Killer Is Dead review – post-modern art gallery with a side order of gameplay

Killer is dead

Just as every Zack Snyder film teases awesomeness in its trailer, so this third-person slasher seems amazing in screenshots. “Ooh, that looks good!” sounds the ignorant admiration from people
glancing over my shoulder at one of the game’s frequent, lengthy, slower-than-solidifying concrete
cutscenes. And yes, it does. Killer Is Dead’s striking visual design is its biggest strength – a deliberately oddball brand of cel-shading that whacks the contrast so high, every image looks like a photonegative.

Kiler Is Dead PS3 review

Each meticulous camera angle bleeds eccentric style – a gorgeous evolution of the graphic-novel aesthetic from a couple of Suda51’s previous works, Killer 7 and No More Heroes. Good job too, because you spend more time looking at Killer Is Dead than actually playing it. Glacial cinematic sequences thrust themselves between gameplay segments at a frequency that ranges from ‘irritating’ to ‘I’m-going-to-plunge-theanalogue-sticks-into-my-eyes’. Not only do they ruin the pacing, they’re awfully written, too – with Suda51 not so much breaking the fourth wall as stumbling through it like a witless teen on a Friday-night bender. “Isn’t this supposed to be an action game?” quips Mondo, your sharp-suited protagonist.

Why yes, Mondo, so it is. And the biggest disappointment comes when you realise the sword-swinging meat in this sandwich of high art hoity-toity is actually pretty tasty – if only Suda51 had just let it breathe
a little. It’s no Bayonetta, but when the game does let you exercise those hack ’n’ slash muscles, there’s a good deal of satisfaction to be had in slicing through its catalogue of outlandish monstrosities.

It’s a system built around expert timing: precisely execute a dodge or block and you open up your enemy for a flurry of steel-coated payback. Absorb enough blood and Mondo can launch devastating finishers
that combine visual flair with a hearty dollop of gore.

Sharp difficulty spikes don’t help matters, however, not least because Killer Is Dead is often too busy flashing its stylised  knickers your way to let you get used to the controls. Boss fights lack originality, most of them falling under the category of tougher-than-normal grunts that simply require an extended pounding. They’re weirder than one of Kafka’s notebooks, yes, but besting them is still a repetitive grind.

And then there’s Gigolo mode – a ridiculous method of obtaining side-arms that involves perving on women until they notice and hand you weapons. I’d try explaining the context, but there is none. It’s just there, like a puerile wart of misogyny stuck to a beautiful, hollow shell. There’s a halfdecent action title in here – you just have to wade through a mess of pretentious bull to find it. Sadly, it’s not really worth the effort.

It’s a strikingly beautiful game that suffocates its solid action core with clumsily scripted waffle and a hodgepodge of bizarre ideas. Only Suda51 obsessives need apply.

Our Score

Score: 6