Clever on many levels, an ambitious and neck-biting game. Top notch.

User Rating: 8.9 | Killer7 PS2
I was looking forward to Killer 7 for many months once I discovered it existed. The initial news and previews were very odd and nobody seemed to know exactly what was going on in the game. As usual, everybody had it wrong though.

Killer 7 is what they are calling a "rail shooter", your character moves along pre-determined routes and all point of interest (doors, puzzles, enemies, etc.) are fairly obvious via either pop-up or evil laughter. This all works very well for the game despite it sounding overly confining and lacking in surprise -- Killer 7 is nothing if not full of surprises.

You are led to believe there is a terrorist named Kun Lan who can apparently possess people and turn them into invisible bombs (or something, I told you the game was weird) and that an aged assassin named Harman Smith is out to stop him and save the world. The trick is that Harman can morph into seven personalities -- hence the title -- all of whom are nasty pieces of work. Is Harman a shape-shifter? Is he a cosmic nexus for assassin psyches to gather? Is the game some bizarre flashback? The short answer to all those questions is "yes, but..."

Killer 7 attempts to meld several very different story lines together and it does largely succeed at this, though in that uniquely Japanese manner that leaves most Americans a touch confused. I guess this is what one should expect when you drop nuclear weapons on people, but I digress. Seriously, though, nuclear weapons do play a large part in the game as do political manuevers between Japan and the US. A strong theme in the game explores the quirks and pitfalls in the governmental systems of both countries and how potentially devastating things could happen if somebody was clever and long-planning enough to implement subversive programs. Also, the paradoxical nature of war is discussed -- how it is wantonly destructive, a dangerous solution to problems, and an eternal companion of humanity. All very deep stuff, but you can ignore it and just shoot the Heaven Smiles.

Ah, yes, the Heaven Smiles. At first glance, they are the aforementioned invisible bombers. Do they really exist? Are they a hallucination? At the end of the game, I am not totally sure what the game propounds as the correct answer, but I lean more towards hallucination.

Probably the less I say on plot, the better. Suffice it to say the game is twisty, creepy, and has many moments that are as close to an acid trip as you are going to get without actually dropping a hit.

The game is presented in a cell-shaded graphic format that tends to look lame in screen shots, but flows very smoothly in the game itself. The game walks a narrow line between appearing real and dream-like (part of its sales pitch I reckon) and this fits it very well. Sound effects are good, guns sound like guns, and incidental sounds are either realistic or just strange -- but that is certainly appropriate given the game.

The game play is actually rather rudimentary, you solve fairly mundane puzzles, shoot lots of enemies, power up the personas of the Killer 7, battle imaginative and odd bosses, and basically do a lot of head scratching. The atmosphere the game creates is really its best selling point. The music is done very well, voice acting is suberb and appropriate, there is gratuitous blood and cursing (things I like quite a bit), and a magnificent surreal feel to the whole experience.

Killer 7 has a lot to offer most gamers and lets you freely choose how you wish to interpret it, all the while defying your rational mind. The game defines itself in many evocative scenes: a ghost in SM gear pops up often to tell you how you are in a tight spot, a severed head is found in odd places to regal you with stories of her past that aren't entirely relevant to the game, one of your characters head butts a bullet away and hardly flinches, you finally get to see what exactly is in Garcian's case at the very end, the Vinculum gates' theme music, seeing the Heaven Smiles explode in an orgy of blood, hearing Dan and Kaede insult you when you select them on the TV, and too many more to mention. Killer 7 is really an outstanding effort to be different in an age when the race to make the next FPS, RTS, RPG clone is the next big thing. Screw the drummer, march to your own music. Bunch of lemmings.

I would say give Killer 7 a chance, get past the first level and let the plot and gameplay draw you in depper. Let it make you think and see where your imagination take you. A definite cult classic.