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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Killer Is Dead.

TranscriptEdit

It's getting kinda hard to be a Suda51 fan these days, mainly 'cause when you buy a new Suda51 game, the degree of influence Suda51 actually had over it is becoming a bit of a grey area. It's kind of like the relationship Rupert Murdoch has with Australian election results.

So I played through Killer is Dead, the latest game open-quotes "from legendary director Suda51, blurbity-blurb-box-blurb", only to find that he's mainly credited under "story", and that the director was some other lad. I'm starting to wonder if he was ever truly real. Maybe he's some kind of mythical pixie of which game developers are told stories when their parents tuck them in at night: "Now, if you're very, very quiet, maybe Suda51 will visit your game in the night and give it an anarchic post-punk sensibility by sprinkling it with Morrissey's tears." Or maybe he's some kind of equivalent of Alan Smithee in films, like a Japanese game developer doesn't want to be credited with a game they created drunk and in the midst of a messy breakup/Vietnam flashback, so they call it a "Suda51", "51" being a sort of numerical code for "shit goes 'round the billy-blue bollocks".

Well, whatever the case, Killer is Dead is now part of our storied little world, and, from the title and art style, one could be forgiven for assuming it to be spiritually conceived from a turkey baster of sperm donated from Killer7, the 2005 pile of archetypal Suda51 anarcho-nonsense that I really like. Because I'm very happy to watch a man dressed like a Power Ranger explaining his political views at full volume while doing a very silly dance, as long as there's a sturdy sheet of glass between me and him.

But there's not a whole lot that links the two games besides the fact that the main character is an assassin working for a larger organization. Uh, Suda? I just wanna check; you do know that there are other professions in the world besides contract assassination, yes? Like that nice lady at the chemist who gives you your pills? That's actually her job; she doesn't do it just to kill time in-between decapitations. It's crazy, I know. And, while we're on the subject, people who actually are assassins tend not to use Japanese swords. It's like wearing wellingtons to a formal dinner: a faux pas if nothing else.

Anyway, today's sword-wielding assassin protagonist is Mondo Zappa, whose interesting qualities kind of begin and end with his name, frankly. He looks like a nine-year-old boy got stretched on a rack for three days, and then someone gave him a robot arm and a school uniform. He also might be from the moon, and was brought here by a magical unicorn, which I know sound like interesting qualities, but trust me when I say that he finds a way to make them seem dull. He's from that school of characterization that thinks there's nothing cooler than being incapable of showing emotion. 'Cause my granddad's been getting pussy like you wouldn't believe ever since he had the stroke!

So as Mondo inevitably starts uncovering dark secrets from his past, it's hard to get much sense of narrative clout from it all when he has roughly the same reaction to finding a hair in his Lucky Charms. But lest you think I'm ripping exclusively on Mr. Awesome McLaserBollocks, his boss is a giant combat-ready cyber-dude in a Hawaiian shirt who spends the entire game sitting on his arse! I wonder if he had to choose between buying his giant combat-ready cyber-body or a nice, comfy arse cushion. I wonder if he ever regrets his decision!

The point is, an expository cutscene in Killer is Dead involves a bunch of people sitting 'round a table in a dimly-lit room quietly saying mysterious things at each other. An expository cutscene in Killer7 involves a masked lucha libre wrestler deflecting a bullet by headbutting it. Not that everything would be improved by a headbutting lucha libre wrestler; just 99.5% of things. For some reason, I'm picturing election debates. And it's certainly more tonally consistent with the gameplay, in which you run around dicing up nondescript monsters like they're carrots and you're trying to flog katanas on the home shopping network.

The combat's pretty No More Heroes-y, which was never extensive at the best of times: mash-mash-mash, dodge, run away, symbolically masturbate. But Killer is Dead pares it down even further: you mash and you dodge. Dodge at exactly the right moment and they let you have a free mash for a few seconds. That's about it, really, it's an entirely mash-based economy, like the cafeteria at my old middle school. Well, there are also sub-weapons: a gun, a drill-thing with a weird action that looks like you're pointing out the stain on somebody's tie, but they're mostly kinda situational and I only really used them so as not to disappoint the nice ladies in whose vaginas I had found them.

Yes, this is where the game about people from the moon slicing up over-dressed cyborgs starts to get a bit weird. You get sub-weapons by seducing women in what are termed "gigolo missions", to which I am grateful for teaching me the never-fail method for picking up women:

  • sit staring at them without saying a bloody word, with a look on your face like you just caught a whiff of their panty-stank and it did very little to impress.
  • And whenever she looks away, stare right down her tits like you're planning a spelunking expedition.
  • Then, having brought the mood in the room to a simmering erotic tension, shove an expensive present in her face with such violence that if she'd been an inch closer, she'd need a sink plunger to pull her nose back out.
  • Repeat until sex, at which point she will give you a drill.

See, where I'd been going wrong was assuming that women aren't power tool vending machines with one slot for flowers and another for cock. Story missions and gigolo missions are entered into from the world map, on which there are also many optional challenges set in environments from completed missions, and if you step back a bit, you'll notice that all the optional challenge icons seem to form the words "the campaign turned out a lot shorter than we thought it would".

You see, however involved Suda51 was with the games that are purported to be "from" him, most of them have more than a few things worth a double take. Killer7 threw non-sequiturs at you like a burning panda in a dentist's waiting room, Shadows of the Damned had that eloquent "Big Boner" episode, but Killer is Dead doesn't really have anything you'd call a friend over to look at in the hopes he spit-takes his cappuccino. Well, it does come alive when you fight a 'roided-up demonic Thomas the Tank Engine, but otherwise it all feels a bit unenergetic and cold. Even the whole business with people from the moon seems kinda token as far as non-sequiturs go. There's a chapter with an Alice in Wonderland theme that juxtaposes horror with tweeness. Man, why hasn't anyone else thought of that!? Alice in Wonderland is basically writers' shorthand for "put something surreal here", and just reflects a lack of creative effort if you ask me.

So, on the whole, I'd call Killer is Dead a disappointment. Almost as much as waking up to find that the country you live in has elected as Prime Minister an overinflated Tony Blair sex doll!

AddendaEdit

  • Critic is bored: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Maybe the moon would carry more mystique if it wasn't up there slutting it about every night
  • Should probably get around to registering to vote one of these days

Escapist Expo 2013Edit

Hey, it's Escapist Expo time again soon! October 4-6 in Durham, North Carolina, just like last time. You'd almost think it's a regular thing now! Just lettin' ya know I'm gonna be there again, 'cause it was a lotta fun last time, and I'm looking forward to seeing open-quotes all of open-quotes you open-quotes again.

ScreenshotsEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II

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