Capcom's Killer 7 has been elusive for quite some time. The stylish action game was first announced as part of Capcom's impressive line of GameCube games but has since been announced for the PlayStation 2 as well. Even though the game has been cooking over at Capcom for a while now, the Japanese developer has been coy about showing off too much of the unique game. We got an updated look at the upcoming game at Capcom's press event in Las Vegas earlier this month, but we were sworn to secrecy--until now. This has actually turned out to be a good thing, as we've needed the past few weeks to wrap our brains around exactly what the heck we saw. The work-in-progress version of the GameCube game (still no sign of the PlayStation 2 version) we saw was unlike anything we'd seen before, and it has us both intrigued and mystified.
For those who haven't been following Killer 7, here's the deal: You play as one of the seven personalities of a wheelchair-bound assassin named Harman Smith. Unlike your average person with multiple personalities, Harman exhibits more than the standard changes in demeanor. When the boy goes through a change, he changes, and he shifts into one of seven different personalities, each with its own unique skills that are handy for killing the opposition.
Why would a simple paraplegic assassin need such abilities? Funny thing. It seems that Harman has been contracted by the US government to "deal" with an underworld kingpin named Kun Lan. The industrious crime lord has hooked up with an insane cult called "Heaven's Smile" and has unleashed it on an unsuspecting populace, which is resulting in strange and twisted things happening to property and people. Who better to deal with him than a shape-shifting assassin, right? Our updated look at the game was a guided tour of several different levels that offered up some truly bizarre visuals and gave us a peek at how Killer 7 will play.
The first level demoed was essentially the tutorial area, where you find yourself being mentored by one of the game's eclectic characters, a ninja named Iwazaru, who puts you through your paces. This early sequence finally brought to light just how you’re going to play Killer 7, which has long been the subject of curiosity. While we couldn't try it out ourselves, we weren't surprised to hear that the game features a unique control scheme that we're pretty sure no one really expected. You'll use the GameCube controller's buttons for movement: A will move you forward and B will change your direction 180 degrees. Combat is initiated by holding the right trigger and using the analog stick to aim. The A button will then let you attack and the B button will let you quickly lock onto one of your foes.
Killer 7's unorthodox control scheme seems to complement the game's other distinguishing feature, its cinematic look. Your character's consistent path through the game allows for some unique cinematic touches that make for a seamless experience. For example, while we saw the characters running either backward or forward, they would approach junctions (which appeared like jagged pieces of glass from different sides of the screen) where you could select a route to take by pushing toward your available destinations with the analog stick. As you go along each path, you'll encounter either foes or non-player characters to interact with or kill.
The second scenario we saw sent Harman's many personalities on killing sprees that sought out two individuals in a restaurant and a trade building, as well as a cult leader in Texas. During the sequences, we saw several types of enemies that had to be scanned so you could uncover information on how to kill them and who were then dispatched in a bloody flurry of gunfire that looked nice.
Killing your foes will let you earn experience that you can use to level up the gang's various abilities. In fact, it seems that the appearance of each of Harman's personalities will change as they evolve over the course of a level. Speaking of Harman's personalities, while we all know the "killer seven" that are referenced by the game's title, the demo showed off at least one other persona in Harman's head: a young woman named Samantha. In one of the many twists the game throws at you, Sam comes across as your basic caregiver when you interact with her as Harman. However, when Harman is comatose (which appears to happen when his mind has shape-shifted into one of the others) Samantha turns into a freaky dominatrix type who does some pretty naughty things to him while he's out. Now, how does this actually work? Well, as near as we can tell, you'll come to junctions that will let you access what's called "Harman's room." The room serves as a hub of sorts, wherein Harman and the personalities in his head can interact. In practical terms, this is basically a hub where you can switch to one of the different personalities. From the looks of it, this is also one of the spots where the story will unfold.
Seven Heads Are Better Than One
The cinematics we saw that moved the narrative along were a striking collection of visuals that had a unique look to them thanks to the various individuals who were tapped to direct them. The end result is an eclectic mix of disparate scenes that fit the game's fractured-psyche component to a tee. The styles we saw ran the gamut from anime-inspired cutscenes to in-engine cinemas that took a more traditional approach to telling a story (well, as "traditional" as showing one of Harman's female personalities getting off on his comatose body gets, anyway).
Killer 7's graphics look outstanding, thanks to the unique visual style that's been capturing everyone's attention since it was first announced. There has been much speculation as to whether the visuals seen in the various trailers that have come out reflect actual gameplay. While we didn't get our hands on the game, we did see it played and can say that the answer is a tentative "yes." The game's cinematic look is generally maintained throughout the experience because of the unique control scheme that allows quite a few liberties to be taken with the camera during action sequences. There are certainly conventional third-person action game elements that have to be adhered to in order for what’s going on to make sense, but at the same time, there are plenty of stylish camera angles and cutscenes blended into the action to make the game intriguing to watch.
From the way the game segues from a basic third-person camera, to the cinematics, to the action segments that show you taking out enemies in a unique flurry of effects, Killer 7 looks great. The same holds true for the unique and ever-changing appearance of the playable personalities who will evolve over the course of the adventure. Technically speaking, the game is doing a lot with the GameCube hardware, thanks to its unique shading system and presentation. The game moves along at a smooth clip regardless of what's happening onscreen.
We also have to make special note of the game's slick sense of style that permeates everything you see in the game. Perhaps one of the elements we found most impressive is the menu design, which mimicked a television display. The look and layout of the menus are well designed, and you can easily cycle through the gang in Harman's head.
The visuals in the game are paired with equally bizarre audio that's a crazy quilt of the expected and unexpected. You'll hear quite a bit of voice throughout each of the different scenarios as the narrative unfolds at its quirky pace. The voice acting is a basic mishmash of good and bad. You'll also hear a basic, but satisfying, assortment of sound effects for weapon fire and explosions. At the same time, there are some inspired choices made for the music and supplemental special effects that help give the action a surreal twist.
Based on what we saw, Killer 7 is going to be a unique game that is easily one of the most original-looking games to hit any system in quite some time. The story is certainly fresh, and a little crazy to boot. The visual style showcases an adventurous art design that has really not been seen before. From a technical standpoint, the graphics make solid use of the GameCube's considerable muscle and help sell the whole bizarre experience. The gameplay is still a question mark for us until we get some hands-on time with the game, but we're intrigued by the explanation of the systems. It's certainly not what we expected, but it may work out to be better than it sounds. Killer 7 is currently slated to ship this June for the GameCube and PlayStation 2. Look for more on the game in the coming months.