Past Expiration is my little term for talking about a game way past its prime. In this case, it's about a game that defies explanation that originally came out on the GameCube in 2005. Topical!
Killer7 (What The Hell?: The Game) The main reason I'm blogging about Killer7 is that I found it for 9 dollars online, brand new, for the GameCube and played through it again. It's one of those games that... hell... where do I even start? From the style to the gameplay to the story, Killer7 refuses to fall into any easy category. For that reason, it's probably one of the most polarizing games I've ever seen. Whether you love it or hate it, there are TONS of reasons for both sides. To be straight up, I love this game for its endless quirks and style. One thing that Killer7 isn't short of, it's personality. And blood. Lots and lots of blood. This doesn't make it any less weird, but it does make it one unique experience.
...if you can stomach the gameplay I suppose.
What It's About (I Guess)To get started, you play as the Smith Syndicate (a gang of assassins) contracted by the United States Government to eliminate the Heaven Smiles terrorist organization. Heaven Smiles are grotesque smiling creatures that attack via suicide bombs in order to kill, destroy, and create terror for the sake of creating terror. They chime in with very distinct laughter right before they explode. Oh, except this is a weird future Earth where the world is at peace, commercial air traffic has been discontinued, and every continent is connected by super expressways. As Harman Smith, you control seven different personalities with different skills to take down Heaven Smiles wherever they may be. The other personae you play as have weapons like scoped pistols, knives, grenade launchers, revolvers, and a pair of semi-automatics that can dump like no one's business.
And that's the simple version.
One of the strengths and weaknesses of this game is how utterly complex (or garbled) everything is concerning the story. On top of assassins fighting monsters, there's a political conspiracy between East and West (US and Japan), personality disorders, and an eternal duel between Harman Smith and the leader of the Heaven Smiles, Kun Lan. They might be godlike entities. Maybe. Attempting to wrap your head around everything that goes on in one playthrough is just about impossible. Killer7 achieves that movie-like status of making repeated playthroughs more appealing as you notice things you didn't before and attempt to connect events together. It's also fair if you feel it's just one asspull after another, becoming a jumbled mess of fifty different plot threads.
| However, I like how goddamn strange and striking the whole experience is. It really requires your attention, and hanging on presents you with some pretty cool cutscenes. Some great characters too. The mission involving Andrei Ulmeyda is probably my favorite part of the game. There's also the completely despicable Curtis Blackburn who must be seen to be believed. He does some completely rotten shit with children to give you a small idea. |
I have some of my favorites scenes in the links below. I'd almost post the whole game with a little less restraint. In another time and place, I might say they were spoilers. But without context (even with context) you'd have to try pretty hard to hurt the narrative.
Harman and Kun
A Game, You Say?
| Playing Killer7 is just about as weird as the story. It's some hybrid of a rail shooter and an FPS with character leveling. While third person, the camera is very classic Resident Evil style. You can only move around on set tracks, but you go at your own pace and can choose to branch off or backtrack whenever you want. This gives the game plenty of opportunity for dramatic camera angles or low shots of your character running. When it comes to fighting, you aim and shoot FPS style. |
Heaven Smile enemies start out invisible but they give themselves away with hideous laughter. You have to scan the environment in order to locate and shoot them. Every single one of them has a weak point that can kill them in one shot. This gets more complicated as the game goes on and Smile tactics get more erratic and dangerous. Killing Smiles gives you blood that you can use to upgrade six of the seven Smith personalities. Add on top of that special abilities for each character, and damn, it looks like there's a lot to keep track of.
And there is, but the game is pretty good about helpful hints and reminding you (just about every single time) what character can tackle the next obstacle. Anytime a major enemy appears, there's a guy that appears to give you hints about what's going to happen. It's never a straight info dump, as the support characters go off on tangents and play to their own personalities.
Now, the buttons to get all this done is pretty awkward compared to today's standards. You don't use the control stick to move around. You hold the A button like driving a car. If you want to turn around, you press B. Aiming and Shooting is simple enough, but if you're expecting to whip around modern shooter style guns blazing... you will be SORELY disappointed. It takes... getting use to. But it's not impossible. I had adjusted by the second mission. Still it's a legitimate stumbling block.
Shoot to Kill, Unload to ReloadShooting styles between the various characters is really well done. One of my favorites is Coyote Smith. He holds his revolver upside down and sideways. Recoil pushes your aim down instead of up. It's a completely ridiculous... but it makes killing things an accomplishment. There's also Con Smith, a blind teenager that uses a pair of semi-automatic pistols. He can pour bullets on targets at the cost of accuracy. Shoot fast enough and sometimes sheer quantity will take care of your problems in a hurry. He also reloads his guns by some sort of hackey sack motion by kicking magazines off his feet. All the characters have some sort of stylish way to reload their guns (with the exception of Kevin who uses throwing knives). Killer7 makes reloading an art style even if it's nowhere near physically possible. These aren't exactly normal people anyway.
I feel like I should mention that on rare occasions you'll use Harman Smith (an old man in a wheelchair). His weapon is an Anti-tank Rifle. It's that kind of game.
Bosses are also made interesting by the sheer variety. At one point, you fight a pair of old Japanese men with their heads blown to pieces. They attack by throwing brains at you. There's also a French black ops dude, an boss you kill by shooting his afro, and a showdown with a group similar to the Power Rangers. Most of the time with no explanation given. Confusion is natural with Killer7.
"I don't follow."Most, if not all, of the time it will feel like Killer7 is going out of its way to punch your brain. But that's what makes it so great. It's worth it to see all the non sequiturs and there is enough plot you can follow that when you get to the end, it feels fulfilling. The gameplay is pretty bewildering. If there's one stumbling block in Killer7, it would be that. If you can deal with it, you're in for a ride.
It also has some cool game completion bonuses. It won't make anything less crazy, but there is a tommy gun involved.