First and foremost, I love Capcom. We all know this. So, as a fan of the company, I give pretty much anything they put out a try, no matter how strange it seems. Well, everything I see, of course. You must understand that some things just pass right on by without ever a mention of it being there. But I’m straying a bit here. Today, my duty is not to ramble on about which Capcom games I’ve played, or how much I adore their franchises, but to review their newest and easily most original offering: Killer7.
You’ll have to understand before I get into this that Killer7 is just barely more a game than it is an interactive story. While there is a lot of shooting and puzzle solving to do, that’s pretty much all you do aside from watch cutscenes and listen to people. While I may have scorned RPGs for being boring and too simple, and this is a similar case, I have to admit that I simply adore Killer7. This is a game for people who like a hefty helping of story with their game, but don’t feel like wandering across a gigantic world for a single key to open the next dungeon or whatever. It’s for people who’d rather shoot than spend endless hours mashing the “confirm” button to level up. This is a game for those who need a break from normal games.
Control is a breeze in this game, as there is very little of it to be done. While you do have to navigate through some rather large levels, it’s all done by holding the A button (assuming you’re playing on a Gamecube). See, your character moves on a predetermined path, so you’ve never got total control. However, there are plenty of junctions throughout the stages to guide your character through, so you do have a say in which way he or she is going. It’s as easy as seeing the options appear on screen and then moving the control stick toward which direction you want to go, or which object you’d like to examine. But that’s not all. No, not even close.
You also have to contend with enemies. The Heaven Smiles. Did I mention that they’re invisible? Yes, every foe in the game (save the bosses) are invisible to the naked eye. Fortunately, you have a sort of enemy-scanning ability at your disposal. Firstly, you’ll have to assume your firing stance by holding down the R button. Then you tap L to scan for enemies, and you’re on your way! Next, you can hit the B button to automatically center your targeting reticule on a foe, or simply aim manually and then blow their brains all over the place. Another thing to mention is that most enemies don’t shoot back. No. They just run up to you and explode. So the challenge is to manage to kill them before they can get too close. This can be hard at times, because they almost always come in pairs, if not more.
There is another trick to help you smack them down, however. Every Heaven Smile has some sort of weak point. Regular Smiles have a glowing spot on one of their limbs, and shooting it will often kill them right away. There are many, many types of Heaven Smiles. The Bombhead Smile, for instance, has a bomb around his head. His head is his weak point, but there is a explosive cage around it. You have to wait for the cage to open and then make your shot. If you miss and hit the cage… KABOOM!! Another example is the Ceramic Smile. He’ll always run away from you, and won’t take any damage from being shot. However, he has a heart emblem on his chest, and if you can snipe it, he’s as good as dead. There are a couple Smiles that shoot back, though. Those would be the Laser Smile (self-explanatory) and the Galactic Tomahawk Smile, whose name is ridiculous and fires salvos of missiles at you.
And that’s pretty much it for the controls and enemies. The next topic to cover is probably the characters. But see, that’s the first really strange part of the game. The Killer7 assassins, as they’re known, are apparently all multiple personalities of a single man, Harman Smith. Multiple personalities with multiple bodies. And as you may have guessed, there are seven of them, not including Harman. The first is Garcian Smith. He’s basically the front man for the Killer7. He takes the jobs but doesn’t do much of the dirty work. He’s also a “cleaner”, and by that, it means that he’s the one that picks up the remains of dead personalities and brings them back to life. If you lose Garcian it’s game over.
Dan Smith, also known as “The Hellion” is my favourite of the seven. He’s basically the badass of the team, and pretty much everything that comes out of his mouth is quotable. His special ability is to charge his gun to perform what is known as the “Collateral Shot”. Kaede Smith – “Barefoot” – is my second favourite, and possibly the most useful of the Killer7, since she’s got a scope on her gun. Sniping the Heaven Smiles before they notice you is a big help. She can also call out a ghost which will break barriers and solve blood-stained puzzles for you.
Kevin Smith, nicknamed “Four Eyes”, is my least used character. Firstly, he doesn’t talk, so he’s got no cool catch phrases. Secondly, his weapon is a throwing knife. For the record, it works as well as the other characters’ guns, but it just seems so lame. His ability to become invisible is pretty slick though, and can get you out of a jam, should you need to pass by security lasers or Heaven Smiles unnoticed. Coyote Smith, “The Thief”, is pretty badass himself, but not so much as Dan. He packs a magnum, and shouts “You’re FUCKED!” each time he one-hit kills a Smile. His abilities include super-jumping and picking padlocks.
Con Smith, or “The Punk”, is the youngest of the group and is apparently blind. Explains the bandanna over his eyes. Con carries two pistols and is lightning fast. He can become even faster using one of his abilities, and can also use his small size to slip through narrow passages and his excellent hearing to detect secret passages. The final assassin, Mask de Smith, simply referred to as “The Mask”, is a huge ex-wrestler. He even wears a freaking cape! But nobody would dare laugh, because he’s packing two mini grenade launchers. Those grenade launchers can be charged to fire different types of shells, for taking down different armoured enemies. Obviously, those can be also used to destroy cracked walls, and his brute strength comes in handy to move heavy objects, like oil trucks.
You thought the character fun was over? Not so, my fellows. See, each character can be “Leveled up” in this game, though not quite in the traditional sense. As you mow down Heaven Smiles, you’ll collect blood. Some of it being normal, thin blood that can be used to fuel special abilities and restore vitality. But blasting off a creature’s limb or killing it by weak spot will net you a bucket of thick blood, which is essentially money in this game. Its first use is to pay a ghost for hints, but the second use is far more valuable. Should you return to Harman’s Room (the safe room for this game) and check channel B on the telly, you’ll find the blood channel. Here, you’ll meet a spooky old doctor who will exchange your blood for serum. The serum can be used to level up your characters in different areas, like power and speed. They’ll also learn new moves, like counterattacks and how to lock-on to an enemy’s weak point. You can only make so much serum in each level though, so no super-powering your assassins in level one! There is an unlimited supply of serum in the second part of level six, but by that time, leveling up will be kinda worthless…
And that’s everything about the characters you’ll be using to blast your way through the game’s seven levels. While seven might seem pretty short, the levels are huge, and levels two and six are divided into two parts each, resulting in a total of nine levels (though the last one is super-short). The levels themselves are all similar in objectives. You’re always out to assassinate someone. Makes sense, you are a group of assassins after all. But the formula is similar too. In most stages, you’re out to solve puzzles in hopes of collecting “Soul Shells”, which are used to open the way to the boss. Some levels change it up though, and require you to find other things like a figurine collection or colour samples. It’s pretty much the same thing over and over again, but the ever-changing puzzles, settings, and variety of enemies keeps thing fresh.
Now, I’d like to tell you about the story, but I’m only just past halfway in the game at this point, and it’s not making a lick of sense yet. Or at least, none of the elements are really coming together to form a big picture. As it started, they were going on about achieving world peace, but at the final peace treaty conference, the Heaven Smile terrorists appeared and blew everything to kingdom come. So now the world is in terror, and the Killer7 have been hired to stop them, and apparently other random freak shows. If you like a story that leaves doors open for you to come to some conclusions on your own, you’ll probably like this game, because that’s what the director said he wanted the story to be like. I read it in Nintendo Power. Me, I’m just trying to figure out the parts that they’re trying to get across to you, because a lot of it is chained together in various conversations with ghosts that aren’t all to explicit about what they’re telling you.
While the stages may be similar to each other and the story is confusing as Hell, there’s one thing that would sway may opinion of the game were I not in favour of it: the bosses. The boss fights, and sometimes the boss characters themselves, are just great. The first one is this anime-looking angel girl, and you’ve just gotta shoot out her wings. Not so hard, because she doesn’t move, but in the second phase you’ve gotta circle around to her back, and shoot out four faces that have made their homes there. A little harder here, because she follows you and tosses fireballs to boot. The second boss is simply a matter of shooting her as much as you can in a set amount of time. When the clock runs out, whoever got hit the most dies. The rest of the bosses (that I’ve faced so far) are all really original and cool. If this was a Konami game, the boss rush mode would easily be enough reason to buy the game.
So what really is the allure to Killer7? Aside from the fact that the game itself doesn’t offer too much in regards of gameplay, it is quite fun. The draw to keep playing to the end, at least, is very high, not only because the game itself is fun, but because you’re gonna be dying to find any clues whatsoever that will help you figure out what’s going on. the game can also be riotously funny at times. Such times include the first few times you kill with Coyote, when you find out what’s really going on inside the First Life building in level three, and pretty much the entirety of level five. I swear, that has got to be one of the best levels in any game, based solely on how funny/awesome everything that transpires within it is.
The graphics in Killer7 are cel-shaded, for those of you who managed to miss this game completely until now. And while it’s not the best job I’ve ever seen, it does look pretty damn spiffy. Character animations in cutscenes are very stiff, but it’s something you’ll get over. The countless visual effects are just spectacular, from enemies literally blowing to a million pieces when they die to the way the screen contorts around a Heaven Smile when it’s about to explode. The scenery is often colourful and surreal, with plenty of artsiness and atmosphere. And the animated cutscenes, done in a couple distinct styles, are beautiful and common. Particularly in level five. Music is great too, even though a lot of it went mostly unnoticed, a few tracks were outstanding, namely the theme of level three and the techno beat of the Gatekeeper’s hallways. Haunting laughs are everywhere, because they’re your tipoff to where the Heaven Smiles are. They always laugh when the catch sight of you and when they die. So there’s bushels of creepy laughter in this game. And of course, the voice acting. Possibly the best I’ve heard in a game so far. These people weren’t pulled off the street like most video game VA’s seem to be (see RAD for PS2). Nope, these guys were pros. And if they were pulled off the street, they sure have some hidden talent.
One thing that may turn people off (aside from the strange gameplay, uber-confusing story, explicit gore and language, occasional sex scene, and unique visual style) is that there are no unlockables. There is a super-hard mode (a la Viewtiful Joe) that is playable once you’ve beaten the game for the first time, but I wouldn’t count that, even though you get a new character for it. And there’s even a super-easy mode for those who finish the super-hard mode. But those are hardly unlockables, they’re just ways of extending the life of the game. But really, there’s no need for unlockables in this kind of game. It’s good enough to stand on its own.
So the game is brilliant. But as much as I’d like to, I cannot recommend it to everyone. So far, pretty much every review I’ve read was positive, but I know that there are gonna be some people who just won’t be able to grasp the beauty of a game like Killer7. Some people like everyone I know. That’s just how it goes down. Believe me, if I weren’t trying to cut down on my game purchasing, I would totally buy this one. I really should, too, since it’s allowed by my new Capcom and Nintendo only rule (mind you, that rule has already been broken twice). But alas, if I do get this one, it’ll be as a gift. Enough rambling. I highly recommend renting it. If you like it as much as I, then maybe buy it (Probably the GC version, because I hear the PS2 version is slightly censored and suffers from slowdown). If you don’t [like it], you’ve got terrible taste.
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