Just like a perfectly crafted and thrown boomerang, we are back for another installment of Stephen Pastic's Rewind - the target this week being Killer7. Released in 2005 for the Gamecube and Playstation 2, Killer7 was the first major title for Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture. Captivating and dividing the opinion of the gaming press even prior to release, Killer7 to this day is very much a 'love it or hate it' game.
The first thing which immediately jumps out with this title is it's striking visual presentation. Utilising a heavily stylised variant of the cel-shading visuals seen in titles such as XIII and Legend of Zelda Wind Waker, Killer7 is instantly recognisable. As the game was approaching release time, many were enamoured with it's graphical style even though many pre release trailers did little to suggest what players could expect in terms of gameplay. Once players got their hands on the finished product, it was immediately clear that Killer7 was very much a unique beast, for better or worse. Story wise, the game's set up involved a struggle between Harman Smith (an elderly wheelchair bound assassin), and Kun Lan - who controls bizarro suicide bombers by virtue of his possession of the "God Hand". Stepping into the shoes of Harman, players have access to his multiple personalities, all of which are somewhat left of center field assassins themselves - but, rather than simply switching in game personae, each personality also has it's own physical body and special abilities. If that sounds wacky at the outset, you should know that by Killer7's conclusion the higher functioning portions of your brain will have been well and truly punched into submission.
The most obvious comparison to make in terms of gameplay is that of an 'on rails' shooter. Players can only move forwards or turn 180 degrees on the spot, and will move into a first person view upon holding the aim button. Maniacal giggles alert the player to the prescence of any Heaven Smile (those bizarro suicide bombers i mentioned earlier) in the vicinity - which for some reason, it is necessary to first hit a button to scan for enemies (thus making them visible) before taking aim at their relevant weak points. At risk of being misleading, the game also features 'puzzles' which often must utilise a specific persona's abilities, albeit the game pretty much explicitly tells the player what is needed to advance...even the former US president would be unlikely to run into much trouble here.
At this point, if you have not yet played Killer7 you are probably thinking that this sounds freaking horrible...and you would be right. The moment to moment gameplay often feels poorly designed and something you will have to grit your teeth through, even for a fan of the game. No, that wasn't a typo - despite the fact that what i have described is certainly not something i expect people to welcome with open arms, Killer7 is a rare example of a game's plot and presentation overriding the mountain of crap the player is forced to endure.
Killer7's story somehow manages to be simultaneously functionally retarded, yet pants stiffeningly inspired. Unfortunately, you will simply have to take my word for it as i do not feel i could accurately summarise it whilst keeping the word count under seven figures. The cast of characters throughout are nothing short of utter lunatics, and are all 'voiced' in a similar way to the N64 Banjo Kazooie games, with fractured elements of speech being thrown together in an auditory mish-mash. Even prior to getting a handle on what the hell is actually going on, there are many moments which are so bizarre that will keep you trudging through the sub mediocre gameplay just to see what the hell will happen next. This, coupled with the game's striking visual signature is what keeps me coming back periodically to do it all over again. I said at the outset that Killer7 is very much a 'love it or hate it' game...if you want further evidence of this, simply have a look at reviews for the game - i would wager that you will find very few average review scores attached to it, with most being split between heavy recommendations and mega 'avoid at all costs'. For those who would like to see something very different from the norm, Killer7 may well be worth looking in to, but i take zero responsibility for disappointment.