by Joseph Leray
We caught up with executive producer Goichi Suda at GDC last week, and he explained (among other things) that his upcoming cyberpunk action game “Killer is Dead” is named after the Smiths’ The Queen is Dead album– arguably their best. (Real talk: “Cemetry Gates” is my favorite Smiths’ song.)
Those familiar with Suda know that he’s long gotten away with his eccentricities: all of the assassins in 2005’s “Killer 7” are named Smith (collectively, they’re “the Smiths), and all of the discoverable courier memos are named after Smiths songs. From his obsession with hired killers — “Killer 7,” “No More Heroes,” and now “Killer is Dead” — to his use of bright, cel-shaded visuals, Suda’s got a signature, unshakeable style when it comes to his studio’s work.
All that Suda51 trivia leads me to the most recent trailer for “Killer is Dead,” released yesterday — not only does it showcase the game’s much-touted “high contrast” shading, it also shows us just how far down the rabbit hole Suda is willing to go.
The first Japanese-language trailer — the distinction is worth making, since the English-language version is cropped short — introduces protagonist Mondo Zappa and the game’s basic set up: Zappa is an executioner and he has a cybernetic arm. At the end of it Zappa breaks the fourth wall, addresses the audience, and admits that he’s the main character of the game, telling us to stay tuned for the “next episode,” about “a woman with devilish hands.”
That woman is Vivienne, Mondo’s boss and the proud owner of — by my count — sixteen arms and sixteen pistols. In addition to introducing Vivienne, trailer number two also hints at some sort of world-threatening plot. At the end of her trailer, Vivienne similarly addresses the audience and teases a third “episode,” called “Gigolo vs. Sexy Monster.”
If you watch both of them, you can kind of see that these “Killer is Dead” trailers are structured like television promos: the first one introduces the main character and the second expands on the game’s backstory. There’s a purpose to each one that goes beyond showing off some pre-rendered footage and heavily-scripted action. Not only do these trailers familiarize would-be buyers with the characters and setting of “Killer is Dead,” but also with its story structure.
Speaking with Polygon, Suda explained that “Killer is Dead” will have be “episodic,” though it won’t be split up into different games like “The Walking Dead” or “Kentucky Route Zero.” Feeling inspired by television dramas, Suda wrote each section of “Killer is Dead” to have its own narrative arc, with all of them combining to tell one story. He even goes so far as to suggest you should play one level per day: “I wanted to create a story that doesn’t happen overnight, that has a daily life, with new objectives showing up each day,” he explained.
If Suda’s sense of campy violence and futurism aren’t enough to pique fans’ interest in “Killer is Dead,” maybe the knowledge that his influence extends to the game’s marketing will. I’m finding the whole thing really fascinating, which isn’t to say that “Killer is Dead” won’t be goofy and gory and silly: it’s about a guy with a drill for an arm, after all.
“Killer is Dead” comes out this summer, so I expect we’ll be seeing more of Mondo and Vivienne as time goes on. Incidentally, the game’s official website went live yesterday as well.