Friday, October 07, 2005


Sorry for the lack of updates. Minor family crises kept me from posting. Hopefully, those problems are over and done for now, and I'll be able to post some brand spanking new comics reviews over the weekend. In the meantime, enjoy this review of the excellent shooter game "Killer 7," which first ran on 8/7/05.

Capcom, for the GameCube and PlayStation 2
rated M forMature (blood and gore, intense violence,

sexual themes, strong language), $49.99.

RATING: 4 stars

Is "Killer 7 " the most bizarre game ever made? Let's do a quick run-through:

  • In the game you play as seven assassins, each of whom is actually one facet of a multiple persona.
  • The character Iwazaru, who gives you vague tips and advice throughout the game, is dressed like the gimp from "Pulp Fiction."
  • There's a disembodied head that keeps turning up in cubby holes and other strange places to give you magic rings.
  • The head also likes to tell you disturbing stories.
  • One of the assassins is a masked wrestler -- who uses grenade launchers.

Convinced yet? I haven't even mentioned the female assassin who slits her wrists to open up hidden passages.

Suffice it to say that "Killer 7 " is one of the most unusual, unsettling games ever made. It's also one of the most original and inventive. In a time when publishers seem happy to recycle familiar genres and story lines, "Killer 7 " is a breath of fresh, if decidedly weird, air.

The story, what there is that makes sense, involves an alternate reality where 9/11 never happened and world peace reigns.

In this era of tranquillity, tensions develop between the United States and Japan, exacerbated by a group of monstrous suicide bombers who call themselves Heaven Smile.

The only ones capable of taking out these otherworldly terrorists are the Killer 7 , who are actually different alter egos of one Harman Smith, a wheelchair-bound elderly man with a big gun who dresses like the guy on the Quaker Oats box.

That really only begins to hint at the twisty, surreal paths that the game's story takes. Don't play "Killer 7 " expecting to understand everything that is going on or to have reached any kind of understandable conclusion at the end. This is a deliberately obtuse game that teases but never spells things out.

"Killer 7 " boasts an unusual, stylish look, using lots of low and high angles, blocky geometric shapes and dark brooding colors. It'ss ort of like a noir cartoon.

The gameplay is just as unique, and it's here that a lot of gamers will find themselves turned off. A cross between "rail" shooters like "House of the Dead" and adventure games such as "Myst," you cannot move your characters freely in "Killer 7 ." Instead you press a button to have one run forward. Another button lets you turn around in case you have to backtrack.

The Heaven Smiles are invisible at first. You'll know you're near one, however, thanks to their utterly unnerving laughter. Upon hearing that, you switch to first person-mode and scan the room, where they'll come into view, slowly slogging toward you. That's when you start to shoot them.

While random shots will take a Smile down, accuracy is everything in "Killer 7 ." Each Smile has a critical hit point that lets you do away with it in one shot. This is important, as you'll need to collect their blood in order to heal yourself, upgrade your characters and use special moves. Fewer shots means more blood, so hone those sharpshooting skills.

It must be noted, though, that while in first-person mode, you won't be able to move around at all, another thing that some hardcore gamers will chafe at, especially those used to having more control over their characters.

I, however, found such limitations to be refreshing. How many times did I wander around in "Resident Evil" or a similar game trying to figure out what objects in the room I was allowed to pick up or where it was exactly I was supposed to go? "Killer 7 " removes a lot of that nonsense in favor of a minimalist approach that works.

Besides all the shooting, there are puzzles that will need to be solved. These vary between the absurdly easy to the intensely confusing. You might want to have a game guide on hand during these moments.

Ultimate success in "Killer 7 " means being able to switch between personalities on the fly. Each assassin has a special ability or two, and you'll need to use all of them at different times. Coyote Smith, for example, can open locked doors, while Mask Smith (the wrestler) can remove large obstacles.

Others can turn invisible, move quickly or, in the case of Garcian Smith, heal your character should he or she fall in battle.

"Killer 7 " is not a game for everybody. Some will appreciate its design and story but despise its limited, repetitive control scheme. Others -- those who believe the words "art" and "videogames" should never be used in the same sentence -- will simply write it off as pretentious drivel.

Those of us tired of traditional fare and willing to take a chance on something innovative, thoughtful and, yes, downright creepy will happily succumb to the game's off-kilter vision, where dead politicians throw their brains at you and anime-styled angels shoot fire out of their fingers.

Did I mention this game was bizarre?

Copyright, The Patriot-News, 2005


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