Killer is Dead is a hack and slash game developed by Grasshopper Manufacture/SUDA51. Originally released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2013, it was finally ported to PC a year later.
Suda51 is known for creating various games with very bizarre character designs and storyline. Some of these examples are Killer7, Lollipop Chainsaw and Shadow of the Damned. If you have played any of those already, then you probably know that this game is going to be another surreal experience.
The game lets you play as Mondo Zappa, a new recruit of Bryan Execution Firm. The firm is run by Bryan Roses, a half-cyborg, and retired executioner, and his agency is actually referred as the country’s first line of defense.
The agency takes request around the world, although technically, some of them are not from Earth. They all have problems regarding various killers who are consumed by the dark side of the moon. The agency is tasked to take down and behead these killers for a contract. Mondo is assisted by his assistant Mika and co-executioner Vivienne Squall.
Mondo Zappa, the main character, lost some of his memories and he is being consumed slowly by the darkness each time he kills an enemy. And there is this woman who haunts his dreams every single night. Also, he has a rival who wears a slaves suit armor and a king of the dark side of the moon.
The story of Killer is Dead is convoluted and it cannot be understood on one go. I actually have to play it more than one to get a chunk of the story and actually read the whole wiki for the plot. The story only starts making sense once the game is almost finished.
As a result, some missions do not feel connected with the main plot at all. They are more like filler or lengthy side missions that you are forced to finish.
Nevertheless, each mission always presents something bizarre and mind-blowing to the players which is what Suda51 is known for, but it is actually a good thing. All the killers are unique in their own ways, and to be fair with the filler missions, they are surprisingly enjoyable to finish.
It is just that by the end of the game itself; it feels lacking and open-ended with so many unanswered questions.
The graphics is actually really gorgeous. It is created using Unreal Engine 3, one of the best game engines by the time the game was first released. The art style is very unique, as it is heavily stylized, and it fits with the dark humor of the game. The enemy bosses, in particular, look creepy, and I must say, their designs are very one-of-a-kind.
I personally like the visuals from start to finish; albeit a little dark sometimes. All major characters are very well-detailed, which I appreciate. Some level designs are remarkably good, but some can be really generic-looking and underutilized. I also kind of hate that the side missions also use the same maps as the story missions although it is a very common practice to do so.
There are two types of cutscenes; one is the usual cutscene that uses the in-game character models and the other is the cartoonish-looking cutscene, which is usually used for introducing the villains of each mission. The way they intermix the two added a bit more flavor to the game. It is much better than going full CGI cutscene which can be quite boring at some point.
The game is also stuck at 30 FPS so you have to do some configs to make it work at 60FPS (with some in-game problems). Running at 30 FPS also causes some screen tearing, which can be annoying.
Killer is Dead is a very fast-paced hack-and-slash game, so as far as the genre goes, you will definitely press the same buttons and combination most of the time. Although the combat mechanic is flashy, it is just way too simple since you only have to use the slash button. When the enemy tries to attack, you just have to press the dodge button.
If you manage to successfully dodge the enemy though, you can make a spectacular execution attack where Mondo slices the enemy so fast. You can also do a one-hit kill or Adrenaline Burst by pressing two buttons at the same time. It can be quite overpowered since this move can easily kill most enemies in quick succession. It does cost a blood, so use it wisely.
At some point in the game, you will encounter some annoying button mashing, especially against boss battles. In my opinion, it is just a way to prolong the fight unnecessarily. Some enemies have stun attacks as well, which can be really troublesome in some cases. You have to roll the analog stick to get back at their feet.
Status and skills, such as attack skills, sub-weapon skills, or special skills are upgradeable using moon crystals. Moon Crystals are gained by performing an execution to the enemies, or by getting them from hidden objects.
There are also extra challenges that you can unlock by doing certain things in a mission, or by finding the hot nurse, Scarlett. In my honest opinion, challenges can be quite frustrating unless you dedicate your whole time to it. The rewards are mostly costumes and extra lingerie for the gigolo missions.
Speaking of Gigolo missions, these mini-games let you date different women one at a time until they let you do that in the bed. The core mechanic is for Mondo (you) to look at their date’s eyes, then uses the gigolo vision once the woman’s eyes dart away from you. Gigolo vision can see through clothes, and that is basically the whole premise of the mini-game — just be a pervert.
Mondo will, then, give a gift to the woman, and it will fill an affection meter. Once, it is completely filled up, then they will do that. Gigolo missions can give Mondo weapon’s upgrade as the first reward, and a longer version of the scene for the second time, and apparently, the complete scene for the third time. Obviously, the latter two are unnecessary unless you really want to see it.
Sub-missions in Killer is Dead are particularly weak and very repetitive. These missions use the same maps, have the same objectives, and overall not quite fun. The reward is that you get extra money, which you can buy as gifts for the gigolo missions.
The game suffers from having a lot of loading times every time you move from one level to another. It just breaks the momentum, especially if you are being bombarded by loading screens.
The soundtrack for the game is produced by Akira Yamaoka, who is best known for the music he created for the Silent Hill series. Honestly, this is one of the strongest points of Killer is Dead. It fits very well with the dark and fast-paced theme of the game.
Voice acting is above average, but the dialogues are mostly forgettable, although, some are laughable the first time you heard it. It consists of one-liners, breaking the 4th wall, and dark comedy, as expected from a SUDA51 game.
Regarding the in-game sound effects, it is bare, but for a fast-paced game, I guess it works very well especially when there are a lot of things going on the screen. I really have nothing to say good nor bad about it.
Sadly, replay value is not Killer is Dead’s forte. After you finish the main game, there is not much of a content here. The game runs 6 hours to 8 hours depending on your pace. The game, as I mentioned earlier, also has challenges and side missions to unlock costumes and lingerie. Yes, they can be challenging, but they are mostly repetitive.
However, if you are a completionist, you can probably squeeze out an additional 5 hours to get the 100% of the game. Also, the PC version has a difficulty called Nightmare, which has better and more challenging AI.
Killer is Dead is shockingly bizarre, and it always tries to blow minds every single time it had the chance to do so. The episodes are enjoyable to play, although, it cannot make a coherent connection between each other, making a lackluster story once you have finished the game. It does not help that the side missions and challenges are too uninteresting to deal with unless you are a completionist.
The combat system is satisfying despite its simplicity and destroying waves of enemies is so fun to do in the game. Boss battles are all exciting to fight solely because of their uniqueness. Sadly, the game suffers from being locked at 30 FPS and recurrent screen tearing. Although it is fixable by tweaking the configs, there will be some problems regarding the menu screen or cutscene that it may not be worth doing it at all.
The art style is spectacular and one-of-a-kind, a SUDA51 game at its finest. However, the level designs are either very good or too lame. The game is pure randomness, for instance, there is a mission with a unicorn in it.
Killer is Dead is enjoyable, and I would recommend getting it on sale, especially if you are a huge fan of SUDA51. But I suggest skipping this one out if you get easily triggered by sexism in women because there is a lot here.