Killer is Dead, the latest title from developer Goichi Suda (aka Suda51), is a problematic game.
That's a lie. Well, not a lie. An understatement.
"Problematic" sounds like such a gentle euphemism in light of Killer is Dead's gross misogyny. This game might as well have a giant pair of balls on the front cover, under a sign with "boys only" scrawled in the shaky handwriting of a 13-year-old.
Listen, developers, you've had your chance. You know that the way women are portrayed in games is a sore subject these days. You know. No more excuses.
The most charitable thing you could say about Killer is Dead? It's tone-deaf. It is now my go-to example of how not to treat female characters in your game. It is the worst schlock I've seen in a long time, and I can't say I'm the most politically correct guy. Not even close, really.
In short, I feel ashamed to play this game.
What it is
Killer is Dead is an action game that supposedly takes cues from James Bond. You play as Mondo, a contract killer with a bionic arm and a katana who's sent to kill people for reasons the game fails to explain.
The "plot" is confined to short scenes before and after each mission, and boy are they completely inscrutable. The game failed to answer many of my most pressing questions, including: Who are these people I'm murdering? Why are they important? What is this group I'm part of? Why does the moon turn pink all the time? What the hell is going on?
And, most important, why does my guy say "The mission? Killer is Dead," before (or sometimes after, and sometimes during) every mission? What does that even mean? By the end of the game it didn't even sound like words anymore. Just a random collection of syllables. Ki-la-riss-ded. Ki-la-riss-ded. Ki-la-riss-ded.
Okay, no surprise. A game with Suda 51's name on it is impenetrable, to the point where it's almost a parody of itself. Cross that feature off the list, I guess.
Let's get down to brass dicks here, because the main story is fine. It's stupid, it's boring, it's indecipherable, but whatever—it's a story.
Enter Gigolo Mode. Between main story missions you're allowed to pick up sidequests. Some of these are basic challenges, like "go back to the level you already played and kill a bunch of fodder enemies."
Then, there are the Mondo Girl missions, where you bring women out on dates and ogle them.
Killer is Dead has turned the fabled "male gaze" into an actual game mechanic. In order to build up the courage to give women presents to get them to awkwardly grant you sexual favors (and unlock new weapons), you have to ogle their breasts and lap and then eventually you get a new pair of glasses that lets you see through their clothes and creep on their underwear and—I can't believe a game like this even exists.
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