Jason concludes his review by suggesting that Killer7 resolves the so-called battle of style versus substance. Insofar as this resolution refers to a balance between its imaginative visuals and storyline, I agree. But videogames also rely on gameplay, and with its repetitive shooting and trivial puzzles, Killer7 is less than successful in this regard. Luckily, however, everything else works so brilliantly that the gameplay problems merely frustrate rather than thwart an otherwise extraordinary experience.
The cel-shaded look and trance-like audio form a strikingly edgy and elegant whole. Jason's description perfectly captures the bold minimalism that permeates the game, from the chapter start screens that require the player to guide a laser sight over a black silhouette of the level's antagonist and blast it into a spatter of red dots, to the "game over" screens that consist of stark renderings of the characters' agonized faces that would look right at home in a contemporary art gallery. As hyper-stylized as it is, however, the creative visuals don't come at the expense of the story.
I found myself more deeply fascinated with the multilayered and metaphor-filled plot than Jason was. In one sense, the story revolves around the battle between Harman Smith, a wheelchair-bound assassin capable of summoning seven unique personas, and Kun Lan, the leader of a group of cackling zombie-esque suicide bombers known as Heaven Smile. In a subtler sense, the narrative spirals in on the mysterious origin of Garcian Smith, the only one of Harman's personas who can revive the others and the one who receives the assignments that comprise the game's chapters.
Whether searching a remote Texas town for a corporation owner and religious cult leader who deliberately infected himself with several deadly viruses or tracking down a comic book artist in the Dominican Republic whose creations predict real-world events, the game's missions never fell short of bizarre. If this sounds a bit confusing, then think again, because in actuality it's extremely confusing. Yet, as the narrative unfolds, previously baffling material—a letter delivered by a carrier pigeon, the enigmatic words of a dead child—starts to make (a little) sense, and trying to understand and interpret everything serves as a fun and interesting challenge.
Unfortunately, Killer7 falters in the gameplay department, and I think Jason gives it more credit here than it deserves. The static first-person shooting delivers a few thrills—there is a beauty to the ribbons and tendrils of blood that spray from the freshly dispatched Heaven Smiles—and the seven playable characters' unique guns and shooting styles add variety. But the enemies are too numerous, homogenous, and—worst of all—predictable. The resultantly tiresome gunplay proves far too tedious to last the 15-hour-plus length of the game.
The puzzles, which often involve choosing a specific item or character to open a path or overcome an obstacle, seem more artificial and contrived than they would in the context of a less unusual title. Especially inane is the incorporation of rings with elemental properties—wind, water, etc.—that the player uses to do things like blow away a curtain or put out a fire. While such clichéd devices might stand up to a scene involving an Asian assassin dressed in Hasidic garb and a supernatural terrorist exchanging cryptic dialogue over a metaphorical game of chess, when we consider that the two opponents may not even exist in a literal sense, it's time to think beyond ring collecting.
However, even with its imperfections I feel inclined to regard Killer7 as something of a flawed masterpiece—a game that, despite overstretched and tedious gameplay, remains well worthwhile because of its striking comic book-inspired visuals, trancy techno soundtrack, and fascinatingly complex and outlandish story.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the GameCube version of the game.
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