It?s not usual that a company that has a history of repeating successful titles in almost the same way can have the guts to release a game like Killer 7, a game that seems to escape typecasting. It?s an action game mostly, but it?s still difficult to pinpoint. This latest example of bravery, though it seems it may be a one time only event, shows CaPCom is starting to become a company for groundbreaking, original games.
Cell-shading: you love it or hate it. That?s about the only straightforward characteristic Killer 7 has. Games that have applied this technique have ranged from the sublime to the lame, The Wind Waker and Viewtiful Joe are examples of successful cell-shading. The main problem with some cell-shading graphics is that the gamer tends to ?get lost? in the game. Killer 7 manages to avoid this being a big issue, due to the surrealistic approach of the graphics. The balance is shifted more to the ?look? of the game than to the practicality of the visuals. Gamers that are not open-minded about visuals may get very frustrated. There?s little freedom with the camera, so the feeling of narrowness adds to the frustration. It?s not easy getting used to this, but mind that?s it?s more of an artistic decision than a camera mistake. Making a comparison with painting: if a person is more keen on Renaissance painting than modern, then Killer 7?s graphics will not be too pleasing.
The sound effects leave a lot to be desired, although the background music is very good. The modern beats fit perfectly into the game?s overall feel. The sounds are not necessarily bad but, in contrast to the rest of the game, unoriginal. The sound of bullets and laughter are almost all you hear throughout the surreal adventure. Sometimes the background music doesn?t link too well with what?s happening in the game, but weirdness is a characteristic that?s present in all of Killer 7?s levels. The main problem with the sound is the contrast with the rest of the game in terms of originality and inspiration.
Sadly, the gameplay is not very engaging. At many points in the game it can be lame and even frustrating. The advantage with gameplay is that it doesn?t lack originality, and with some time playing it will become second nature. Without wanting to make comparisons, the gameplay is very similar to that of another CaPCom game: Resident Evil 4 for the Gamecube. The funny thing is that Killer 7?s gameplay seems to be for a game older than RE4, and maybe the horror game took a lot out of the original approach to the movement. The disadvantage for Killer 7 is the lack of freedom of that movement. It?s your typical ?rail? system. The gamer will use the A button to run through the corridors and just when you reach a crossroad or ?junction points?, as they are called in the game, you can go to another part of the game world. It feels more like a comic book than a videogame, which is a good thing if the graphic art and sound supports the ambiance. The system doesn?t help too much in taking out enemies. Sometimes it takes a bit to find the enemy, if you add the fact that you don?t see them until you scan (with the L button while aiming with the R button). Good thing many enemies don?t move too fast and some move very slow. Either way, once you hear their laughter (that?s one way of knowing they are near, the other would be scanning) you should take a look around to not get surprised.
The fun part of the gameplay is that you have 7 characters or personalities to choose from, each with their own abilities and behavior. There are parts of the game where a specific personality is needed. All of these personalities have the last name Smith in common, and probably the same mind. They are believed to be the 7 personalities of a master assassin called Harman Smith, set out to destroy a terrorist organization known as the Heaven Smile. The laughter heard right before an enemy appears comes out of these insane characters. The man behind Heaven Smile is one whom with a mere touch causes people to turn into hideous creatures that seem to have a permanent smile on their faces. And not a smile of joy but of insanity (like the Joker in Batman). All these enemies do is run toward you and explode, in true terrorist fashion. Of course, there are many types of enemies, but most try to explode in front of you using different techniques. The story seems pretty straightforward on the surface, but it is very complex the more you advance in the game. Political intrigue and treason bring tension to the game, and the original storyline makes the game a lot more enjoyable than the gameplay permits.
Originality in the storyline and art design boost Killer 7 from being one of the bunch to a game worth taking a look at, and maybe one that will set a precedent for others to come in the same line. Videogames with freshness and inspired work put behind them should come more often, and should be supported by gamers. In a time when the video game industry is growing rapidly and reaching a level of merchandising that seems to suppress originality in favor of ?what always works,? Killer 7 is a refreshing experience. But mind that originality comes with a price: not everybody will like it and some may get frustrated with it. It?s a game for the more open-minded gamer that has a story oriented approach to gaming, more than just the mere fun of playing.