Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Format: GameCube, PlayStation 2
As with movies, in gaming there are a few creators whose titles are immediately recognisable. Goichi Suda, or Suda51 as he prefers to be known (“go” and “ichi” being Japanese for “fifty” and “one”), is one of those distinctive talents. There’s a little Suda51 checklist you can do – hyper-stylised ultra-violence, elaborately sweary dialogue, utterly bizarre stories, deliberately unwieldy gameplay mechanics, a bit of perving and luchadors. killer7 offers all of them except the perving (there is a woman in a miniskirt, but she spends a lot of time slitting her wrists to solve puzzles, so she probably doesn’t count). Set in an alternate present where world peace was declared in 1998, the game’s villain is one Kun Lan, a maniac with an army of Heaven Smiles, a sort of zombie suicide bomber. Since the whole world peace bit means there isn’t really any infrastructure to deal with a terrorist, Harman Smith is called in. Harman may be an old man in a wheelchair, but he’s a legendary assassin with the personalities of seven other fearsome killers sloshing around in his brain – and he can physically transform into any one of them whenever he fancies.
So, there’s the violence, swearing (one of the personalities, Coyote Smith, has quite the potty mouth), bizarre story and luchadores (another personality, Mask de Smith, is a retired wrestler). What of the gameplay?
killer7 is probably best described as an ultra-cut-down Resident Evil. (Resi creator Shinji Makami worked on this, appropriately.) You have a limited path through areas and solve puzzles as you go, occasionally battling Heaven Smiles. Fighting roots your character to the spot, although unlike Resi it’s done in a first-person manner, feeling a bit more like Virtua Cop. Your interactions are very limited – you simply hold down a button to walk forward, choosing a direction at junctions, and most of the puzzles are utterly straightforward. The shooting bits are about as involved as you ever get. As a result killer7 is a very Marmite game, with plenty of people disliking it, and it’s easy to see why.
However, I like playing games for their stories, so if I’m involved in the tale I don’t mind basic gameplay as long as it’s not actively terrible, and you can get a moderate amount of enjoyment for killer7 as far as just playing it goes. But it’s the story that’s the star here. Leaping from deadpan weirdness to deadpan weirdness, the team of assassins fight lethal chefs, dead politicians, charismatic cult leaders and a hilarious parody of the Power Rangers before a stunningly audacious climax that turns the entire game’s scenario on its head, resulting in one of the most memorable endings in gaming history.
MAGIC MOMENT: The aforementioned ending, which I’m not going to spoil here.