Killer is Dead
Yes, a tiger chase exists in Killer is Dead, and it's just as crazy and wonderful as you'd think. Did you expect anything less from famed creator Suda 51? Just when you think you know what's coming, he throws you a curveball. And that was exactly the case in my E3 demo, one minute we were slicing through enemies as executioner Mondo Zappa, the next he's on a motorcycle chasing a yakuza thug on a tiger, but we'll get more to that later.
Suda 51 loves to challenge players with themes, making them read between the lines. It looks as if he's doing the same in Killer is Dead, where you play a man out for blood. He doesn't kill for passion; he kills because it's merely his job. Some people need to be compelled to kill, but Mondo's simply following orders. He works in agency and clients float in and out with issues. The game has 13 episodes and each is self-contained; between episodes Mondo discusses new cases with his team. Suda said he decided to split the game into episodes to make it feel more like a TV drama.
I saw part of episode seven today, which takes place in the middle of Kyoto, Japan. Mondo has a brief chat with his team before finding guards to kill. While Mondo has plenty of team members to interact with, he's the only one you control. The combat looks fluid as I watch Mondo tear apart enemies. It looks simple: use the X button to attack, Y for guard breaks, and B to guard, but where the combat takes its most interesting turn is with Mondo's mechanical left arm that transforms into sub-weapons. Four different types of sub-weapons are available, but you start the game with a gun. As you progress, you unlock different attacks with the mechanical arm, like a charge shot and drill. These different attacks are better suited for certain enemies, forcing you to switch between them as new foes engage you. It definitely makes it so you have to think and not just mash "X" with different enemies. Things are also bound to get rather bloody, which is a good thing, since Mondo benefits from the bloodshed. He can absorb the blood as he slashes enemies and this unlocks special moves and replenishes HP. As I watch on, I can't help but think the art direction looks straight out of Frank Miller's Sin City, it also mimics its violence to perfection as blood splatters take away from the clean screen.
The demo may have begun simply, but then comes the surprise. Out of nowhere the amazing tiger chase appears, and Suda 51 jokes, "I heard in Kyoto, this happens all the time." Once the yakuza dismounts the tiger, he takes Mondo on in a one on one battle. Here's where I see combos first hand, chain enough together and you increase levels, with five being the highest. As you level up your combo, the action and damage you do changes. But here's the kicker: if you sustain any enemy damage, your combo level resets. This makes blocking of the utmost importance, since comboing up to level five hits your enemy's health the hardest. I liked that you're clearly at a disadvantage if you just mash buttons and don't pay attention to your enemy. It forces players to be alert and think tactically. After exploiting combos, the boss is finally worn down, or so you think. We just chased him on a tiger, do you think he'd not tap its powers?
The yakuza comes back with more vengeance as a spirit-like tiger illuminates from him. As Mondo dodges attacks at specific moments, he has the opportunity to counter, and this leads to the tiger man's demise. I won't spoil much more than that because seeing is believing, and this is an experience that's so bizarre, words won't do it justice. Trust me on that.
Killer is Dead is coming out this summer, and it looks like Suda is in true form as he delivers a tale immersed in death, while not forgetting to add levity along the way.
I also had the chance to interview Suda 51 one on one. Check back soon to get more insight into the game.