Killer 7 is a game that defies genre categorization, combining action, puzzles and on-rail shooter elements and the most obtuse control scheme. It reduces your exploration of levels so that you hold a button to run up and down corridors, and you occasionally come to intersections that lead to other branching paths. The majority of the combat has you fighting the 'heaven smiles.' When you explore an area you may hear a sinister laugh, you then have to hold a button down taking you into first person mode, you press a button to scan the area, and this reveals where the creatures you fight are hiding. They then slowly walk towards you and detonate themselves if they contact you. So you have to take them down before they reach you, they also have random weak spots, where if you hit them there you get “thick blood” which you can use for upgrades. In a way it’s an even more sinister take on resident evil’s combat and fairly remarkable subject matter for the time as the enemies are essentially zombie-like suicide bombers.
The protagonist is an assassin with multiple personalities, except that these appear to be actual separate living people with their own lives, but seem somehow to be absorbed under the lead assassin Harman Smith, the older wheelchair bound assassin. These multiple personalities are often used for solving puzzles; you have to use a certain character in certain situations. There’s also other puzzles that share some similarities with early Resident Evil puzzles, but tend to be slightly more complex with a darker twist on them.
It’s worth admitting that the gameplay itself is full of flaws, it can be dull and frustrating and it just seems so impenetrable that it wouldn’t be surprising if someone were to give up on it. I myself gave up on it early into the game and then picked it up again, and eventually it just seemed to come together. The initially frustrating elements just become a standard you get used to, it’s just an investment that requires a little more effort on your part, but eventually it seems to pay off, because the complex finger movements you make becomes all the more satisfying because you feel cooler for doing it.
The look of the game adds to the sense of cool as well, opting for a cell shaded noir-esque comic book, with an overly-stylised direction and editing style. When in 3rd person mode the camera angles all add to the visual design, opting for consistency within the look, even to the point where it isn’t always as practical from a gameplay perspective. Yet I can kind of forgive it for that.
You can’t talk about this game without taking the story into account; the problem is though I’d be hard pressed to say if it’s actually a good story, because I still don’t think I could explain what it actually means.
A lot of the elements don’t quite feel like they’re connecting in any way, there’s an overarching theme of the ‘heaven smiles’ terrorists, war brewing between the United States and Japan, but along the way you’re wrangled up various other stories, So you have levels for instance set in a restaurant, a Texan cult community, an area where you fight against a power ranger style team. These don’t often have a very clear connection from level to level, but it has just enough logic to it that in its creators head at least it probably makes sense.
So I’ve written 550 words, and I still don’t feel like I’ve made clear what the gameplay entails, why the story is so intriguing, I haven’t mentioned characters like Samantha, Harman’s abusive maid, Iwazaru the man in the gimp suit who offers you advice while suspended from the ceiling, or Travis, the ghost of the Killer 7’s first victim that talks to you about… well various stuff. I haven’t even mentioned the weird backwards talking vocal style some of the characters speak to you in. There are just too many baffling and incongruous elements that I can talk about in the game without spoiling things too much.
It was released in 2005 on PlayStation 2 and GameCube and it’s quite remarkable how looking back now how much more experimental games could be then, now experimental, innovative games seem to have been downsized to quirky, budget PSN games and you just don’t seem to get mad big budget games like this anymore.