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Killer 7 (GameCube) artwork

Killer 7 (GameCube) review

"If weasels could swim upside-down, Tuesday would accidentally be Thursday. "

If weasels could swim upside-down, Tuesday would accidentally be Thursday.

Oh, I’m sorry. Have I confused you with my absurd randomness? I apologize. This is a review for Killer7, after all, and I feel the need to convey my emotions and feelings upon my readers.

Killer7 is a crazy, crack-smokin’ game. Weirdness is often used in forms of media to convey a dreamlike sense of wonder upon audiences, to simulate the nightmares or drug-influenced meltdowns of characters with whom we are supposed to feel a connection, or to achieve some unwieldy level of tawdry neo-cool that perplexes the mind. Here, it’s weirdness for the sake of weirdness. A product of Capcom under the influence of director Suda 51 – yes, that is the name of an actual human – Killer7 is a game that could only have been conceived with the aid of marijuana, and I suspect it would help to have some handy when you’re actually playing it, as well.

Describing the game’s story in anything but the most basic terms would be like trying to grab a fistful of mirror, so I will give you that simple rundown and leave it at that. Killer7 takes place in a modern alternate universe in which the nations of the world have declared peace. Everything seems fine until A New Threat Arises. It seems that a cult of zombies known as the Heaven Smile has been spreading its plague across the world – sometimes subtly, affecting the world’s political status and jeopardizing the global peace plan, but mostly just by turning everyone else into zombies, which is how these things usually go. And only one man can stop them!

The man is Harman Smith, a capped, elderly chap confined to a wheelchair. (Will he let the bad guys get away? No. That’s not how he rolls.) (Hahahahaha!) It is worth noting that Harman is not exactly one man, per se, as he also has seven alternate personalities that he can call upon at will (by changing the TV channel) to do his bidding. These additional Smiths represent every end of every spectrum there ever was, and each has their own special set of abilities to ensure that they will all become useful at some point. Garcian Smith acts as the team’s negotiator, and can bring other fallen Smiths back to life. Coyote Smith, the thief, picks locks and says the F-word a lot. Kaede Smith, the team’s only female, can slit her wrists. Mask de Smith wears a goofy mask and blows stuff up with his dual grenade launchers. And so on!

There are far more subplots and events that occur in-game than what I’ve just talked about, but I’m not going to mention them, because they’re weird.

I will say, though, that the player can choose between those seven members of the Killer7, and it plays heavily into the game’s puzzles as we are forced to switch between them at a rapid-fire pace to take advantage of their unique strengths and abilities. That is the keystone in place for what is otherwise an overly straightforward and simplified action/adventure/rail shooter/arcade game. Movement is barely above what you’d find in a typical Myst game, with the analog stick only even used to select certain paths and to aim your weapon when necessary. The bulk of movement is made by simply holding the A button and watching as your character moves along a pre-determined path.

What’s with this archaic design factor, you ask? I do not know. But I can tell you that it didn’t annoy me nearly as much as I thought it would – as Game Revolution pointed out, Killer7’s branching paths take you to all of the places that you’d go anyway, so there’s no point in fussing over it. I can see a lot of people genuinely hating this game because of its odd controls, though, and I don’t entirely blame them. This one issue will divide a lot of gamers in an instant, I think.

You’ll have to stop every once in a while to shoot at one of the Killer7’s many enemies, ranging from the typical slow-moving zombies to faster zombies, EXPLOSIVE zombies, and poisonous zombies. This action works so much like an arcade game that there was talk of Killer7 being a light gun shooter before it was released. When you hear foes approaching, you must stop, scan for them (they’re invisible, you see), aim with the analog stick, and fire away, taking care to reload when necessary. (Each Smith has a different weapon, and this plays a role in determining which one is your favorite.) Trying aiming for your enemies’ weak points, and Killer7 will offer enough challenge so as to help you forget you’re fighting mindless, braindead zombies.

In fact, you know what this game reminds me of? Resident Evil. The old ones. Not surprising – this was handled by Capcom as well, and Shinji Mikami executive produced. Aside from the ubiquitous zombies, Killer7 contains confined game environments, stop-and-shoot combat mechanics, and some rather inane and ridiculous puzzles that I will talk about in a moment. The good news is that my two major complaints about the old Resident Evil games – their clunky movement and tedious combat – have been fixed, as movement is done almost automatically, and shooting with the analog stick feels great. So we’re okay there.

That leaves us, however, with puzzles that are incredibly simple yet at times make no sense whatsoever. They usually revolve around bringing the right item to the right place or having the correct Smith and using his or her special ability. (For example, if there’s a security laser blocking a hallway, you need Kevin Smith – who’s grown slimmer and paler since directing Clerks – and his invisibility power.) All of the puzzles are either laughably easy or deviously hard to figure out, and even then, the normal difficulty map shows you how to solve them anyway.

But no matter the flaws, Suda 51 – whose insanity is barely touched upon in this title, I think – lets his stylistic groove seep in through the cracks to make for an experience that is, at the very least, attention-grabbing. (And this doesn’t even count Killer7’s fantastic cel-shaded visuals or its funky soundtrack.) His craziness is his greatness, and I’ll give you an example. The zombies in this game? They laugh. Not two minutes into Killer7, I started down an ominous-looking hallway, and I heard laughter. I stopped and scanned the area, and sure enough, there was a zombie, cackling and grinning as he stumbled toward me. And soon I was laughing too, because who would put laughing zombies in a videogame? Who would even THINK to put laughing zombies in a videogame? Suda 51, ladies and gentlemen. You gotta love him.

But after a while, I grew weary of it all. I got sick of the game’s silly, thoughtless puzzles. I started to yearn for sense and coherence amidst a stew of randomness and insanity. I began to wonder why I couldn’t move and shoot at the same time. And I begged to know why I couldn’t be fighting enemies that were actually intelligent, sophisticated beings. Indeed, I grew weary of this game’s flaws.

So why in the dark, fiery, boiling bowels of hell did I keep playing? Because I was fascinated by the artistic marvel that the artists at Capcom have been able to create, and I was in awe of Suda 51’s willingness to take risks. For everything bad about it, Killer7 certainly had me gripped from beginning to end, and there are few games that fit that description.

Suskie's avatar
Community review by Suskie (July 02, 2007)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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