Suda51, legendarily one of the most distinctive game designers in the industry, only occasionally returns to past concepts, usually going from new game to new game. Killer is Dead is and isn't an exception. At a closed-doors demo, XSEED Games showed how the title combines conceptual elements from Killer7 and No More Heroes to make a solid-looking, stylish mixed-style brawler for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Mondo, your player-character in Killer is Dead, has a problem. He woke up one day, and he had a cybernetic arm. Choosing to use it and a katana, he takes jobs for a government execution agency to hunt down those abusing powers that seem to come from the moon. Mondo is more akin to James Bond than, say, Travis Touchdown, and it shows in his conversational style — relaxed and focused, with no cursing.
Actual gameplay takes place over 13 "Contracts" (with more possibly coming as DLC, including a specific admonition that they would not be replicating Asura's Wrath), each designed to resemble an episode of a globetrotting TV series. In our case, the demo was in Chapter 9, a traditionalist area of Japan. Each contract involves a lead-in level and a multiple-phase boss fight. Combat will be very familiar to No More Heroes players, except for a lack of motion elements. Mondo's katana handles surprisingly similarly, though with an emphasis on evasion over blocking. His arm, on the other hand, can alternate between four special weapons that strike independently, and some can shoot foes from afar. Don't expect multiple-weapon combos, though, because each handles on its own. The PR rep emphasized that the game's difficulty level is on the hard side, with the option to temporarily drop to a lower difficulty level if you repeatedly fail.
The demo scenario progressed through a traditional Japanese garden, with ninja and samurai enemies throughout. Foes vary by area, keeping things distinct through the adventure. After fighting through challenges, including a puzzle that requires locating and shooting well-hidden ninja, the developers skipped ahead to the first part of a three-phase boss fight with a Yakuza leader who's riding a tiger. Mondo gets help from a contact, who drives in with a motorcycle to chase the boss and initiates a chase sequence. Notably, there are no QTEs during this portion of the fight, and none appeared in the demo except for the very end of a long boss fight when he surrenders and commits seppuku.
The game's art style and audio should be very familiar to Killer7 fans, but it definitely benefits from an HD spit-and-polish and an array of effects more in line with No More Heroes. The game was very careful and artful in its depiction of suicide. The sense of style follows every Suda51 tradition, though there seems to be a smaller dose of his signature humor. The North American release will feature a free choice of audio tracks.
XSEED has a possible hit with Killer Is Dead, and it's a great title to show that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 still have plenty of life left during a show that has focused on the next generation of video game consoles.
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