Despite obvious flaws, Killer7 succeeds on what it does, and ends up being one of the most memorable games ever played.
Firstly, Killer7 is awfully abstract, even for a video game, so following the story will tend to be confusing. That said, as it is a story-driven game, understanding what's going on is the most crucial part, so try to follow me here. The idea is that a once peaceful Planet Earth is being disrupted by mutant self-destructing terrorists known as the Heaven Smile. These odd creatures first attacked a United Nations peace treaty meeting in the United States, thus causing social conflict between the U.S. and Japan. The United States government then hires a famed group of assassins known as the Killer7 to stop the Heaven Smile and its links to prevent the world from utter chaos.
The catch is, however, that the Killer7 is not actually a group at all; it's all led by an old, wheelchair-bound man named Harman Smith that would otherwise get abused by his maid/servant Samantha if he's not out being a bunch of crazy killers at once. All of these members are actually sorts of his personality, that ranges from a cocky and experienced assassin named Dan Smith to a masked wrestler named Mask de Smith.
But things get awfully convoluted from there, when we realize that there are back-stories to each of these "personalities." Each have a similar rule to not being able to associate with the main man Harman--that is, all except the "cleaner" and talker of the group named Garcian Smith. Twists like those can start out confusing, but it's a great hook to what can potentially be an immersive game. Killer7 is very bizarre, and chock full of grand gems of "what the heck is even going on in this game right now." Style is certainly part of the substance that makes going through this game a lot of fun, and what a distinctive style Grasshopper studios (especially its leading figure Suda51) managed to pull off here.
All of this intrigue may not readily grab you at first despite such oozing style. A popular complaint is about what some of the stuff this game throws out at you has to even do with the actual plot. And, true, there are parts that are thrown in just to let you know how far the developers will go to make a weird game. But once some of you finish the game, you'll have most threads tied thanks mainly to one of the most satisfying conclusions to anything, and once you actually look back at what you've accomplished, it ends up being one of the most memorable video games you're likely to experience.
Yep, there's certainly some thought put in to make a game quite like Killer7, and if you weren't convinced by the story concept, understanding how the game plays may just convince you. However, like the story, be aware that the controls and concept take time getting used to, so if patience is learned, you just might be able to enjoy the whole game just that much more. The game runs on a strictly linear map; so much so that you must hold a button to run, whereas the analog stick is actually used to choose which occasional branching path you want to take. As you run (or even enter another area), you may hear chuckling sounds. If so, then a Heaven Smile minion is close. Therefore, if you don't want to get hurt, you'll have to completely stop, hold the aiming button to wield your gun, look around with the control stick, press the shoulder button opposite of the aiming button to scan in order for it to be visible and shoot-able, lock on using the same button that is used for turning around while running, and fire away with the button that was previously used to run.
Of course, there'll often be times when you'll face more than one Heaven Smile, and even though it seems simple enough, there are different kinds of these creatures that'll have to be shot a certain way. Every Heaven Smile monster has some weak-point to instantly kill the thing, whether it is optional or required. For regular Heaven Smiles, for example, you could just shoot away, not requiring for you to shoot at its weak spot. Other Heaven Smiles may have you shooting its wings in order for it to turn around and make its weak spot vulnerable, while others may require a certain character's special ability or charged shot.
Successfully killing a Heaven Smile (and unless you're supposed to, without Mask's grenade launcher) will award you with blood that is transported to your thick blood (think experience points) and your thin blood (used for charged shots and healing your character). The thick blood is especially interesting since it provides a sort of RPG element in the mix. You convert the thick blood into serums whenever you go into the Blood Room that is found in checkpoints called "Harman's Room". Then, depending on how much blood serum you have, you can level up certain stats that each personality has. You can only transport so much blood in each level, as the machine used to transport the blood will eventually go out of order. It makes an interesting way to differentiate the characters more and cause combat to be easier, but it's something you don't have to do if you don't want to, either.
If one of the Killer7 assassins dies, then it's up to Garcian to find his/her bag of blood and revive him/her (though you could keep going, but if it's someone important, then you'll have to anyways). The problem is, however, that Garcian doesn't level up at all, and because he is taller than the others and has a pretty slow reload time, he's difficult to use when trying to kill enemies. Simply put, when Garcian dies, it is game over.
The puzzles you come in contact often remind me of how puzzles in a point-and-click adventure game would similarly pan out. The "items" in your "inventory" include rings and the skills that each personality uses. The rings have elemental powers that are used to solve various puzzles like lighting up candles with a fire ring or getting a balloon with a wind ring. The special skills that are unique to each Killer7 assassin is either used by their special gun or by utilizing their exclusive power. You can open walls by either using KAEDE's blood-trickled arm, or you might have to use Mask's grenade launcher to blow it up. Few puzzles require any other thought process, but the ones that take more reading and remembering are the more satisfying ones. There are hints found when talking to certain NPCs or looking at your map, but even when the hints appear less and less, the puzzles are mostly way too simple to be very challenging. All in all, even though the result found when solving the puzzles are all pretty interesting, the puzzle structure often feels the same: do this to get that, in order to get that, in order to go there, so you can do this to get that to get that so you can go there so you can reach the end of the level. So if you realize this isn't so much of a shooter-action game as it is a straight-up adventure one, then don't be surprised.
The boss battles are similar to the puzzles as they both tend to be hit-and-miss. Some bosses are really astounding as they do a great job in testing which personality to use and can even make simple patience tests very cool. Other bosses, however, are actually predestined, so it doesn't matter what you do because you'll still move on. I personally have mixed reactions: those particular fights are certainly cool parts of the game, but I felt that it could have been a more satisfying experience if there were more meat to what was designed in such "fights."
On a high note, Killer7's overall presentation should be the most convincing argument of how this game stands out in other crowds. The hint of cel-shading applied invokes a late-night anime vibe, and perfectly echoes the gritty-surreal attitude that the content of the game is so clearly gunning for. Add some slick-looking anime cutscenes every now and then, and you have a stylish-looking game. The technical direction isn't as strong as its art; various scene chug low framerates when too much stuff's going on, and the character animations themselves are decidedly stiff. There may be other games that can push the hardware to the limit, but Killer7 is what you could truly call a work of art.
The voice acting is overall solid: it'll have characters like Harman and Garcian instantly likable, but some, such as a principal you'll meet, will tend to ham it up too much past the point of . Maniacal laughs are always satisfying to hear, and your cracking guns and exploding explosions sound quite sharp. The music, mixing acoustic guitars and chilling keyboards and rhythms, fit the abstract tone perfectly, and make the game feel all the more cooler.
There isn't a whole lot of extra content in this single player experience. While the game took me around twenty hours to finish, you may finish this game at a faster time. The unlockables includes a harder difficulty, and an odd spinoff-tribute to the developers. The difficulty you unlock, the brutal Killer8, has an extra character to play as, which can be pretty interesting, but doesn't have anything special. The story alone made me want to play the game again, and Killer8 mode can be brutally challenging enough (invisible weak points, no map hints, and a small amount of thin blood makes me go "yikes!") to play the whole game again, but there's nothing much other than what the game offers.
Killer7 is always going to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of game. For some people, the gameplay will come out too shallow to like, and they just might not stand some of the needlessly bizarre scenes it throws out there. Others will find that while the gameplay can be shallow, the concept works great, and the stunningly abstract story and presentation is just too hard not to love. This game's different, but how much "different" can some people take? I personally believe if you hate this game, you're only going by your first impressions. It's not going to be heavy on the gameplay, and some bosses just might confuse your definition of a "video game", but once you finish the game, there's no denying the incredible feel of finishing one of the weirdest games imaginable. No doubt; Killer7 is a work of art, and the fact that the game is cheaper than what it used to be, there's simply no excuse to get this game. It's a perfect example of how a game that has far from perfect gameplay can still be enjoyable. Flaws aside, Killer7 is one heck of a ride, and, of course, you're going to have to play it to believe it.