kill.switch Review

The mechanics for ducking and getting behind cover are well done, and the premise is a good one. Unfortunately, that's all kill.switch really has going for it.

At first glance, Namco's kill.switch looks like a pretty standard third-person military-themed shooter. It has a look to it that recalls both Konami's Metal Gear Solid and Ubisoft's Splinter Cell, though it focuses more on shooting enemy soldiers in the face than on deep storylines and complicated stealthy maneuvers. It presents some relatively cool gameplay techniques, but a lack of length and some rough edges don't make this console-to-PC port go down any more smoothly.

kill.switch places you in the mysterious role of a brainwashed supersoldier...or does it?
kill.switch places you in the mysterious role of a brainwashed supersoldier...or does it?

The premise in kill.switch is a mysterious one. You really aren't given much background about who you are or what you're doing, but if you listen closely to the pre-mission dialogue, it quickly becomes apparent that you aren't playing the role of the soldier on the screen. Rather, you're actually taking on the role of a man controlling this supersoldier via some sort of neural link. It also quickly becomes apparent that you're the bad guy of this story, committing dastardly deeds as you try to pit the world's superpowers against one another using this American-looking soldier to ensure the blame is cast elsewhere. While the game has a terrific premise and does have a twist to its plot, the storyline itself is practically nonexistent, which makes the game feel pretty disjointed and, above all, makes your actions feel meaningless, even though according to the back of the box, you're attempting to start a world war. You get a small bit of audio at the front of each mission that's supposed to set things up a bit, but the missions and areas don't feel very related. You just run into a level and kill a bunch of people while trying to accomplish straightforward objectives.

The mission design doesn't really help matters much. By and large, your objective in each mission is to simply get to the end. At the end, you'll surely be doing something slightly different, but that usually boils down to either planting explosives on something, pushing a button, finding an exit, or picking up an item--which are all done in such a way that they all feel like cosmetically different versions of the exact same objective. The game is also very short, and even players starting out on the hard difficulty setting should be able to breeze through kill.switch in six or seven hours. There aren't any unlockable features, multiplayer options, or other bonuses to keep you busy after that.

Sure, the missions just have you running around and shooting enemy goons with nary a boss fight in sight, but the mechanics it gives you to play with are well done. The game is designed to force you to constantly find cover. The left trigger is devoted to ducking or, if you're near a wall or nearby box, pressing your back up against cover and getting out of sight. From there you can find your next target, peek around or above your cover, and then take a shot. Or, if you're under pressure, you can fire without peeking out from your cover. Though this technique, labeled "blindfire" by the game, is cool, it's so inaccurate that it's practically useless. Considering that most enemies die from one or two shots, and aiming at them isn't really a hassle from behind cover, you rarely have a need to blindfire anyway. This may have made a bit more sense on consoles, given the less precise nature of the gamepad, but with a mouse and keyboard, the aiming part of the process is dead-simple. The game's easy aiming also makes grenades pretty useless, which is a shame, because you can carry multiple types of grenades, including flashbangs, which blind your opponents and make them fire wildly while clutching at their eyes.

The constant use of cover and nonstop gunplay make kill.switch almost feel like a third-person-shooter take on Namco's popular light-gun series Time Crisis. Even on hard, though, the game really isn't very difficult, and if you're good at ducking behind cover and popping off one or two aimed shots here and there, you'll skate through the game without any trouble. The game's AI doesn't throw you any curveballs, either. Sure, they'll occasionally toss a grenade in your direction, but they usually just stay behind cover, occasionally popping their heads out to look for you, making them easy kills.

The two console versions of kill.switch look quite nice, though the Xbox version looks significantly cleaner and smoother than its PS2 counterpart. On the PC, the game's models look OK, but overall, the textures and look of the game are a little low resolution. The game actually limits your resolution to a maximum of 1084x768, so there's no help to be found there. The canned animation for every action in the game makes you feel as though you're engaged in some sort of robot-combat simulation. While it's understandable that a brainwashed supersoldier would be running and moving by the book, the enemy soldiers have a similar digital look to their movement, which takes a bit away from the game's otherwise solid graphical presentation. The game had passable, if stiff, animation on the consoles, but here, all of the movement just seems off. Your soldier's feet just move too quickly when he runs, and he doesn't cover as much ground as a man moving his feet this fast should cover. The game basically looks like it's running in "fast-motion," and everything from the camera movement to the animation looks stuttery and fake as a result.

The game's fast, stuttery animation problems make the whole game look like a military-themed Benny Hill sketch.
The game's fast, stuttery animation problems make the whole game look like a military-themed Benny Hill sketch.

On the sound side of things, kill.switch has some pretty forgettable music. The game's sound effects are quite well done, but, as you might expect, they consist almost entirely of gunshots and explosions. In these regards, kill.switch excels. On the other hand, your character seems to occasionally make twice as many footstep noises as he should. This isn't a big deal, but it's noticeable. A larger problem is that the audio often clips, gets stuttery, and occasionally cut out on the machines we tried it on. Since you'll want to hear enemy fire when and where it happens, the audio drop out is pretty annoying.

In the end, you can't help but get the feeling that kill.switch is half a game. The mechanics for ducking and getting behind cover are well done, and the premise is a good one. Unfortunately, that's all kill.switch really has going for it. The game surrounding these mechanics is generic and short, at times feeling more like a demo than a finished retail product. While one could easily imagine a great sequel that uses these mechanics and has corrected the game's inherent problems, what Hip Games has delivered here probably isn't worth your while.

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Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

kill.switch More Info

  • First Released Oct 28, 2003
    • Game Boy Advance
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 2
    • Xbox
    This otherwise ordinary-to-a-fault action game is given a shot in the arm by its relatively cool gameplay techniques, which--at least--make the game's short ride interesting.
    Average Rating1671 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Visual Impact, Namco
    Published by:
    Zoo Digital Publishing, Namco, Hip Games, LSP, SCEE
    Third-Person, 3D, Action, Shooter
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Strong Language, Violence