by Joseph Leray
The last time I checked on “Killer is Dead,” Grasshopper Manufacture’s imminent future-noir curio, director Goichi Suda was ruminating on his appreciation of television and how it’s influenced the structure and marketing of his game. Since then, though, publisher XSEED has released three new trailers that have somehow slipped between my cybernetic hyper-fingers.
“Killer is Dead” has garnered a fair amount of buzz on the strength of its visual style, Suda 51’s institutional flair, and the fact that protagonist Mondo Zappa has a robot arm and gets to go to the Moon. The third trailer introduces some things I’m — pardon the pun — less jazzed about. Namely, the game’s Mondo Girls, a group of women included in the game as an homage to 007’s traditional Bond Girls.
Real talk: Bond’s vaguely non-consensual sexual encounter with Sévérine (I had to look her name up) — and her subsequent murder — are the crudest, skeeziest, most retrograde, and most boring parts of Skyfall. That there are a set of Mondo Girls that exist in “Killer is Dead” solely to provide titillation is gross. That Mondo has a set of “Gigolo Glasses” that allow him to see through these women’s clothes is creepy, voyeuristic, and predatory.
My understanding is that there “Scarlett Missions” that task Mondo with certain objectives — killing enemies in a given amount of time, or using only a specific weapon. The reward, this trailer suggests, is sex.
There are two different, but related, ideas at play. The first is that sex is something that can be given or withheld as an incentive for men. The second is that women can be unlocked like puzzle boxes: perform the right actions in the right order and the right time, and the prize is yours. Both of these are incredibly demeaning, but they’re on display, front-and-center, in the third trailer for “Killer is Dead” — sex isn’t a Rubik’s Cube, y’all.
Here’s Suda, speaking to Games Industry: “Sexuality is a touchy subject. We don’t want to make people offended, but we’re trying to create something that makes people laugh a bit because we’re [dealing with] that topic.”
Requisite benefit of the doubt paragraph: “Killer is Dead” isn’t out yet, so it may yet be more nuanced and less objectifying than these trailers let on. Vivienne Squall, Mondo’s in-game boss, also seems like a fun character — she’s sassy, smart, and can shoot 16 akimbo pistols at once, apparently. She was introduced in an earlier trailer.
Moving on! The fourth trailer for “Killer is Dead” disappointingly drops the episodic conceit of the earlier ones and opts for straight-up E3 bombast: campy, futuristic gore set to Chopin’s Étude no. 3, in E major. (Fun fact: Grasshopper has previously used Dvořák’s New World Symphony and Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries for “Killer is Dead” trailers. It’s becoming A Thing.)
The fifth, and most recent, trailer for the game introduces David, who’s kind of rocking an Amon Ra-type headdress-slash-codpiece. What I like about both of these is how self-aware they are: Suda breaks the fourth wall and throws out spoilers with gleeful abandon (hint: everybody dies), confident in the fact that his aesthetic overwhelms and assimilates it all into one big gonzo amalgam.
Still, for all its style and eye-winking knowingness, “Killer is Dead” has been hampered — as far as my internal hype-train goes — by the presence of the Mondo Girls. As often as Suda sets his sights on pillorying pop culture, a bit of interrogation into women-as-sex-puzzle would be a nice surprise.
“Killer is Dead” is set for an August release for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter