Retro Rewind: The Killer Inside You

Retro Rewind: The Killer Inside You

Time to revisit one of the strangest, most daring videogames ever made.

Killer 7 is one of the greatest videogames ever made, and there’s a good chance you will hate it. There’s a sentence I don’t get to write every day.

Suda 51’s experimental action adventure game was released at the tail end of the PS2/ Gamecube console cycle, and part of the Capcom 5, a series of games released with the intention of pushing the gaming envelope. Some were great successes (Resident Evil 4), others not so much (P.N. 03, for all five of you who played it). While Killer 7 received wildly polarizing reviews and was only a modest financial success, it became a treasured cult classic thanks to its rabid, lunatic fans- like me.

You are Garcian Smith, an expert assassin under the guidance of a wheelchair bound old man called Harman Smith. You are also a schizophrenic. This isn’t any old personality disorder, though. You can actually embody any one of seven personalities on a whim, including a blind 14 year old, a Mexican wrestler, a Puerto Rican thief and a woman who can make blood spurt from her wrists to break walls.

The world is at peace. All nuclear weapons have been fired into space and treaties have been signed to end terrorism once and for all. But then a new breed of suicide bombers known as the Heaven Smile, begin to target the United Nations. The Heaven’s Smile are walking humanoid time bombs created by demi-god Kun Lan, who occasionally plays chess with Harman Smith. Harman drafts in Garcian to eliminate the Heaven Smile, with only a man in a bondage suit, a child, a severed head and a masked man giving him the finger to help him on his way.

Then things get weird.

Killer 7 Kaede

If this abstract plot set up doesn’t put you off, the gameplay might. Garcian can only move backwards and forwards along a set path by holding down a button, turning left and right at specific junctions and interacting with certain objects he comes across. It’s kind of like a streamlined version of an adventure game, but there’s another twist. Along the way, Heaven Smile will pop up, at which point you have to switch to a fixed first person view and hit a particular weak point. If you can’t kill the Smile before it reaches you, it will explode and you take a hit. Take too many hits and you die.

Think House of the Dead meets Myst meets…

Well, meets Killer 7.

Killer 7 is incredible to look at, with its unique blend of vibrant cel shading and anime. It also features some remarkable voice acting performances, despite (or because of) the game’s surreal script. But the real triumph of Killer 7 is how it manages to address themes and ideas that most of today’s games wouldn’t go near with a ten foot bargepole. Organ trafficking. Extremist religion. Political corruption. Modern identity.

And if you don’t care about any of this stuff, you’re still blasting away zombies in a cartoon world that mixes Lucha Libre with rocket launchers.

Killer 7 operates on a dream-like logic that is happy to let the main plot get side tracked by unexplained visits to Texan cults and comic book artists. This will madden as many as it will entrance. But the key thing to remember if you want to enjoy Killer 7 is that you have to run with its strangeness, and accept its bizarre world rather than fight it. Its ending is particularly wonderful; it will leave you baffled, but also with a peculiar sense of emotional closure. It’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to think of any videogame that can offer this kind of experience.

Killer 7 isn’t without flaws. If one personality dies, they have to be collected from the spot where they were killed by Garcian, the only mortal member of your party, and revived. In practice, this means repeating the same trip three times, which can be a patience draining exercise. The control system-once you get used to it- is ideal for the Gamecube controller’s prominent A button, but makes an awkward fit for the PS2 controller layout. The puzzles aren’t always wholly logical, either, although perhaps that’s fitting for an experience as disjointed and hallucinogenic as this one.

Despite its problems, Killer 7 is absolutely worth experiencing. It represents a level of risk taking in design that you rarely see anymore, and the risks pay off. Even Suda 51 hasn’t been able to top it. Give it a try if you have the opportunity. At worst, you will give up on it as a messed up oddity you will never forget. If you can dig it, however, you will discover a warped gem that will become a treasured part of your collection.

Take the risk. You won’t regret it.

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