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Review – Killer 7

posted on June 26th, 2006 by christian

There was once a silly, fluffy intro here, until I realized it wasn’t necessary for Killer 7. No matter what pages of forum analyses may claim, this is a simple game, both gameplay wise and story wise. Yes it is weird as hell and artsy in structure. And no, I don’t claim to “get” everything about it, but if you ask me there are a lot of people out there that don’t understand what this game is all about. Here’s a hint; all you need to do is stop thinking so damn much.

First things first; Killer 7 is not an action game. It is not a rail shooter. And most importantly, it is not survival horror. I’ve heard all of these names applied, and none of them make sense. Why is it action? Because you shoot things? That can describe a lot of games. Why is it a rail shooter? Because the game makes you move on a railed path through each level? Too bad you can stop whenever you want, and even turn around. Not to mention you still have multiple paths and areas to explore. This description fares a little better, but still reeks of a bunch gamers trying to be cool and clever while they bash the game for being too simple.

And then we have survival horror. I own every mainline Resident Evil game. I’ve played ¾ of the Silent Hill games. If you asked me to define the survival horror genre, I wouldn’t have a clue how to start. They’re usually scary of course, and try to make things difficult by giving the player limited health and ammo (hence the survival). Is that a good description for the genre, however? You can take those basic concepts and apply them to a variety of games. The genre is one of the youngest in the industry, and I find it is sometimes a little too broad what is includes under its umbrella, and what it does not.

Don’t let this picture fool you — best room in the game.

So what is Killer 7? The first clue is a name: Shinji Mikami. Mr. Resident Evil himself was vital in the production of this game, and it is incredibly obvious. Resident Evil, one of the firsts in survival horror, is all about navigating beautiful, pre rendered scenes with an awkward control scheme (pretend RE4 doesn’t exist for this review, since it is in the minority). It includes obtuse puzzles, lots of files and documents to progress the story, and combat against powerful enemies in which you must ready your weapon before you can take a shot.

Now for the review’s first twist, the one thing that is sure to knock the kids on their asses. The almost exact same paragraph describes Killer 7. Just replace “pre rendered” with “cel shaded” and you’re set. Of course, it isn’t identical; K7 implements some of the concepts differently, but both games come from the same foundation. Killer 7 simply makes a few changes:

- The controls are awkward because they are foreign. We’re not used to a game in which the only control we have is to move forward or turn around, but I really think it is appropriate. The stiff, tank like controls in the Resident Evil games were horrible for navigating most areas, and in every room there were only a few key spots where you needed to go in order to find items or puzzles. This control scheme simply removes the bullshit by taking you right where you need to go and restricting you from the rest (because really, there’s no reason to go there).

– In RE you can’t move while attacking. Killer 7 of course works the same way. Someone finally decided that if this is the case, why not let the player shoot in first person mode? It allows for greater precision, and allows the designers to add some strategy by giving your enemies different weak spots (and your characters different weapons). The first person mode wasn’t there so they could make a shooter; it was simply the logical progression of this kind of game design.

Killer 7 is just an improvement on the Resident Evil formula, which is the second twist of the day; RE and many others like it are nothing more than adventure games. Their main goal is to progress a narrative, focus on items and puzzles, and present a pretty “look but don’t touch” game world. Survival Horror games are just a natural progression of this setup; take a game environment that restricts the player, and add things that go bump in the night. They compliment each other rather nicely. Killer 7 strips away the survival aspect (though it arguably keeps the spooks, as it can be downright disturbing in some points), but that does not stop it from being an adventure game. In fact it very much improves upon the genre by removing much of the unnecessary stuff and beefing up the action for the modern gamer.

In Killer 7, not even angelic anime girls are spared from being shot by tank rounds.

That isn’t to say it is immaculate. For one, the puzzles are excessively easy. Only a few require more than a couple of seconds of thinking, and most can be completed through sheer trial and error. On one hand, this is better than the often cryptic and ridiculous puzzles of the typical adventure game, but on the other they serve little challenge to the player, and are often roadblocks more than anything.

Second, Capcom had to go ahead and follow the rest of the gaming world by adding RPG-esque level ups for each character. Until you can get these, expect a more difficult game as you desperately try to eliminate your foe with a shaky gun hand, or take the game’s “cleaner”, Garcian Smith, to resurrect a character. These are the most annoying and repetitive parts of the game, and can take a lot of thunder out of its momentum. Meanwhile once you fully upgrade your best fighters, it isn’t hard to waste an entire room. I’d much rather have characters level up automatically at appropriate areas while keeping enemies balanced for your current fighting abilities. They actually do this to an extent with one of the characters, and I wish it would have been used throughout.

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