Review by DeadTrees

"Maybe we were too hard on Revolution X."

Here's a basic rundown of the scenario of Killer 7, the infamous rail shooter from Capcom: In an alternate universe where world peace has been achieved, a guy who looks like Dracula in blue polyester (Kun Lan) has unleashed an army of invisible reptilian suicide bombers (the "Heaven Smile"), who can only be stopped by Harman Smith, an old man in a wheelchair who leads a group of six "remnant psyches" (like ghosts, but different), who, despite being ghosts are capable of killing Heaven Smile members and absorbing their blood, thereby acquiring new abilities. Harman and the others are assisted by, among others, a guy in a red gimp suit and a hooker who turns into a maid when the lights are off. This was all written, produced, and directed by Gouichi Suda, also known as Suda 51, who wears a Mexican wrestling mask when out in public.

Some suspension of disbelief will be helpful. But Killer 7 has issues deeper and simpler than "has incomprehensible plot where people frequently shoot each other in the head". To prove this, turn your head 90 degrees in either direction. Yes, you!

That took...maybe a fraction of a second? Now turn your head so that it takes exactly three seconds. Annoying, wasn't it?

Now spend a couple of hours having to do that, and you'll get the point: targeting in Killer 7 is painfully slow. FPS veterans will find this just about intolerable, especially late in the game when enemies respawn to your left and right when you enter a room, and by the time you've dispatched one, the other one is practically giving you a sloppy kiss. And no, you can't use a GunCon or recalibrate your controller. Sorry.

"But surely you could just dodge the other one!" you might say. Well, no, you can't. Your "move forward" button and your "shoot" button...are the same. You run around in third person view until you hold the R1 button, after which you scan for targets with the L1 button, after which you shoot them. That's pretty much it. There's no strafing, no shootdodging, no bullet time, no jumping, no crouching, just run forward, turn around, and land-locked first person.

Your foes are just as plodding as the controls. The members of Heaven Smile are all low-poly, low texture relatives of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and once they've detected you, they walk, jog, crawl, cartwheel, or fly to your position. If you don't gun them down before they reach you, they explode. Some have praised Suda 51 for daring to make a game "about" terrorism after 9/11, but I have a sneaking, cynical suspicion that his crew attempted set out to create interesting enemies, found the whole process a bit overwhelming, and finally said "Screw it, we'll make them all suicide bombers."

Character management is Killer 7's sole noteworthy game mechanic. The back of game's box claims that you can play "any of the seven characters at anytime, anywhere", which is a maggoty lie. Most levels, you start with only a few characters active, and can only "wake up" the rest by meeting kill quotas. The best offensive choices for run-of-the-mill killing and maxing out your upgradable stats are the sniper Kaede (who, just so you know, runs around barefoot in a skimpy, blood-splattered negligee) and the spray-and-prayer Con. Once they've acquired the Critical Lock ability, the game becomes a cakewalk -- but the trade-off is that they can take the least damage before croaking. There's also Dan and Coyote (more resilient than Kaede and Con, and can charge up their shots for extra damage, but not nearly as effective against typical Heaven Smile fodder), Mask de Smith (dual grenade launchers and can take the most damage, but can't score critical hits, which ends up limiting your ability to heal yourself over the long term), and Kevin, who gets used roughly twice during the entire game. Each character also has special abilities needed to progress through a level, but these are of the "if you need to do X, use character Y" variety. Need to open a hole in the wall? Switch to Mask. Need to jump to the floor above you or open a lock? Switch to Coyote. Need to get through a security system? Switch to Kevin. No actual thought required.

Should one of the previous characters character bite the dust, the only thing lost is your free time; you can send Garcian out to find and resurrect them. This is not a risk-free option, as Garcian's pistol stinks, he can't be upgraded, and should he be killed, the Game is Over.

A typical level in Killer 7 alternates between uninteresting combat and uninteresting puzzles, as you scour the area in search of enough Soul Shells to be allowed to face the mid-boss and end-boss. The levels are rendered with a simple mix of two-tone gradients and extreme posterization, which makes the slowdown and obnoxious load times puzzling. (To be fair, this is a port of the GameCube version, which from what I've heard doesn't have these issues.) Along the way, you'll also get hints from other ghosts, who for no particular reason had their dialogue run through a ring modulator. It sounds much, much more obnoxious in game than in your imagination.

The plot.

Those spirits also dole out bite-sized morsels of exposition regarding the impenetrable tinfoil-hat plot, which involves a rogue political party, Japan being nuked because the United States is such a big meanie, electoral fraud perpetrated by the "Education Ministry" [sic], and who or what the Killer 7 actually are. (Did you know that there are roughly 240 U.S. Presidential electoral votes? Did you know that George Washington was once a principal at Coburn National Elementary School? If it was in a video game, it must be true!)

Even the game gets fed up with it, as you detour from Kun Lan and spend the latter half of the game killing off a cult leader in Texas, Sigfried and Roy's psychotic nephew, and -- yes! -- the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. (They don't actually call them that, but...) When the Rangers and the Killer 7 agree to a series of one-on-one matches in Times Square, you think, "Hey, this might actually be kind of fun."

Then you find out that all the matches are rigged. As in, if the game wants you to win a match, your opponent just sits there. As in, if the game wants you to lose, hitting your opponent will injure you.

Come on, was Rise of the Robots ever this lame? What about Superman 64?

There's a revelation near the end, at the top floor of a hotel, which attempts to replicate the twist from Silent Hill 2. But the game's so ludicrous and arbitrary that it thuds without impact. (It also creates some never-to-be-resolved plot holes; for example, why wasn't "it" noticed by anyone who interacted with the other remnant psyches? Like Curtis Blackburn with Dan? Or Jean DePaul, who directly referred to Mask De Smith's, uh, mask?) All that's left after that is finding out who's locked in Garcian's basement (or not!), a lazy attempt at multiple endings, and the obligatory glom for a sequel. It doesn't help that the game peters out in the final half-hour, becoming tensionless and nearly skill-free.

Straight up, this sucks ass. -- Travis

Any reason to play this game? Well, there's the funny expletive Con spits out when he scores a critical hit, the ominous drone of a Backside Smile as it floats towards you, the chase at the end of the Cloudman level, and the soundtrack, which is half-decent. If your free time is such that these are worth 10-20 hours of pain, don't let me stop you. Personally, I found it to be an even mix of awful programming, awful design, and awful storytelling, which only looks compelling because the title doesn't include the words "Madden" or "Tony Hawk". And because it features people being shot in the head. A lot. Or maybe it was the part where Harman does it with a hooker while she's in a schoolgirl outfit. Maybe.

Suda 51 and his production company are inexplicably working on a new game, and in an interview he said that it would "exceed" Killer 7.

It was not recorded whether this was said tongue-in-cheek. Maybe you couldn't tell, because of the mask.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 02/21/06


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