Killer7, the last of the famous “Capcom 5” games to be released (well excluding the axed Dead Phoenix project) is finally here. Originally P.N. 03, Viewtiful Joe, Resident Evil 4, Dead Phoenix, and killer7 were all exclusive to GameCube, but all except the underrated P.N. 03 have, or will appear on PlayStation2 as well. The last game to be released, killer7, is also the most interesting, with nobody really knowing anything about the actual game until they played it. Capcom have been extremely secretive about the game play of killer7, almost to the point of it being a concern. Finally, after what seems like an entire console generation, killer7 is out.
During its incredibly long development time, Capcom never really talked about the actual game play details of killer7, and only since a few actual in-game shots appeared of gun sights and enemies did people start to piece together what it was about. Well, as best they could anyway. I think it’s fair to say the game is one of most stylishly designed pieces of digital media ever, and unless you are dead inside, you’ll fall in love with the style instantly. Capcom have taken cell-shaded graphics to a new level, with their own abstract style with killer7, and it really does look superb. The design of the characters and the environments is incredible, and you can see a lot of work and thought and love went into getting it perfect. It really looks and feels like a Japanese anime movie, with superb English voice acting as well. Capcom are very proud of killer7 and even ask you to make sure you get the name right when talking about it; ‘killer7’ – all lower case and one word.
In fact, the games presentation in its entirety is of the highest quality imaginable. From the mission select menu, the character selection TV (yes, television), the way your characters change mid-game, the constantly changing music, and the cut scenes are outstanding. If a game could be reviewed on production value and presentation alone then killer7 would get ten out of ten without question. However, game reviews aren’t all down to those two things, so let’s talk about the rest of killer7.
The story in the game is very strange indeed, and it won’t be until later in the game that you’ll understand what the hell is going on. Even then, you’ll be wondering what Capcom are going on about! Basically you are an assassin group called killer7. You have been requested to take out a very bad group of individuals through various missions – I think that’s probably the best way to describe it without giving anything away; I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you. You are one character called Garcian Smith, with seven personalities (ah, you see!). Your boss is the wheelchair-ridden old man Harman Smith, who is the commander of killer7. Garcian’s seven personalities are of course all different characters, with different styles, abilities, and weaponry. The seven assassins are; Garcian Smith, Dan Smith, KAEDE (must be in capital letters) Smith, Con Smith, Coyote Smith, Kevin Smith, and finally MASK DE (yep, must be in capitals again) Smith. At any point in the game you can change character to one that is more suitable for the situation, or indeed required for one particular section. For example if a breakable wall blocks a corridor, you can use MASK DE to smash it as he’s got incredibly powerful guns. The way your character changes from one to another can only be described as cool. The screen freezes and goes black and white, and then your character explodes into a thousand blood particles, and then reforms again as the new character. The game unfreezes, goes colour and you carry on. It looks fantastic, and yet another touch showing the game is very much about style.
I think the easiest way to describe killer7 is an ‘on-rails puzzle action adventure game’. OK, stay with me here. Imagine Resident Evil, where you can walk from room to room, down corridors, upstairs, outside etc, but YOU don’t control the character. Well, you do, but you don’t. No, seriously! To run (no walking here) you press and hold ‘A’. This makes your character run along a set path along a corridor. When you come to a door or character, you get huge on-screen text displaying direction options, which you select with the analog stick to decide where to go. So you’re running along, and the option “Room 204” comes up on screen. Select that, and your character goes into the room. When in the room, puzzles and items to pick up work the same way. Run along, and options will appear on screen “Candles” or “Air Conditioning”. Select one, and you’ll be then presented with a puzzle, very similar to something in Capcom’s Resident Evil series. The puzzles are different in style to the survival horror games, but they feel familiar, and you won’t have too many problems with them early on. Having said that, some of them are very clever, and require a bit of head scratching before you can work it out. The camera in the game is fixed and uncontrollable, so sometimes you’ll be running along, and the camera will swoop right down behind you – It’s all about the style of the game you see, and since you have no real control of the movement of your character, it’s not an issue. It’s definitely a very bizarre set-up, and really quite like nothing you have ever played before. Killer7 will take a good hour or so to get into it, but when you do, everything works really fluidly.
So getting about is done by pressing one button, and to do a 180-degree turn to run back the opposite direction you press ‘B’. To reload your gun you flick the yellow camera stick, and your characters will reload (all in their own style). The enemies in the game, the “Heavens Smiles”, are invisible to you, but you can hear their sick laugh when they are close by. To see them, you pull the ‘R’ trigger, which puts you into 1st person aiming mode. Then pull and let go of “L” trigger to scan the area. If there are any enemies around, they will now be visible to you, so you can shoot and kill them. Aiming takes a bit of getting used to, and depending where you shoot them equates to how much blood they spill and what limbs get shot off. You collect the blood, which can be used to top up your health, and also as a currency to power-up your characters abilities (power, speed, etc). If you manage to kill the enemy in one shot, your character will shout out their favourite phrase (most of them involving the ‘F’ word) as they blow the ‘Heavens Smiles’ head off.
At this point I should mention that the game is really for adults only, with graphic scenes, lots of blood, violence, sexual scenes and other themes that are strictly for over-18s. One of the characters special moves is to slash her wrists and spurt blood everywhere and there are some quite graphic sex scenes in the game too. Be sure to put the kids to bed before playing this one.
The different missions in the game vary nicely - you start off in a small building, running around piecing together clues and puzzles to find out what’s going on and to progress. Later you visit Japanese restaurants, and even go outside into large outdoor environments. The difficulties of the game start to ramp up here, and you have to be quick with firing off shots and reloading. New enemies are introduced too, so you’re always being kept on your toes with the action.
The boss fights are very clever too, and it’s not just a case of shooting them and winning. You need to watch and learn their patterns, and find out their weak points. Again, different characters make a difference here, and some will give a serious advantage over another. This is something Capcom always do really well in their games, whether it be Devil May Cry or Viewtiful Joe, the player has to learn the patterns and work at it. It’s a twenty year old game mechanic that still works today.
It’s difficult for me to be hard on killer7, mainly because you fall in love with the style and soul of the game, and also because there’s really nothing much wrong with it. But then on the other hand you might hate it for the reasons I loved it. It’s definitely not a case of style and no substance, which many people feared early in development – this is one of those rare examples of style and substance. The characters are all different, and they make a difference to the game play. The enemies vary nicely, and have to be tackled differently to one another. The puzzles are typical Capcom and are satisfying and enjoyable to do. The game looks and feels truly sick, there really is nothing like it out there, and it has a fantastic soundtrack and great story too. The controls, although going back in time about 15 years, worked well I thought, however I can see some gamers really not enjoying the restricted nature of both the controls and the game’s on-rails nature. People want to be able to explore the entire room now, and have full analog control of their character. Capcom have stopped this completely with the on-rails nature of killer7. I personally thought it worked well, and had a kind of retro feel about it, which I liked.
killer7 has to be one of the bravest videogame releases ever. Its graphical style is very abstract, as is the story. The controls are virtually non-existent, you have no freedom, you can’t adjust the camera, it’s hard, it’s got puzzles that people hated in Resident Evil, and it’s strictly for adults only. I have full respect for Capcom actually releasing this game, but I think the sales figures will probably say a lot about what the general gaming public want from games these days, and unfortunately I think killer7 might just be a little too “out there” for most people.
However, for these very reasons, I loved killer7. I thought its linear nature worked with the style of the game, and I adore Capcom’s adventure games – they play well and are really enjoyable. I never tired of hearing an enemy laugh, scanning for it, then blowing its head off. The missions were superbly designed, with some fantastic areas to play through.
So there you go, killer7, is a real "Marmite" experience which pulls no punches in being bold, different, and completely insane, and it’s proud of it too.