How you interpret a video game, like any work of art, is totally subjective. In other words, what someone believes is the greatest video game ever created (possibly a friend of yours who actually bought BMX XX?) will be an absolute stinker to someone else. How on earth does this relate to Killer 7 on the PlayStation 2? Well one only has to look at the wildly varied review scores around the Internet to see that it has split the gaming community into several camps; those who love the game, those who find it playable enough and those who abhor it.
So in writing this review, I am not entirely sure where to start. I was impressed immensely by a lot of things in the game. The graphics for example are absolutely incredible and the whole game absolutely oozes style. The plot is very detailed - although it is too much like an Anime film for my particular tastes. Voice acting, music and sound effects are also superbly done. The real gripe I have, and it is a quite major one, is that I didn't find the game to be an awful lot of fun. The controls felt horrible and I just felt like I was being shunted through the environment.
To begin with, how do Capcom classify this game? As a 'surreal action adventure game' of course. Now, I can't say that I've played many other 'surreal action adventure games.' In fact, to be honest, I think Capcom may have just invented a new genre here. The game is unlike anything else you will ever play, I am quite certain on that one.
I will try to explain the game, but to be honest, it is one of those titles that are quite hard to describe. The plot revolves around the 'Killer 7' assassination squad who you control through the game. Each assassin is a part of your split personality so you may begin to see where the 'surreal' part of 'surreal action adventure' comes from. Yes, you play a bloke who has seven personalities. Bonkers? Completely. There are some Japanese games which will never be seen in the same light by Western gamers.
Your mission, if you chose to accept it, is to use your rather bizarre squad of assassins to take down a terrorist organisation known as the 'Heaven Smile.' These nasty fellows are invisible suicide bombers who are unbelievably ugly. Yes, suicide bombers. The whole game is rife with political undertones and snide little comments about the current state of the world. However, as the game was originally Japanese, I think I missed a lot of what was actually going on. It definitely lives up to its billing as a 'surreal' title.
The game itself is the logical thing to describe next. The game is absolute Crazy, yes crazy with a capital C. Your character navigates through the uber-cool environments using the Up and Down keys on the d-pad. There is no lateral movement but you occasionally are given multiple routes to choose. Navigation is awkward and the game is essentially a shooter on rails similar to the old Panzer Dragoon titles on Sega Saturn. As you come across the 'Heaven Smile,' you have to shift to a first-person mode and start shooting them. And that's about it. Okay, there are some puzzles thrown in for good measure but for a game which tries to be so stunningly complex, it lacks depth in the gameplay department.
It is a good job then that other areas of the game make up for it. To say that the game is nice to look at would be akin to saying that Antarctica is a bit chilly. Everything about the game's presentation is absolutely incredible. The game uses a cel-shading style but it is all presented in a very stylistic way and reminded me of some of the better parts of XIII. These aren't the bright and colourful cel-shaded graphics of Jet Set Radio. Instead, everything is dark and gritty and creates an intimidating and brooding atmosphere, just like a Noir film. The cut-scenes present the story well (though there may be a few too many of them) and the game is more like an interactive film than a game. I think this may just be what Capcom were going for with Killer 7.
Sound adds to the brooding atmosphere which is created by the graphics. Music is moody and dark and the voice acting is great. Although why do protagonists in action games always have to sound like they smoke a hundred cigarettes a day? Go figure.
To conclude, don't judge this title as a game, think of it more like an interactive anime film. It is an experimental attempt at creating something fresh and I commend Capcom for releasing this to Western audiences. While I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, it is a novel approach to game design and if you fancy something a bit different then definitely think about checking out this title. Just don't go expecting a normal title. Remember I warned you.
One final note that must be made though. This game is not, I repeat NOT, for children. The game is R-18 for a reason. The game is incredibly violent and contains sexual themes. Also, remember the game is about an assassin with seven personalities. Just don't go buying it for your little brother because it has cartoon-like graphics. This is for Adults Only.