Killer Is Dead: Running The "Games Are Art" Argument Into The Ground

Suda 51 is one of gamings truest auteurs, often combing tried and tested genre cliches with his own madcap post-punk Japanese twist. Unfortunately, in his latest effort "Killer Is Dead", he may have disappeared up himself...
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Suda 51 is one of gamings truest auteurs, often combing tried and tested genre cliches with his own madcap post-punk Japanese twist. Unfortunately, in his latest effort "Killer Is Dead", he may have disappeared up himself...

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Welcome to Killer is Dead, the newest piece by renowned Japanese nutcase Suda 51. In it you play as Mondo Zappa, and that is all you will know about this game for almost the entirety of its playthrough. Plot, good design, and varied gameplay are not something you will find in this pretentious game, as everything and anything remotely useful is foregone…in the pursuit of ART!

Suda 51 is known for his wacky madcap games, with the state of video games becoming generic with your super armoured soldier battling enemies in gritty grey brown beige environments, games from Suda 51 are normally a breath of fresh air. From the underrated Shadows of the Damned to the more successful Lollipop Chainsaw, Suda 51 is known for breaking the mould with nonsensical stories and enjoyable pieces with unique characters.

That all seems to have vanished into the ether with Killer is Dead, your character, Mondo, is a bland faceless protagonist, part of an execution agency somewhere in the world, responsible for killing monsters. To this end he has a blade that becomes more powerful with the blood of enemies, and a cybernetic arm that becomes a gun. You do not find out why he has this arm until near the end of the game, and when you, you do not care. You will not care about anything in this game, you will only sit there, play, and think “What the fuck is going on?” several times. With him, a 15 year old girl, named Mika, you would not care about her either; she is annoying and serves no purpose whatsoever.

Gameplay is a third person hack and slash that wants to be Devil May Cry but without any of the variation or polish. You will use your button mashing sword attack, and dodge to the side, then mash the attack button some more. Sometimes enemies will guard, forcing you will hit another button until their guard breaks, then you will hit the attack button again. You want varied gameplay? Don’t be stupid. This is ART!

There are additional side missions that you can do to earn more money to buy presents for women, who take part in “gigolo” side missions performed by ogling them when they aren’t looking and then giving them stuff so you can bone them for free weapons. You do this three times, and then it is useless. It has nothing to do with the story, and no reason why that Brazilian women you gave some perfume to has an upgrade for your alien cybernetic arm. What’s that? You don’t understand the story? Of course you don’t you aren’t smart enough, because this is ART!

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The graphical style retains the cel shaded style that worked in legendary games such as Killer 7, but where it worked in Shadows of the Damned, with its colourful yet hellish settings, here it just seems pretentious; with shadows in dark blue instead of black, and other black shadows, exploring levels is a test of attrition.  When you end up in shadowed areas the closeness of the camera leaves you wondering where in the hell you are supposed to be going. All graphical effort was put into level design, with varied locales of moon palaces and Japanese estates all looking the part. Don’t get us wrong, the game should look pretty but it should not base its entire worth on that.

You are set about these levels doing arbitrary tasks which all involve linear paths around the ARTISTIC levels to show them off. You kill groups of enemies before moving on to the next group of enemies, then the next one, then a boss fight. Keep in mind you will have no help as to finding things in this level or going to the right place, you want some kind of map? But we spent so much time on this ART! Run around for an hour, you can look at our design some more.

There are times in this game where you will actually enjoy it, getting into a good flow of combat, dodging and slashing away can feel quite rewarding at times. The only other relief you will get from this game is finishing the story, so you won’t have to try to figure it out anymore. There is a challenge mode you can get from finding a slutty nurse throughout the levels, but even this has no great reward. The music is quite nice in this game and atmospheric, probably the only artistic thing in this game.

The gaming world is a warzone of debate, one of the most recent and hotly discussed topics nowadays is the idea of Video Games as an artistic medium. “Can video games be art?” Yes, in my opinion, they can, in their own way, in terms of their narrative, their design, the atmosphere they create, videogames can be works of art in their own right. The game Passage for example, a great argument for videogames as art, The Walking Dead game, its use of narrative, definitely artistic I’d say, but this? Hell no. Suda 51 has bought into his own hype too much this time around; this characterless six hour waste of a game is not worth anything more than a rental at best.

I hate to reuse the same phrase but it really is pretentious, it’s just a show off of a game that thinks it’s better than it is, with so much effort into making it look nice it forgot that it’s a game and not a movie. If you want something awesome from Deep Silver, do us all a favour; grab Saints Row 4 for ten times the games length and infinite replayability.

Keep grindin’.