Some games are the bearers of creative brilliance, striving to expand the boundaries of gaming as we know it. The inspired work of inspired people, you can see these titles coming a mile away—and you might not be the same after being exposed to such masterpieces. On the other hand, some games are content to provide thrills and technical experiences without covering much, if any, new ground. These titles are the staples of a videogamer's diet. Safe and familiar, you know what you're getting. You probably wouldn't want to spend your entire game playing career on these products, but they're usually a fun ride while they last, satisfying a certain craving when you're in the mood. Taking on this role of electronic comfort food, Namco's kill.switch most definitely falls into the latter category, and it's not necessarily a bad thing.
A third-person shooting title, kill.switchstars a mysterious soldier heading into fierce firefights against all odds. However, instead of being the standard testosterone-drenched hero, there's something decidedly odd about him. It's hard to discuss the (thin) plot without completely giving it away, but it's safe to say that despite having no impact whatsoever on the gameplay it had original elements I appreciated. However, let me also say that kill.switch could potentially be defined as an extremely moving tale of a man in search of true love, if by "true love" you mean "shooting everything that moves while taking cover behind boxes and corners."
Make no bones about it—this is one game with an absolutely clear focus: Action, action, action, and more action. To support this goal, Namco has created a very robust control system. The controller's left stick moves your character, the right aims. By holding down the L1 button, your trooper will hunker down and take cover behind just about anything you see. Cardboard boxes, low ledges, bombed-out car bodies, and so on. It's all fair game. While protected, you can nudge the left stick to lean out or pop up from behind your impromptu shield and kack some evildoers. If that seems too risky, Namco has also included a feature called "blindfire." By pointing your crosshairs in the general direction of the opposition, your soldier can extend his gun and shoot without looking, hoping for a lucky shot while avoiding exposure to incoming rounds.
This system works, and works splendidly. It's solid, gives a great degree of control over the action, and basically accomplishes everything it's supposed to do. It's also complemented by kill.switch's levels. From blasted urban buildings to underground labs, every environment is absolutely rotten with hiding places and things to duck behind. Based on these elements, kill.switchcomes across as a quasi-update/hybrid/melding of Koei's underrated WinBackand Namco's own arcade smash, Time Crisis.
Besides the mechanics, there's not really a whole lot to discuss. You shoot things, hide, shoot some more things, and that's pretty much it. The graphics are serviceable, nothing flashy or noteworthy. The music is mostly terrible, ranging from irritating to extremely irritating. Surprisingly, there's not any environmental interaction like exploding barrels or the ability to shoot decorative objects. We're talking low-frills here, folks.
At this point, you may be wondering why this one-trick pony scored more than a five. In a nutshell, the fast-paced nature of play lent itself to more than a few moments when I could feel my pulse quicken in response to pressured conflict. kill.switch also commits no major crimes by doing what it does best. There are absolutely no pretensions of being anything but fast gunning, and kill.switch made that message clear from the start. Therefore, I also respect its honesty and straightforwardness in spite of its limited scope.
However, no amount of adrenaline can gloss over the fact that kill.switch is nothing but a really nice control setup tucked inside a simple, arcade-like structure. It manages to inspire a pleasant little buzz and I like the way it handles, but it's best played in short bursts of thirty minutes, rarely more than an hour at a time. Any longer, and it's hard to stave off the boredom that comes from doing the exact same thing from level to level, beginning to end.
Those looking for existential ponderings, heavy characterization, or even minimal variety in gameplay should leave it alone, but people who want lighter fare might appreciate kill.switch as a small, zesty snack. After all, we all need a bit of comfort food once in a while.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
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