Killer Is Dead Review: No more comedy

killer is dead logo

No More Heroes, thanks to its quirky characters and situations, garnered a cult following that surely pays heed to every game that Grasshopper Manufacture produces. Silly things like lawn-mowing side missions, beam-katana baseball, and shiny gold coins that spew out of enemies who’ve been maimed to virtual death, are just a few of the eccentricities to be found in that strange, originally Wii-only title. With Killer is Dead being a third-person action game, and it being from Grasshopper Manufacture, you’d think that fans would know what to expect. It does hit some of the marks that previous games did, but fans should know that this one comes in a slightly different flavor from the rest.

  • Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
  • Release Date: August 27, 2013
  • Players: 1
  • MSRP: $59.99
  • Publisher: XSEED
  • Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture

killer is dead gun arm

Killer Is Dead has a simple premise. You’re Mondo, a killer for hire who kills people. Often, before he performs the final blow on his probably-not-innocent victim, he announces the title of his mission: “Killer is dead.” The game plays out as a series of separate chapters, most of them revolving around assassinating a specific target. Every now and then, there is a hint of an overarching plot that involves Mondo’s forgotten past.

The plot dribbles out at the slowest of speeds, giving players a hint of something to come just a few times for the duration of the game. There are scenes that are supposed to be devastating for the main character, and yet at the same time there are “funny” visual gags. Where is the direction going? Am I supposed to feel for the character or laugh at the gag? Both? I can tell you that neither had an effect on me. It’s because of things like this, and that the plot is extremely shallow and plodding, that players will have to resort to the other elements of the game for their entertainment.

killer is dead enemy

Thankfully there is something to enjoy in the combat of Killer Is Dead. It is somewhat reminiscent of No More Heroes, but it feels a bit more fleshed out and polished. Though players will only have to mash the attack button for a lot of their aggression towards enemies, they have a variety of often necessary moves: counter attacking, guard breaking, dodging, and shooting. Dodging at the last moment before an enemy hits will allow players to unleash a flurry of attacks. Guarding at the right moment will knock an enemy off balance, opening them up for attack for a second or two. Not getting hit while continuously getting hits on enemies will allow Mondo to keep his combo going and to choose different execution animations that reward him with various items. It’s a combat system that doesn’t get bogged down in complicated combos but gives enough variety to keep you on your toes.

killer is dead charge cannon

There are a few extra weapons to be gained on the journey as well. One, an ice gun, allows you to slow enemies down for awhile. A transformation of your robotic arm into a drill gives you the ability to thrust your way through crowds. Another is a type of charge cannon that satisfyingly blows through multiple enemies while you stay at a safe distance. These extra weapons aren’t necessary to win in combat, but they do add some spice to the mix.

killer is dead alice boss

The game has a unique, high contrast style that lets it stand out from the pack, and there are also some cool effects that take place during combat. Dodging an attack at the right time will cause the screen to become bright red, and every few strokes of Mondo’s blade will cause an after-image of himself to appear. It’s an effective visual that remains exciting throughout. In a similar fashion, the last enemy of an area is given special treatment as Mondo performs a devastating execution.

killer is dead moon

The locales in the game are usually interesting to look at even if they’re not pushing boundaries in graphical detail, but they’re marred by technical flaws. It’s harder to appreciate the looming, bright moon when the screen is tearing. It’s a problem that can be seen at least a handful of times for every minute of gameplay. The framerate isn’t always consistent either. On the bright side, these technical flaws never hindered the gameplay experience, only the aesthetic one.

killer is dead tiger boss

Bosses are often as weird as any Grasshopper Manufacture devotee would like. One, a train engine, is a cartoonish, demonic face with human-like eyes protruding like those of a snail. Hacking off the eyes reveals a long-necked, fleshy skull that attacks you from the mouth. Another boss, David, is a would-be god. A man wearing a sort of Egyptian S&M costume of gleaming gold. If you wanted some color in your adversaries, you’ve come to the right place.

Unfortunately, although the game has quirkiness and weirdness in spades, it lacks comedy almost entirely. I think there may have been around three times that I smirked at something onscreen. I’m fairly certain that this is something that will disappoint Suda 51 fans. While his past games have mostly leaned heavily on the lighthearted side, this one is content to wallow on the opposite side of the scale. If the plot were actually interesting, this wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing.

Then there’s the fact that the game is quite short. Players who want to burn through the campaign can probably do so in about six to seven hours. There are extra missions to do, but they’re close enough to what you’ll experience in the main game that you may want to just forgo them. After having seen the extra missions, I would have been content to stop playing after the main story missions were over.

killer is dead gigolo mission

There has been much ado regarding the gigolo missions. In these missions, Mondo must stare at different parts of his date–I’m certain you can guess where–in order to build up Mondo’s “guts” meter. Eventually he is able to give her a present of his choosing, in an attempt to woo her. Success in these missions results in receiving new weapons and a (very) short cutscene of the girl in her underwear, sometimes doing suggestive movements. Those hoping to be satisfied by the gigolo missions ought to look elsewhere for their thrills. These dates don’t even contain any witty dialogue (or any real dialogue at all), and so they end up not serving any good purpose.

I would put Killer Is Dead in the same vein of action as games such as No More Heroes or the recent Batman games. If all you’re looking for is a decent beat-em-up with some interesting visuals, this will do you just fine. Just don’t expect it to do anything other than that. The bosses in the game are weird enough that it may just keep you hooked and wondering what’s next. The enemies, until about three-fourths of the way through, offer new challenges that keep the combat relatively fresh. To the game’s detriment, the dialogue and plot offer little. The strange assassination journey will also only last a few handfuls of hours. It’s an enjoyable action game with a lot of style, but for most people, the price can’t be justified. Rent it or wait for it to drop to the twenty to thirty dollar range.

Grade: C+

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Ryan Southard
Ryan Southard 776 posts

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it's new or it's old, as long as it's awesome, he'll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard <a href="http://nerdreactor.com/about/">Meet the Nerd Reactor Team</a>

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