killer7 Package Art


It's funny that Killer7 happened to be released in the midst of Take Two Interactive's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas "Hot Coffee" scandal. While green-to-the-industry politicians aimed searing accusations at the controversial and really-not-controversial, surely someone in Capcom was a little worried as the U.S. gaming press became plastered with ads bearing the macabre-glorifying catch phrase "Enter the mind of a serial killer!"

It turns out our marketing friends weren't making a light statement. By the time this game's story is done, players will have been ushered along on rails through a funhouse of societal horrors colored with the darkest of humor and irony. Sure, GTA gives gamers the option to commit a multitude of criminal acts, but Killer7 gives no such liberty: you're in for the whole ride, baby. Gruesome assassinations, holy war suicide bombers, non-explicit sex, and even a scene that gives the ending of David Fincher's Se7en a run for its money are all here, plus more. This doesn't mean the game should be put to the inquisition. Killer7 is a beautifully stylized, genuine horror game for grown-ups who have wondered what a game by Tarantino could be like.


Most gripping in Killer7's deck of merits is its visual style. Not since Viewtiful Joe has a video game delivered such a unique, memorable style. Pulp comic books, film noir, and a twist of Twin Peaks-styled surrealism melt into a gradient-colored world of melancholy. The crisp character design oozes personality and ensures each individual will linger in your memory, whether it's for their faces, frequently changing costumes, the way they hold their weapons differently, or even how they each uniquely ascend and descend stairs.

Such a bevy of style is fortunate since the game is full of cut scenes that are mostly handled by the in-game engine. During such cut scenes, lip-synching is near spot-on and physical body animation is terrific, aside from occasionally stiff hand and limb movement. As an extra visual kick, hand-drawn anime shorts illustrate a couple cut scenes near the beginning and middle of the storyline.

Detracting a bit from the wildly diverse and detailed environments and characters are the enemies. While there's no shortage in variety of enemy types and the methods to kill them, they end up looking a little simplistic and underwhelming. Given so much style everywhere else in the game, such a distinction was probably an objective decision that makes it easier for the well-socialized gamer (as we all are) to mow down waves of the monsters. After all, many of these monsters are actually humans who have been infected and mutated in a violent conversion to the evil "Heaven Smiles'" cause.


If you find clowns annoying and/or unsettling, then you'll find a lot to love here as every foot solider of the enemy lets out a maniacal cackle best reserved for the darkest of circus-themed nightmares. Adding to the black humor is the penalty for killing an enemy without a shot to his one-hit kill spot: right as the monster explodes into a pastel confetti of pixels, another psychotic laugh erupts. Not only do these enemies find the thought of being killed amusing, they'll insult you if you don't finish them right.

The voice acting of the heroes and villains is great as they spew sarcastic insults, socio-political arguments, and a multitude of profanity-laced exclamations and cheers. The rest of the cast are spirits of murdered humans who talk in eerie, robotic Speak and Spell voices that usually sound like gibberish but just as often speak a word or two that appears in the watery subtitles.

Musically, Killer7's soundtrack is abstract, traditional, and sometimes downright cheeky. A jazzy electric guitar identifies the simple puzzles and their completion, pulsing synthesizer disco precedes each boss fight, and traditional Asian music blankets a Japanese restaurant. If not the twangy, macho-country level's tunes, then perhaps the most ironic moment in the soundtrack is a Caribbean-themed mission in which sunny, acoustic guitar sidles alongside the assassins as they explode enemies into geysers of blood against sun-bleached architecture.


Much lamenting and consternation was made about Killer7's lack of a control scheme during its development and what finally came to fruition at release. At its heart, this story-heavy title is an old-school PC adventure game with FPS bits. Granted, there's enough first-person shooting here to give the game an action genre slant, but there's no denying such action is not a lynchpin of the game but a way to establish the world it takes place in.

Fortunately, the potential monotony of relentlessly switching to first person mode to first scan and then attack the army of suicide bombers is lightened by the fact that there are many types of enemies and each type has a specific weak point that must be exploited differently than the others'. Also, Killer7's designers made a wise choice in allowing the killing of enemies to produce blood that acts as both the currency to upgrade characters as well as a means to restore characters' life bars at any point in a level. While dying is possible, it's seldom a frequent inconvenience and something easily remedied by the fact that any character except one can be quickly resurrected.

After seeing the vivid world of Killer7 in pre-release screenshots, discovering that there is no free-roaming control initially sounded like a big knock to the game's potential. Yet make no bones about it: the control scheme here is a total non-issue. While it's true the only way to move around the game world is to hold a button down to make the characters run along a set path, it's really a blessing in disguise. You can still go back and forth in an environment and are always given the choice of when to stop, leave a room, or choose a direction down a hallway. Besides, characters still end up traversing every area of a given room, and non-essential areas are left where they belong: out of the way. By creating a restrictive control scheme, which is generously off-set by the entirely free-form first person shooting, gamers can focus on what really matters in this adventure, which is the story, its characters, and the beautiful environments which most often look best from the dramatic angles the camera provides.




While it's certainly too violent and heavy for kids under 18 (as the appropriate ESRB rating states), and perhaps too ramblingly intellectual for every taste, Killer7 is a brilliant piece of work when taken as a whole. It's lengthy for an adventure-action game (note "adventure" comes before "action") and is perfectly timed in its release. Terrorism and the subject of mature content in video games are hot button issues for us all, and playing through Killer7's gorgeous, dark world provides plenty of pleasantly confusing socio-political commentary to digest and over-the-top violence to revel in. Just as the film world has its Disney, we already have our Miyamoto to deliver pure, innocent fun. Yet some older gamers still have a lust for games in the vein of Tarantino, and Killer7 delivers just that. Trigger-happy armchair philosophers, rejoice.

final score 8.5/10

Staff Avatar M. Noah Ward
Staff Profile | Email
"Death narrowly avoided, thanks to another friendly NPC."

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