After remaining mysterious for so long, how does Killer 7 match up against Capcom's classics? Read to find out.
You could write volumes on Killer 7. The plot has so many subtle nuances of political and social commentary; you could dissect it for days on end and still not completely understand it. The ending alone will leave you thinking for hours, pondering the different story twists and turns. And lucky me – I have to review it. Hoo boy…
Well, let’s get the bare essentials out of the way first. The story basically deals with a team of assassins under the leadership of Harman Smith, a wheelchair-bound elderly man. The catch is that that they all inhabit the same body. Dan Smith, Kaede Smith, Coyote Smith, Con Smith, Kevin Smith, Mask de Smith, and Garcian Smith are all part of Harman and, for the most part, do all of the dirty work themselves. Using their various skills and strengths, the Smith Syndicate (aka the Killer 7) will have to take down the terrorist threat known as the Heaven Smile, a gang of reptilian mutants who come in every shape and size. Watch out for them – they’re invisible and explode on contact.
So how do you identify and destroy them? Whenever you hear a demonic cackle of laughter, bring up your weapon and scan the area with the L Button. Doing this will reveal their body and weak spot. Depending on how many shots if takes you to take them out (hitting the weak spot is a one-hit kill), you’ll gain more or less thick and thin blood. Thick blood is used to create serum at checkpoints, which you can utilize to upgrade each persona’s attributes. Thin blood is used much more frequently to either heal characters after taking damage or to use a special attack.
Naturally, since you have control over seven different personalities, you’ll have more than a few special abilities. Dan Smith can use three vials of blood to fire a massive bullet of light that destroys everything in its path. Con Smith can run at superhuman speeds and use his small size to get through obstacles other characters could never traverse through. Kevin Smith can turn invisible and also not ruin his directing career with Jersey Girl. Coyote Smith can pick any lock and jump extremely high. Mask De Smith can charge up his grenade launchers to take down anything in your path. Oh, and then there’s Kaede. She’s… different. She slits her wrists and showers her blood onto force fields to reveal hidden secrets and paths. Yeah, well, it’s rated M for a reason.
The last of the personas is Garcian Smith. Oddly enough, you’ll hardly ever use him in combat. He’s the designated “cleaner” of the group. Not only does he converse with Harman and the U.S. government on behalf of the team, but he can also recover the blood of a fallen assassin and restore him or her back to life. It’s in this way that, as long as Garcian himself doesn’t die, you’ll never get a Game Over. If a character is put out of commission, Garcian will come out of the last checkpoint, search for the remains, and do his thing. Luckily, he still has a pistol to defend himself with in case you run into Smiles on the way.
Exploration is handled similarly to a rail shooter. You press A to run forward and B to turn around. The only time you’ll use your analog joystick is at junctions when you’ll need to pick a path. Because the camera is fixed at dramatic angles, the control scheme works best this way, and really isn’t as hard to get used to as you may have heard.
It’s at this point that I really have to give credit where it’s due. The guys and girls at Capcom managed to cloud an entire game in what’s essentially target practice. The better you are at sharp shooting, the easier this game is. Every enemy encounter, boss fight, and action situation has you finding a weak spot and shooting it. Don’t get me wrong, the conditions that you’ll face are elaborate enough that it won’t feel like target practice, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t. For example, for the boss you’ll fight in the second part of the second level, you’ll have to pick off human brains being hurled at you with a scope, then sharp-shoot a man’s tie, where he’ll expose his weak point. Then you shoot that weak point. A few levels later, you’ll find a young girl who runs even faster than Con. For this stage you’ll have to shoot her as she runs around a parking lot. It’ll feel different, but you’re basically doing the same thing.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only aspect that’s overused. The puzzle elements, if you can even call them that, are laughably simple. Harman’s servant Iwazaru, who guides you through the entirety of your quest, will often tell you in simple words how to solve a puzzle by revealing what character you’ll need, what that character will encounter, and what he’ll have to do. Sure, it helps to dissolve frustrating moments, but that doesn’t mean I want to be treated like a child. What’s worse is that even if he didn’t help you, puzzles would still be overly uncomplicated. Once you get the hang of things, you’ll figure out that each level has a similar setup:
With a few variables here and there, that’s it. Now here’s the funny thing. Even with all of these overused mechanics, Killer 7 is still fun, mostly due to the mood of the setting. A cel-shaded world of minimalism and vibrant colors brilliantly create a noir-type feel, with characters who strikingly resemble their anime cutscene counterparts. The whole visual presentation just feels like a living, breathing animated film.
The aural experience is equally impressive. Not only is the voice acting stunningly played, but the music is extremely memorable. It’s been a while since I’ve actually thought about purchasing a game soundtrack, but Killer 7’s got that special mix of catchy techno beats and guitar-themed melodies that just make me want to stop playing and just listen to the music for a while. The Basement and Dominican Themes in particular are my favorites, but they’re all great.
So you’ve got to ask yourself a question. Are you looking for a gameplay experience or are you willing to just let yourself get lost in a game’s oddities and charm? If it’s the former, replay some RE4 and don’t think about Killer 7 anymore. However, if you’re in the mood for something different – something that’ll make you think, then I can wholeheartedly recommend this game.