Killer is Dead is going to shove itself headfirst into your eye holes and grace your brain with its presence come August 27 and this is exactly why you should be happily awaiting its invasive residence in your memories. Unlike a usual “Reasons to be excited for…” list, I don’t want to simply tell you why you should be playing Killer is Dead when it comes out next week. Instead, I’m going to highlight some of the craziest and most stellar examples in Suda51’s portfolio to show exactly how they all have culminated into the beautiful nonsense that is Killer is Dead.
Unlike the other entries on this list, Killer7 is much less of a straight comedy then most of Suda’s games. It’s also the game that made him the icon of cult video games that he is today. At its core, Killer7 is a game where you run around completely on rails until you hear some creepy laughter, at which you’ll switch into a first person perspective and attempt to hit some enemies in specific weak points in a very lightgun-esque fashion. What prevented it from being as boring as it sounds was the colossal amount of personality that oozed from every corner.
You play as Harmon Smith, a wheelchair bound assassin who uses his seven split personalities, all of whom were gifted killers whose souls were absorbed by Harmon, to take out the Heaven Smiles on a contract from the U.S. government. If that doesn’t sound crazy enough for you, you also receive guidance from the ghost of the first person the killer7 killed and the ghost of a man in a bondage suit saves your game. It may not play perfectly, but Killer7 feels like if David Lynch made an action movie turned video game and was Japanese. It’s not for everyone, but it’s hard to deny the brilliance that Killer7 brings to the table and some of that seems to be transferring to Killer is Dead.
4. Lollipop Chainsaw
Suda51 partnered with director James Gunn to make a new zombie game where a cheerleader decapitates as many zombies as possible with a chainsaw. While another zombie game may have seemed like a strange idea for the market, Lollipop Chainsaw was approaching it with the wackiness of a Suda game. While you can definitely tell that the more out of left field moments of insanity that Suda is famous for were reigned in by James Gunn, what Gunn brought to the script was nothing short of incredible. Here was a game about a skimpily dressed cheerleader that managed to make the male lead the outlet for objectification.
One of the first boss battles in the game is a punk rock zombie that attacks you with the physical manifestations of swear words. Lollipop Chainsaw took the hack and slash gameplay of No More Heroes and the shooting of Shadows of the Damned and refined them together into a single game. The combo system introduced some much needed variety to the slowly evolving combat system that has permeated throughout each new Suda game. The gameplay, while incredibly fun, was still a little rough, but the strides taken look to be refined even further in Killer is Dead.
3. Shadows of the Damned
Like with Lollipop Chainsaw, Shadows of the Damned seemed like a match made in heaven. Suda teamed up with the director of the best Resident Evil game, Shinji Mikami, who now had a chance to make another third person horror-esque shooter. What they created was not only the clear evolution of the Resident Evil 4 gameplay mechanics that 5 and 6 screwed up, but one of the most visually interesting and entertaining games that Grasshopper Manufacture has ever made. They managed to make hell feel like a realistic ecosystem, with each circle clearly represented in their own seedy ways.
Each boss had their own demented and dark backstories that fit perfectly into the equally dark and twisted world. Discovering what would come next as you traversed the bowels of hell to recover your stolen girlfriend was half the fun, the other was blowing things apart with your humorous, though immaturely named gun, the boner. Shadows of the Damned took a much darker edge than most Suda games after Killer7, but it still didn’t lose the comedic edge that helps separate his works from nonsense and funny nonsense art.
2. No More Heroes
While Lollipop Chainsaw and Shadows of the Damned were excellent evolutions of the gameplay systems that Suda has been injecting his games with, No More Heroes remains my favorite Suda game and one of my favorite games of this console generation. Both No More Heroes games were commentary on the current state of video games that were a blast to play through. Travis Touchdown’s borderline disgusting personality somehow made him an endearing character without actually making him likeable.
Cutting bloody swaths through the top ranking assassins proved showcase some of the most creative boss battles in both design and appearance. Whether you’re attempting to decapitate the insane postal worker who thinks he’s a superhero and fires a giant laser from his crotch or the football star who pilots and giant robot that fires his cheerleaders out like missiles that you must also combat while piloting a giant robot that comes out of fucking nowhere. While it easily could have been, No More Heroes manages to reign in the insanity and not devolve into utter nonsense. The creativity in boss design that, while present in the other games, hasn’t reached the levels of No More Heroes seems to finally be revealing itself in Killer is Dead.
1. Killer is Dead
From the short time I’ve spent with it, Killer is Dead is easily the best playing Suda 51 game yet. The continued development of both the sword and gun combat over each of the previous games has finally culminated into something spectacular. What was so brilliant about both Killer7 and No More Heroes has been mashed together in a way I didn’t think was possible. As Mondo Zappa you’ll travel the world taking out some of the most dangerous criminals and assassins that call the seedy underbelly of society home.
While the other games on this list take place in fictional versions of our world, Killer is Dead is set in a strange future that grants people cybernetic enhancements and crazy sci-fi attack robot filled evil towers that are also posing as record labels. It’s a strange world filled with all the quirks and oddities you come to expect from Grasshopper. Then, of course, you get to go on the ‘dates’ that have you wearing Mondo’s gigolo glasses to help him woo girls and get presents, which is such a strange departure from the rest of the game that if Suda didn’t have a pre established history of insanity in his games you would wonder what the fuck was going on, yet it fits right at home amongst the slashing, shooting and rose petal blood.
While it may not be the best gameplay experience of the year, Killer is Dead will easily be one of the most interesting games to come out in quite a while. While wackiness will only get you so far, Grasshopper Manufacture has made a living out of providing some of the strangest and most intersting video games on the market and Killer is Dead looks like it will not disappoint. Be sure to check it out when it releases on August 27.