Killer 7: The Handsome Men

In my last post, I compared Killer 7 to Grant Morrison’s The Filth. This comparison is even more apt than I suspected at the time. One minor plot thread in The Filth concerns a bridging of realities, between the “real” world and a simplistic superhero comic. This comic is written so that people with the right equipment can delve into it, temporarily becoming characters in its pages, chiefly to exploit it by bringing the advanced technology depicted in its pages back to the real world with them. On one occasion, a fictional superhero managed to follow them out, causing no end of trouble. This breaking-through into reality of fictional characters, and superheroes in particular, is really a recurring motif in Morrison’s comics, starting with Animal Man. It’s the whole premise of Flex Mentallo.

The relevance to Killer 7: One mission is all about a Sentai team called the Handsome Men. They’re not all men, and with their Power-Rangers-like headgear, we have no reason to believe they’re handsome, but I think we can take this as part of the gag. We first see them on — where else? — television, where they’re presented as just part of an anime show, a second point where the Japanese voice acting goes undubbed. This is interrupted by a news bulletin about an assassination performed by people dressed as the Handsome Men. Shortly afterward, we’re told that the entire incident was depicted in detail in a yet-to-be-published Handsome Men comic book: the artist, Trevor Pearlharbor, is either predicting events, or causing them, summoning the Handsome Men into existence.

When you find Trevor, he’s sure that you won’t be able to kill him, because he’s just drawn a comic in which the Handsome Men stop you. He fails to take into account the mad scientist factor, the tendency of human creations to seek freedom by killing their creators. It’s done accidentally here, but if breaking script isn’t freedom, what is? (Shades of Metal Gear Solid 2 here…) So it’s a little ironic that this is the lead-in to a completely scripted fight. The two teams arrange a showdown in the middle of Times Square, a series of one-on-one duels in which each Killer 7 persona faces off against an identically-armed Handsome Man. (Ridiculously, this even means that Harman Smith’s opponent has to sit in a wheelchair to make things completely even.) Some of the duels are rigged to let you win, some to make you lose. I personally didn’t notice what was going on until the very last duel, which makes you adapt your behavior slightly before it hands you your rigged victory. So I spent most of the challenge thinking that my efforts were making a difference, when they really didn’t. Which is game design in a nutshell, isn’t it?

The game further draws the player’s attention to the artificiality of what just happened, and piles on the confusion, by ending the mission with a fake retro credits sequence in the style of earlier Capcom games. Which, I suppose, signifies victory for team Killer 7. Up to that point, the cutscenes in this mission were all anime-style, even the ones showing things like Garcian talking to his contact, which in all the other missions was handled in-engine. Anime is the Handsome Men’s territory, so a sudden assertion of videogameness returns things to Killer 7 turf. At any rate, it’s a delightful bit of player-teasing, on par with the ending to Monkey Island 2.

This isn’t the only extended bit of self-reference or genre critique in the game so far. An earlier mission started with a cutscene shown through the bad guy’s eyes, as he charged through a series of hallways with a pistol, efficiently murdering any innocent bystanders he came across with precise headshots. In other words, his acts of random violence were presented like a first-person shooter. I’m sure I could find other examples if I started looking for them, but the Handsome Men mission is the first time that it’s been the main theme, or at least the first time it’s been really obvious about it.

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