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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4 / Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Action Adventure
Players: 1
Rated: M (Mature)
Release Date: 7/7/05
Written by: Daniel Sims

"I won't need six bullets for you..."

Back in 2002, Capcom presented a set of five new games that they would develop for the Nintendo Gamecube. One of which, seemed to be an odd yet interesting title by the name Killer 7. Ever since the game's first introduction, people have been wondered and speculated what exactly the game is all about and what exactly is going on with it. Now that the game has hit shelves it's becoming one of the most talked about games around. Just what really is going on with Killer7?

Before doing this review I'll say what anyone who reads a review should already know: that when you get right down to it reviews are really just the opinion of the writer. This is true and should be kept in mind when reading any review. However, because of the um... unique nature of this game, it has been talked about and talked about with many different opinions on it rising up. So the fact that any review is basically just opinion applies even more so in the case of this game. Many people have expressed many different opinions on this game, and this review simply expresses my own.

In the year 1998, the nations of the world came together and formulated a plan for everlasting peace. In order to stop things such as terrorism, war, and other conflicts, air travel was abolished and all internet networking stations were shut down. And thus a new day dawned. It is now the year 2010, and a new threat has arrived. These "Smiling Faces", the Heaven Smiles created and commanded by one Kun Lan have begun to wreak havoc. To stop them, the United States (of somewhere else) has enlisted the services of Harman Smith and his alternate personalities: the Killer 7.
The amazing storyline is definitely one of the main draws of Killer 7. From the minds of Shinji Mikami and Suda 51 we get a tale of assassins, government politics, and terrorism that at first seems like a simple job to stop a terrorist plot but soon spirals into a mad tale destruction and deception. This is a plot that involves almost everything. From cults to organized crime to political conflict this story just about has it all and knows virtually no boundaries in what it explores.

I'll admit that at first I found the storyline to be a bit slow and not involving enough. Much of the storyline is told through the words of "ghosts" that you meet throughout the levels who pretty much set up the situation that you are currently dealing with as well as the nice cutscenes between levels. At first this might make some people feel disconnected from the game's storyline as you aren't immediately brought into it with overly involving dialogue or cutscenes. But as the game goes on the storyline does indeed pick up and become more and more intriguing. Towards the final chapters of the game when you think you are now starting to figure it out the game comes at you with twists you won't believe and an ending that I still don't fully understand and probably never will. With a setup involving, conflict and deception that ultimately influences the very fate of the world and uncovers your true identity, Killer 7 has a storyline that is arguably the best in videogames since that of the original Metal Gear Solid.

The biggest draw of Killer 7 is the game's amazing presentation and style. Where a lot of games these days have a need for ultrarealism that might sometimes lack any truly original style, Killer 7 bleeds it, almost literally. From simply looking at the game people can get a sense of its neo noir/comic book/anime style that flows throughout every environment and every character. The environments of each level you go through are usually very simple in that they have a very clean, modern look that is also very colorful. Because you don't fully explore the environments yourself but mainly look at them (we'll get to that later), many of the areas look somewhat elaborately decorated while keeping a very clean noir style. These environments are mainly just different kinds of modern buildings like offices, schools, hotels, and other places you have to go through to get trough this story.
The game's characters are diverse to say the least. Mostly different variations and weird transformations of the human form. While many of the game's main characters (especially the assassins) tend to look like Killers from any film noir story wearing things like tight suits and blood-splattered dresses, most of the enemies consist of deranged zombie-like things that vary quiet widely in terms of shape, size, and general makeup. Some have wings, some have tentacles, some lay eggs, some seem to be simple heaps of flesh that can take up an entire room. Dispatching these enemies gives way to some pretty cool blood and explosion effects by the way that partly help make killing them still fun after you've done it countless times. These designs get even crazier with the bosses, all of which are entirely different and some of which are pretty creative, ranging from a team of Powerangers Rip-offs to an impossibly fast anime schoolgirl. The other characters in the game mainly consist of ghosts or "remnant psyches" that all have their very own distinct design. The main ones including an all-red hanging guy in bondage gear, a strangely flamboyant "storyteller", and just a head. These characters never get boring at all as the game goes on and frankly can get pretty disturbing.

Other than the "remnant psyches" that tell you about what's going on, the game's storyline is presented through cutscenes that play out very well. Early on most of these cutscenes are in the game's realtime engine but as the game goes on there tend to be more and more anime-style cutscenes. The realtime cutscenes are animated well and play out very much like a film, presenting the game's world through its presentation and it's visuals like realtime cutscenes should, however this tends to stand out more in a game like this. The anime cutscenes in the game, most of which are directed by Habara Nobuyoshi of XEBEC studios (D.N.Angel, Megaman, Shaman King, Sorcerer Hunters), are decently animated to present the story in a interesting way. Although I have seen many anime shows that could easily top the scenes in this game, they still manage to convey the proper feel.

As the game's presentation and art style commands them to be, the graphics in Killer 7 are relatively simple compared to the super-detailed shooters of today. Sometimes it even reminds me of the old untextured polygons of VF1. To convey the game's anime style, the graphics engine uses cel-shading to complement the game's film noir style and does this nicely, making for a very colorful looking game that has a look setting it apart from most other games of this year.

Although the cel-shaded graphics of this game give way to a somewhat simple and clean style, they are also as detailed as they need to be on things such as lighting (especially lighting) and character detail. Folds and shadows on characters' faces in this game are very defined and frankly unexpected on a cel-shaded graphics engine. Most entertainment with a film noir style like this involves a lot of high contrast between light and dark on environments and characters. Putting this into a game makes for some good lighting effects. Even though the environments in this game almost never move or change, you can still see this style expressed clearly. This combined with the game's certain colorfulness only adds to the distinct feel. And of course the game does this with pretty much no slowdown in the framerate whatsoever (at least on this version) and with loadtimes at the most minimum.

When it comes to the gameplay, it's hard to describe exactly what Killer 7 is. It's not a First Person Shooter, it's not an on-rails Shooter, it's not really an Adventure game, and it's not your ordinary Action game. Killer 7 really doesn't fit into any conventional genre of gaming but incorporates elements from many different genres like First Person Shooters, On-Rails shooters, Adventure games, and even RPGs. It takes certain elements of each and puts them together to make an experience that's definitely unique if nothing else.

Much of Killer 7 involves running and shooting. Although this is true, exploration is sort of set to a minimum because instead of running around freely in any direction, Killer 7 only allows you to run back and forth on a predetermined rail. When you get to a fork in the road or at any kind of option, the paths and optins will appear on screen for you to select by simply pressin ghe analog stick in the correstponding direction. This may seem slow at first, but once you get the hand of simply holding the stick in the direction you want to go when you get to a crossroad while running it feels surprisingly smooth. When you encounter enemies, you can go into a first person aiming mode by pressing and holding the R button. Thus people coining it as an on-rails shooter. Now although a lot of people seem to have a certain disdain for on-rails shooters I actually tend to enjoy them. But this game is not an on-rails shooter because first of all it involves backtracking and second of all you can choose where you stand and shoot.

The enemies that you fight against in this game, the Heaven Smiles, vary widely in terms of style and attack pattern. They will walk toward you, run toward you, crawl toward you, fly toward you, roll toward you and teleport towards you in different ways. And new types of enemies keep coming throughout the game. At first you can't see the enemies at all but can only tell they are there by their distinctive laughter. While they do give off a faint shimmer, it is quite difficult to see. To see them you simply aim and press the L button to sort of "scan" the screen, making them visible. Once you've done that you can pretty much shoot away without too much complication. You just have to do it before they reach you and self-destruct, causing you significant damage. From time to time some enemies may require an extra trick or two like shooting them from behind or in certain areas before finally finishing them off, but they can all generally be dispatched simply by filling them up with enough bullets or by shooting their "sweet spot". The "Sweet Spot" is a yellow area only seen through the aiming reticule. If you shoot that, they instantly burst into a shower of blood, which is followed by a distinct remark from your character. Depending on the type of enemy, it's actually fairly easy to find these spots and shoot them, which often results in killing dozens of enemies in a row like this. While fighting you'll also have a lock on feature. Just press the B button to lock on to the nearest enemy. Although this is very functional and not at all annoying, I rarely ever used it in the game, as I was always trying to go for the "sweet spots" that are not automatically targeted with the lock on. I can only remember one particular enemy where the lock on was extremely helpful. Shooting down enemies one by one who keep coming and piling up actually makes for some action that while fun, may seem too simple and archaic for many.

Throughout Killer 7 you will take on the role of seven different personalities, collectively known as the Killer 7. Each one with their own particular abilities and strengths that will require you to switch through them as the game goes on. There's at least one well-rounded "main" character that's always useful, a sniper, a lightning fast gunner, a knife-wielding albino, and more. Although these killers are all different, they probably don't all feel as essential as they should. Throughout most of the shooting action you'll probably choose one or two Smiths that you'll use almost all the time. From time to time a puzzle or obstacle will come up requiring you to use the special ability of one of the Smiths but in the later levels even that diminishes. Although you'll probably start to use most of the characters more evenly in later levels, they never all feel as essential as they should. When one of the seven die, Garcian, the sort of medium between them, is selected and you must use him to find the body (complete with chalkline), and revive it by rapildy pressing the A button. It even tells you how rapidly you can press the A button!

While shooting through the enemies of the game, you'll be introduced to Killer 7's stat-building element. When you kill enemies, you gather blood from them, blood that is used for many different things. One of which involves being deposited into a certain "station" where it can be used to upgrade stats in four distinct areas, some of which differ from character to character. You can also upgrade to give characters more special abilities like counter attacks and such. I myself never used these special attacks much but I could see their importance in hard mode. Another nice measure put into the game is the blood limit for each level. That is, the limit to how much blood you can deposit for stat-building for each level to prevent players from making the game too easy through over leveling. Blood can also be used for healing damaged characters and is spent when using special attacks. Although this is undoubtedly built to ensure that players think about how they use the blood, in my experience I ran into such an abundance of it that I still never gave it too much thought. However, this is still a good try by Capcom to require some manage ability on the part of the player.

Most of the rest of the game consists of running around and solving the various puzzles in order to progress. A lot of these may involve simply selecting the right character to use in the right area in order to break a lock, jump onto a ledge, or maybe get through a tight space. Other puzzles involve figuring out a simple code to get through a door or just finding an item that you have to use in a certain place. Very rudimentary stuff. Although some of the puzzles do take a bit of serious thought, the majority of them were actually very easy and basic. Mostly due to the abundance of clues given to you by both the map and the remnant psyches while playing on Normal mode. First of all the map tells you what item you need to use in a certain place as well as what character you should have selected. This plus the ghosts giving you the same information again makes things a bit too easy for everyone.

If you are paying real attention to how you are playing the game, you'll notice that every level follows a common layout of progression. Collect certain items (usually Soul Shells) in order to get through a gate eventually leading to a mini boss, then either a boss or simply the end of the level and another plot point. This pattern gets very predictable and may again make things too easy for some.

The game's bosses are another standout feature of Killer 7. In terms of design (if nothing else), the bosses are definitely well inspired to say the least. Like the other enemies in the game, they come in no small variety at all and actually incorporate some unique strategies. However, some of the bosses in the game seem to be put in simply for cinematic value with little if any challenge. There aren't many boss battles in the game, but the ones that are in there definitely are at least memorable.

Killer 7 is a unique game, one that definitely will not be received by everyone. This is mainly because of it's somewhat strange gameplay style. It takes simple archaic shooting action as well as a little stat building, and puts it together with rudimentary puzzles, making for an experience that feels more in line with games that came out years ago. Because of this, I'm afraid that Killer 7 might only be truly appreciated by those with more oldschool tastes.

The music in Killer 7, while being made up of little more than well-arranged MIDI tracks, is actually quite good. They are mostly simple arrangement of techno tracks with a few particular themes put in at some points like a horror theme or a more upbeat fight theme. Normally music like this would just be considered above average, but when I check on message boards and see posts like "I need that Gatekeeper theme for my techno-rave orgies!", then something's going on with the music in this game.

The voice acting in Killer 7 is also very nice and never at all feels cheap. I must give particular credit to those who portrayed the voices of Garcian and Harman Smith but really all the voices were good. I don't care how many times I hear it said every time I kill an enemy but Con's "F*ck You!" never gets old. The dialoged throughout the game is also nicely scripted to go along with the amazing storyline. One thing I did find odd though was the remnant psyches. I had heard that in the original Japanese version of the game the ghosts used actual Japanese voices. But in the US version of the game instead of having these voices replaced with those of English-speaking actors, they were simply downgraded to a faded out sort of Buzz speak that varies in pitch from ghost to ghost. If you listen very carefully you can actually pick out specific words in it but you are clearly being forced to read the text at the bottom of the screen. But even this dialoged is well written out as the spirits are all very strange indeed from Iwazaru's talking about how bad the situation is all the time to Susie's at first normal stories that slowly turn into disturbing babblings. Other than this the audio in Killer 7 also involves nice but simple sound effects like the distinctive sound of each character's footsteps (especially the screech of Con's sneakers) and the distinct bang of each gun.

The first play through Killer 7 could take anywhere between 15 and 20 hours, not too bad. Plus in order to have any hope of grasping the game's storyline you'll probably have to go through it at least three times, not to mention the "special" games contained within. For an action title Killer 7 will last you a little bit.

Closing Comments:
Killer 7 is a game that seems to catch people's attention from the start and lets them draw their own conclusions from it in the end. While it may have a somewhat simple and archaic gameplay style that comes off as way too easy for a Capcom game, it's definitely a memorable experience that'll make for a lot of interesting debate and thought. Killer 7 is one of those unique stand-out titles that everyone will undoubtedly feel differently about.


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