marino's Killer7 (GameCube) review

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A Highly Polarizing, Unique Experience

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Killer 7 is truly one of the most bizarre games I have ever played.  Not bizarre like Katamari or Rez, but an all new kind of bizarre.  Describing it by comparing it to any other game would prove difficult, so I won't even try.  Killer 7 is so different from anything else that I actually had a feeling of "am I even playing this right?" at times.  Do not take this negatively though, as Killer 7, while admittedly not for everyone, is a breath of fresh air in a world of cookie-cutter games.  Even if you try it and hate it, you should at least be able to give Capcom credit for doing something new.  The game starts you off with very little information on what's going on and snowballs from there.  The environments and characters you run into are surreal, while the actual storyline is infused with real-world, present-day politics.  Killer 7 is also one of the more violent and overtly sexual games you'll play. 
The game takes place in an alternate reality where, in an attempt to end terrorism, air travel has been banned and bridges have been built across oceans.  World peace has been achieved...until a terrorist organization calling themselves Heaven Smile come from the shadows.  Their zombified soldiers act as suicide bombers, taking out anyone in their path as they attempt an attack on the UN World Security Treaty.  The United States has contracted the Killer 7 to eliminate this new threat.  The Killer 7 are a squad of ruthless assassins led by you, Harman Smith, an old, handicapped man bound to a wheelchair. 
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Here's the twist though.  The Killer 7 are one guy; you.  Harman Smith has what can best be described as multiple personality disorder, but he can conjure any of the seven identities at will.  Each one has his or her own weapons, special abilities, and skills.  Garcian Smith, a black man in a white suit, is basically the most important one of the group, but definitely not the best to use.  If any of the other six die, it's up to Garcian to go collect the body.  If Garcian dies, it's game over.  Some of the more notable characters in the syndicate are Kaede Smith, a barefoot woman in a blood splattered white dress who uses a sniper handgun and can slit her wrists to reveal false walls with her showering blood; Mask de Smith, a Mexican wrestler who uses grenade launchers and wrestling moves to uniquely take out the enemy; Coyote Smith, a thief who wields a deadly revolver and can pick locks; and Kevin Smith, an albino man who throws ninja stars and can turn invisible.  
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Killer 7 simply oozes style and presentation values that are unlike any game before it.  Obviously the game utilizes a cel-shaded graphics style, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's some type of cartoon.  The graphics fit the game excellently as the style is as psychotic as the storyline.  Lots of stark colors and abstract art litter the screen as you progress through the increasingly twisted worlds.  The game does have some short 3-5 second load times between areas within a level, which wouldn't be so noticable if they weren't so common.  They're longer on PS2, which is reason enough to go with the Cube version, not to mention the graphics are sharper on the Cube as well.  Sadly, the game does not support progressive scan or widescreen, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the most unique visual experiences you'll have in a video game. 
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So this is where the game draws the line between fans and haters.  Look at the screens; is the game a first-person shooter?  No.  Third person shooter?  No.  It's a rail shooter.  What?  It feels a bit archaic at first, but it works.  You press A to run as your paths are preset.  At intersections, overlays come across the screen prompting you to point the analog stick in the direction you wish to take.  You can tap B to turn a 180 and move back the way you came as well.  This "on rails" feel allows for some cinematic camera angles that would have otherwise been impossible and frustrating.  You will hear most enemies before you actually see them, so once you hear the maniacal laughter of a Heaven Smile soldier, you must hold the R-trigger to switch to first-person view.  Tapping the L-trigger scans the area for enemies and do whatever it takes to kill them.  Most nemies have a weak spot, which is shown by a cluster of gold particles somewhere on their body.  Hitting this spot, and quickly, will cause the most bloodshed and an instant kill.  Bloodshed is important because blood works as currency in the game.  Several times per level you will find a room with a TV that allows you to rotate through persona by changing the channel.  On channel "B," you can cash in your collected blood for serum.  This serum is used to upgrade each characters attributes and skills which is done through the TV.  You can also switch characters at almost any time in a level, with the exception of Garcian.  So if you spot something that requires a different member of the Killer 7, you don't have to backtrack to a TV.  The gameplay itself is a mixture of shootouts and Myst-like puzzle solving, allbeit with much more hints.  If you can get past the initial shock of the radically different control scheme, Killer 7 features some intriguing gameplay. 
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The soundtrack is almost as trippy as the visual as it changes erratically from area to area.  The voice overs are good, but each character repeats their one liners too often so you're going to hear "!" and "You're fucked" alot.  The supporting cast of characters speak in a morbid version of Sim-lish, which works well given the tone of the game. 
Replay Value 
The main story will take 15-20 hours depending on the routes you take and your skill.  Upon completion, you can return for more unlockables in a more difficult version with an extra playable character.  Nothing too enticing, but the first play through will definitely be memorable.   

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Killer 7 is most likely one of those games that you will either love or flat out despise, both due to it's uniqueness.  For those who continue to point fingers at the Cube proclaiming it as a kid's system, Killer 7 is yet another title to disprove that theory.  The story is overflowing with brutal violence, adult language, racial epithets, terrorism, politics, sexual themes, and pretty much anything else you can think of (Forrest not included) that you wouldn't want kids playing.  Overall Killer 7 is a good game.  It's not for everyone, but everyone should try it just to see what it's like when a developer takes a chance at something different and succeeds.  "Step into the mind of an assassin" and at least give it a rental.  You may be captivated by a game you never would've given a second look in a store.   
*** This review was written for shortly after the game's release. ***

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