It's bad to the bone, and yet feels so good. A blood-stained jewel.
Ahem. From all this you may have gathered that I like this game. I like it a lot. I first played it coming on to five years ago now but it still ranks as one of the most striking and original pieces of videogaming I've ever had the pleasure of staying home from work to finish. Killer7 tells the story of Harman Smith, a wheelchair-bound old man who just happens to be the deadliest assassin the world has ever known. This is largely due to the fact that dwelling within him are seven other distinct personalities who Harman can change into at will. This transformation is both mental and physical, allowing Harman to transcend the restrictions of his crippled form and access a range of killing arts that enable him to whack anyone, anywhere.
The game begins as Garcian Smith (the 'cleaner', the one personality who can communicate directly with Harman and who assigns jobs to the other six) responds to a call to clean out an infestation of 'Heaven Smiles' from a downtown apartment building. These Smileys are the latest terrorist threat to world order, a legion of giggling, bomb-lined madmen whose only desire is to detonate forcefully and take as many people with them when they go. Seeing as how the Smith Syndicate are the only ones capable of detecting the Smileys in the first place, they're kept busy. As with my other reviews that's as far as I'll go with setting the scene; instead, let's get down to what you, the gamer, will be doing.
You press a button to walk forward. You hold another button to detect the Smileys when you hear their distinctive giggle. Yet another button will draw your weapon, allowing you focus on your enemies' weak points in an attempt to take them out before they close with you and explode. Collecting blood from your slain foes will allow you to power up your stats, and occasionally you solve a very elementary puzzle. And that's pretty much it, but if you let this put you off all I can say is – your loss. Combat is brutal and satisfying, and each of the seven personalities have their own unique weapons and special abilities, adding some welcome spice to the blood-letting. As you proceed through the game you can use the blood you've been collecting to purchase other abilities for each personality, such as counter-attacks, enhanced attach speed and the like. There's nothing like taking down a couple of charging Smileys with a well-placed grenade before grabbing another and DDT-ing it into the pavement! The game is a treat for the senses as well. The dark, comic-book style graphics make you fell as if you're playing through a particularly bloody graphic novel, accompanied by some excellent voice-acting (including the unnerving giggles and screams of laughter from the Smileys).
Killer7 has often been described as one of those 'love it or hate it' games, and not without cause. Its extremely linear nature will undoubtedly be off-putting to some (when I say you press a button to walk forward that's exactly what you do, proceeding from A to B along a set path in an 'on-rails' kind of way). I can also see many people alienated by the story and setting, which are, to put it bluntly, nuts. But I exhort you to give it a chance. Behind the simplistic game mechanics is a darkly twisting tale that throws up ten mysteries for every one it seems to resolve, and will rattle around in your skull long after the credits have rolled. Almost five years after its release I'm still scratching my head over it - and that's about the best recommendation I can give.