Killer is Dead is a Hack and Slash game that has you playing as a katana wielding ladies’ man named Mondo. He works as an assassin for a secret agency and is accompanied by his assistant called Mika, who he mostly keeps around because she is good at making half boiled eggs. Right from the get go you will have no idea what is going on as this game relishes on its weirdness and it isn’t even mentioned what the enemies you are fighting actually are until rather late in the game. This game doesn’t take itself seriously at all and will often break the fourth wall. The voice acting is sub-par but it fits in with the wacky B rated theme it has going on. The characters are consistently interacting with each other and are all memorable. Killer is Dead is very cut-scene and doesn’t really tell anything resembling a story until later on, as Mondo gets some character development and evolves from being a bland forgettable character into something more interesting that makes you question who your allies are.
To get this out of the way I must mention that the game is locked at 30fps. In this type of genre that is a big negative against it as it effects the fluidity and responsiveness of the combat which is most of what you’ll be doing most. Another negative is that the game’s highest resolution is 1080p. Both of these issues can be fixed by tweaking certain config files, though raising the frame rate over 30 does make menus harder to navigate due to being running far too fast. It is manageable going through the menus at 60fps but raising it to 144 makes it near unusable. Expect plenty of framerate dips as well. I do find it rather odd that it is even 30fps to begin with as it is by no means looks like a game that the seventh gen consoles would have trouble running. It is by no means unplayable but it is unfortunately a pretty bad PC port. With that out of the way the game features 5 difficulty modes to choose from and 12 main missions. One mission is entirely a cutscene, another has a bit of combat but is mostly a cutscene as well and the final mission is actually the same map from earlier in the game.
All main missions called “Contracts” are pretty memorable and vary wildly from one another. One may have you searching through a dollhouse and in another you may be fighting off giant aliens. The wackiness helps keeps you wanting to play the game and knowing that there is a giant bizarre boss to fight at the end of each mission keeps you going forward. Common enemies are called Wires and are the creatures you will be slaughtering throughout the game. They come in different sizes and can wield guns, riot shields and various melee weapons. While they have bland appearances they are still quickly recognizable, so you will know how to handle that fight as soon as you lay eyes on them. In addition to Mondo’s katana he has a robotic left arm that can fire bullets and is powered by the blood of his enemies. Unlike most games of this genre your ranged weapon is surprisingly powerful and can kill the weaker enemies with a single head shot, though due to it being powered by blood you will need to go face to face with your enemies to refill it. The only way to regenerate your health is to consume the blood stored in your synthetic arm to restore your health causing you to find a balance between ranged offense and emergency health.
You will not be able to restore your health from the get go and must collect yellow gems that defeated enemies drop to unlock that ability. In fact you can’t do much at the start other than mash the attack button and occasionally use your power attack to break through some enemies guards. It does get very repetitive if you don’t upgrade your melee skills early on and would not be unthinkable if someone played the first few levels, saw the nonsensical story and bare-bones gameplay then never gave the game another shot. Even with maxed out skills, combat doesn’t really get much deeper than launching an enemy up with a strike or being able to charge up your power attack. What made the combat more enjoyable was an upgrade that made your katana glow blue and strike much faster the higher your combo count goes, giving you a good reason not to get hit and makes you feel skilled. Not getting hit is easier said than done as the camera is less than stellar. It is surprisingly bad and will often get you in trouble. It is bad to the point that I would rather have my thumb on the right stick that controls the camera instead of the attack button.
Blocking and dodging is rather important here since enemies will not stay stun locked for long and will attack you mid combo. Blocking in just the right moment will cause you to parry and allow you to mash the attack button in a black and white quick time event that causes serious damage to that enemy. Get your combo meter high enough and you can start to execute wounded enemies in a style of your choice. There are four ways to execute a foe and each grant you a certain item like crystals for health, roses for blood and the yellow gems you need to upgrade. Collecting enough crystals or roses will slightly increase the amount of health you have or the amount of blood you can store. Bosses are where you will want a good defense as they will smack you around the arena and often have a form of homing attack that is hard to dodge. Attacking bosses with your katana also fills up your blood meter but using your regenerating ability is a good way to get yourself even more wounded as there is quite a delay from letting go of the button and being able to move again. That is not a flaw and feels like a good way to keep you from cheesing through the game or what is supposed to be an epic life or death boss fight. All bosses have three different forms that change once you deplete their life bar and become more dangerous the closer they are to being defeated.
As said before the story is very weird and gets interesting towards the middle half. It’s not a particularly good story and is too open for interpretation, making it feel disjointed but you can’t help but worry about the fun cast of characters. Along with the main missions there is this odd mini game in where you go on a date with a woman of your choice and try to sneak a peek at her with your X-ray glasses. Once enough blood goes to your head from sufficient ogling you will be able to give her gifts until she comes back to your place. It is odd to say the least. They are necessary if you want all the sub-weapons however. Challenges are a bunch of small missions that have you doing stuff like shooting down barrels with a turret or playing through small sections of a level and are mostly throw away filler. They do give you money like real missions however so that’s a bit of an incentive. Money is used to buy the aforementioned gifts and can also be used to buy extra costumes that characters can wear. Even after completing the game you can still play through any mission and earn up extra cash for those expensive new costumes that are unlocked once you finish the story. It’s a good way to motivate you to replay missions and maybe try them on a higher difficulty mode.
Graphics have a nice, stylish comic book vibe to them and can feel like a cartoon at times due to its silliness. Music is pretty good as well and is used in great conjunction to what is going on. Killer is Dead is a game that oozes charm and style but has a lot of flaws that really drag it down. It is no doubt a memorable game, though it is not that fun to play due to the terrible camera. I’m not a fan of there being no jump button so you could juggle enemies or be able to jump out of the way of attacks instead of relying on the short dash. This is the kind of game I would only recommend to those searching for a weird, unique and outlandish experience if they think they can deal with the camera, the PC port issues and some pretty run of the mill combat.