Killer 7

Killer 7 is a new acquisition for me. I had become interested in it after seeing others praise it — particularly Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, of Zero Punctuation fame, who’s repeatedly mentioned it as one of his favorite games, right up there with Silent Hill 2. And now that I’ve dipped a toe into it, I think I see why. This is a shooter designed for the jaded gamer, the sort who’s tired of games that are still basically trying to be better versions of Doom.

First of all, it’s stylish. It’s basically cel-shaded, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game with cel-shading that defines objects through negative space like this game does (in the cutscenes, at least): you’ll have a sort of striated gradient background, and then shadows of doorways and windows placed on top of that. Games like Braid and Okami are described as looking like paintings, which basically means visible brush strokes. That’s not the case here, but it still looks quite a lot like a painting — specifically, a cheap modernist painting that you might see in a dentist’s waiting room. Although there, it would probably leave out the zombie-like human bombs strolling in your direction and laughing like hyenas.

Secondly, it’s bizarre. It is, in tvtropes lingo, a Weird Japanese Thing. This is a game where you don’t get a lot of explanation, and what explanation you do get comes from a guy in a red gimp suit, suspended from the ceiling. This is a game where any place you’ve died is marked with a chalk outline and a bloodstained paper bag that twitches occasionally. This is a game where it’s purposefully unclear whether you’re playing a team or an individual: the members of Killer 7 are all distinct, but they’re referred to as “personas”, and sometimes seem to physically replace each other. There’s an undercurrent of insanity here.

The feel reminds me strongly of some of the weirder games by Cactus, particularly Mondo Agency. You’re fighting monsters, that much is clear, but everything else is made uncomfortably off-kilter. The very first thing you have to to in the game, before the tutorial where you learn the controls, is kill someone without knowing why. You’re just given a silhouette, a laser sight, and the text “Target 00: Angel”. You shoot, because it’s the only thing you can do, and the game skips ahead to “Assignment 33”. I have an uneasy feeling that I’m going to find out what that was about later in the game, and it won’t be pleasant.


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