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Critical Reception: Capcom's  Killer 7

Critical Reception: Capcom's Killer 7

July 13, 2005 | By Simon Carless

July 13, 2005 | By Simon Carless
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This week's Critical Reception, a regular column that looks at how the gaming press has received a particularly notable recently released game, focuses on Grasshopper Manufacture and Capcom's stylish but quirky new GameCube and PlayStation 2 release, Killer 7.

Killer 7, developed by Suda 51 of Capcom's Production Studio 4 in conjunction with the little-known Japanese developer (Michigan, Shining Soul II), was originally one of Capcom's raft of GameCube-exclusive titles that also included Resident Evil IV, and has been officially described by Capcom as "a hard-boiled, visually stunning and surreal action adventure game that pits 7 alter egos of an eccentric hitman, Harmon Smith, against a powerful underworld kingpin and the advancing epidemic of the deadly Heaven's Smile virus."

However, though terming Killer 7 as an 'action-adventure' is a good absolute in terms of selling it, critics have a lot more trouble describing how the game actually plays. 1UP's James Mielke does one of the best jobs, outlining the basic gameplay as a "fractured collection of intertwining segments, peppered with intermittent puzzle-solving and periodic gunplay", and also makes a comparison to Cyan's classic but oft-debated adventure game Myst.

The most notable thing about Killer 7 is the way that the title's odd, limiting but stylish gameplay has polarized critics. Review aggregation site GameTab reveals an average score of 75% for the GameCube version, and an average score of 66% for the PlayStation 2 SKU, but within these averages, there are massive variations of as much as 40% in individual reviewer scores.

Of those getting squarely behind the game, GameSpot's Greg Kasavin is one of the foremost, citing "one of the most unusual, politically charged, and thought-provoking video games since Metal Gear Solid", though even he notes: "Chances are you'll either love Killer 7 or hate it", giving the game 83 out of 100. Conversely, Wired News' Chris Kohler is much less happy, and his review argues that Killer 7's "gameplay experiments largely fail, and the inventive style doesn't make up for the lack of substance", calling the first-person shooting elements "only barely entertaining."

The majority of the remaining reviews acknowledge Killer 7's quandary of panache over substance, with IGN's Matt Casamassina commenting: "Capcom has clearly emphasized story and style over good old-fashioned control mechanics and that is unequivocally the adventure's biggest problem." Casamassina goes on to make clear the crux of the problem - for him, the game's odd on-rails controls are "not an adventure-ruining choice for me, in the same way that the point-and-click mechanics of [the again-referenced] Myst didn't ruin that experience." If your opinion on the classic on-rails adventure differs, as GameSpy's Matt Theobald's does when he suggests that "the adventure [elements] are embarrassingly bad and the shooting [elements] grow tiresome after a couple stages", and the story doesn't buoy you along, then the reviewers make it clear - you will not enjoy Killer 7.

Overall, it seems that Killer 7 has been sufficiently well-reviewed to allow the more hardcore and adventurous gamers reading major game websites to take the plunge and purchase it, but the relatively restricted controls and quirky gameplay means that the $50 price tag may be a little too much to swallow for those looking for a more visceral gaming experience.


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