Review

Killer Is Dead

The Killing Moon

Goichi Suda looks inward with the conflicted Killer Is Dead.

By Anthony John Agnello • September 3, 2013

Goichi Suda likes to mess with people. His deconstructionist Flower, Sun, And Rain, makes players live out the mundane parts of a private eye’s life, forcing you to walk back and forth over an island looking for people’s lost possessions. Killer 7 wields Dadaist surrealism like a cudgel, alienating players with constricted controls to make them reconsider their violence. Suda’s satirical No More Heroes casts you as the ultimate video game obsessive, and then it makes you wade through scut work like garbage collection to get to the action. The reward for killing is to turn around and do even more dreary day jobs.

It’s all for a purpose. All three games use tedium and barriers to realign the player’s perspective. They ask you to think about the reasons behind what you’re doing. Suda’s latest game, Killer Is Dead, screws with the player, but it’s not clear why. Thick with the same absurdist vignettes, confrontational tasks, and gluttonous violence and sex of his best work, this game lacks the binding voice of its predecessors. It’s almost impossible to tell what Killer Is Dead is trying to say.

Killer Is Dead

At least this much is clear: It’s fun doing Mondo Zappa’s job. The dapper mod (and possible Moon Unit cousin?) you play in Killer lives as a state-funded assassin hired by clients with unusual problems. An Audrey Hepburn lookalike named Moon River is forced from her home on the moon by a guy in a golden cod piece, and Mondo agrees to kill him in exchange for a kiss. An aging yakuza is possessed by a tiger spirit, also from the moon, and wants to die a free man. Mondo runs him down on a motorcycle and acts as his seppuku second in a Zen stone garden. Every weird gig is painted in the game’s wet, often beautiful cartoon art, dense with shadows and blood that looks like landslide runoff rather than gore.

On the way to these targets, Mondo fights Wires—soulless beasts from, naturally, the moon—and while the brawls are simplistic, they can also be breathlessly fun. You can slash with Mondo’s sword and punch with his giant mechanical arm, useful for unbalancing the hollow-eyed purple moon men trying to kill him. Just slamming one button to cut things up may seem banal compared to other, more complex slice-and-dice games like DmC: Devil May Cry, but Killer’s simple thrills are addictive all the same. Dodging an enemy at the right time speeds up the action to a frantic speed, and the screen goes red, letting you whale on a monster to your heart’s content. It’s easy to get swept away in the sword’s flow. So easy, in fact, that I scarcely noticed myself repeating the same moves over and over again.

Killer Is Dead

But Suda’s always at his best when he’s screwing with you, making play a pain. The pain in Killer is Mondo’s sex life. When he’s not on the job, he goes on “Gigolo Missions,” and they’re just awful—predatory, stupid, and awkward. All you can control on a Gigolo Mission is Mondo’s head while he sits at a bar talking to a variety of women in evening wear. The goal is to get laid. First, however, Mondo must build up his courage to give her a present, and the only way to do is by ogling. Staring at a date’s chest, legs, or eyes fills a meter. Stare too much while she’s looking and you get a drink in your face. Stare subtly enough, and the meter fills. Then you can give her a gift purchased with your murder spoils, bringing her that much closer to letting you spend the night.

It’s as skeevy as it sounds, and even more so when you acquire the x-ray specs that let Mondo see his dates’ underwear. None of it is pleasurable. This is bad design with intent, especially paired with the immediate fun of fighting. The field of view in Gigolo Missions is cramped, the moaning sounds that accompany every successful leer are grating rather than titillating, and Mondo never appears to take any joy in what’s happening—sexual or otherwise. His stony silence doesn’t come off as stoic, just blank. The game doesn’t force you to play through all the gigolo outings, but if you want to acquire points to upgrade Mondo’s fighting ability, you have to play through them.

Why? Maybe Killer makes a broad statement about the risks of a violent living—the idea being that if it’s so easy to take pleasure in death, your personal life will be an empty, awkward mess of sex and materialism. But if that’s the message here, then Killer misses the mark, as the gigolo mode, story missions, and everything else are so loosely linked.

Killer Is Dead

Killer comes off as too goofy and too brazenly self-aware for such a serious purpose anyway. Suda frequently breaks the fourth wall in Killer, most significantly in the game’s ninth chapter. While you’re chasing down a 73-meter-tall monster stomping on a military base, Mondo’s boss calls him on the phone to tell him the beast is the result of human cloning experiments. Mondo says he’s going to waive his fee since the creature is the result of the world’s greatest ethical crime. “Is this game ethical?” his boss responds. “It’s none of my business,” says Mondo.

In one way, Suda seems to be excusing himself from making art altogether. All the killing and weird predatory sex are just more stylish pornography for a medium with a seemingly bottomless thirst for smut. Read another way, though, Suda seems only to be questioning himself: Why am I still making these games? What with its moon obsession, Killer Is Dead seems to find Suda waning. He’s still using his same tricks—it’s a high-style game with some instant fun that discomfits the player, forcing them to engage at a deeper level—but for seemingly no other reason than to use them. It’s a fascinating document of an artist in transition, but on its own, Killer Is Dead is as cold and confused as its hero.

Killer Is Dead
Developer: Grasshopper
Publisher: XSEED
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Price: $60
Rating: M

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  • NakedSnake

    So if No More Heroes was an elaborate troll whereby players are intentionally tasked with boring work, what does it say about me that I quit that game after just 2 levels? Unconsciously wise to Suda’s tricks, or just another sucker?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767343655 William Burr

      You won. I won too. I guess 90% of everyone who played and quit probably won, because that was some seriously un-fun nonsense, and the wii controls certainly didn’t lube the process. Suda won most of all, because he has our money.

      • http://gameological.com/author/mattkodner/ Matt Kodner

        I remember having a really hard time getting the hang of the special wrestling moves. I had rented it and decided NOT to buy. 

      • CW

        A STRANGE GAME.  THE ONLY WINNING MOVE IS NOT TO PLAY.

    • craigward

       I didn’t mind the jobs.  I just hated the cutscenes.

    • KidvanDanzig

      I can’t remember when it came out but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was thumbing its nose more at sidemission-heavy sandbox games (of the sort that NMH initially appeared to be but wasn’t). I’m pretty sure it came out before GTA IV so the obvious target isn’t the one.

      It should also be said that there’s a pattern of otherwise serious Japanese games that feature incongruous and baffling minigames. Shenmue had them, and more recently the Yakuza series is rife with them. It might be a Japanese gaming culture thing. Shadows of the Damned seemed pretty west-focused and it was very straightforward by comparison.

      • Simon Jones

         There’s enough weird subgames in enough Japanese games that I suspect it’s just that Japanese people want a bunch of shit to do in their games.

        In the case of Yakuza, it’s mostly because it’s a spiritual sequel to Shenmue, for all intents and purposes.

        The NMH one was in there probably because open world was a thing at that point, kinda to it’s detriment. Which is why NMH2 is a stronger game in a lot of respects.

  • zerocrates

    Has Suda51 really been trying to say something and make people think this whole time, or does he just have a thing for sex, assassins, and sexy assassins? Well, that and “po-mo” of course.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Is it bad that the best evidence for the case that he has substance is Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special?  Its ending in a game with, say, a thinly-disguised version of Chris Benoit (literally! ha! mask jokes.) is pretty chilling, actually.

      • Citric

        Well, in defense of rather puerile humor, Mozart wrote several songs about licking butts.

        Not to say that Suda 51 is Mozart.

      • PPPfive

         You rate it above Killer 7 in terms of substance? I’ve never played SFPWS.

         I think though, that in this case, naming the characters after wangs is a comment on the ultra-macho cartoon essence of wrestling. Shadows of the Damned is on it’s own though

      • KidvanDanzig

        Was he involved with Fire Pro Wrestling Returns? I’d be interested to know, it’s like the one good wrestling game made in the last 8 years or so.

        • Simon Jones

           Just III, which was his first game and Special, which is the famous one.  SFPWS was mostly interesting for it’s ending and plotline more than anything else.

          Though you can make the argument that it was only slightly more bleak than the endings of most japanese sports manga

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          @disqus_X4YE2qf8IB:disqus That’s pretty true on the comics thing.

          Kid, that is the definitive one, but it’s worth playing the previous ones.  Human-era Fire Pro is superb, but Spike-era Fire Pro is transcendent.  Suda influenced the tone of the games, but not the gameplay direction.  Those people were always in place.  The only other option at this point is importing the handheld Yakuza/Like A Dragon games, which were made by the team that did the Nintendo 64 wrestling games.

    • Simon Jones

       Bit of both. The guy likes the things he likes and he can say some moderately clever stuff.

  • rvb1023

    Just started earlier tonight, will hopefully have more thoughts later. “Gigolo Mode” has me a bit worried, even as a hyper-exaggeration of James Bond that it is.

    As much as I love playing through every Grasshopper game I can, I would really like for Suda to get back in the director’s chair, though this will have to hold me off until then. Stylistically this seems the most similar to Killer7 and Suda’s writing is still top notch, but you can tell when he isn’t directly behind camera (so to speak).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767343655 William Burr

    Wait, we’re calling the horrible game-play of Killer7 an intentional mechanic now? We have gazed well beyond our navel into an infinity of bluish fuzz.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      Yeah, I honestly don’t get the hype Suda 51 gets. No More Heroes was awful. Even the combat was boring and tedious to the point where I stopped playing. “It’s bad on purpose! it’s a joke about how bad other games are!” seems like a hugely bullshit excuse to me. Make a good game first, then satirize other games.

      It’s not like the plots or writing are good either. All his games  look the same sure, but I wouldn’t call him an auteur any sooner than i would call whoever makes call of duty an auteur. Basically fuck this guy.

      • JamesJournal

        “It’s frustrating on purpose” makes perfect sense for Blood Dragon, not No More Heroes … fuck that game

  • Simon Jones

    As much as I like Suda51, because Killer7 is a stroke of genius and as much as I think a lot of the negative reaction to some of his previous stuff comes from it becoming glaringly obvious that some people are uncomfortable with any satire that’s not in the special satire room, being clearly marked satire with wacky, wacky satire noises all around it (Hey there, Saints Row and that stupid fucking Vonnegut quote), my main problem with this is that it just wasn’t that great.

    Not terrible. Just kinda mediocre. Suda 51 by the numbers without the substance to back it up.

    • Roswulf

       I’m intrigued by the idea that Saints Row is satirical. For me, satire has to have a basically serious purpose. Satire exaggerates to critique, Saints Row exaggerates to exaggerate. MAYBE the “sex appeal” slider qualifies as a satirical joke? Again, I’d be interested to hear what you saw as Saints Row’s (and I’m admittedly only familiar with 3 and 4) satirical point.

      Now parody? Saints Row’s got wacky parody noises in spades.

      • NakedSnake

        In my opinion, the best satire must function on two levels. It must first stand on its own as a representation of the genre it is satirizing. Only then can it insert subversive messaging. Good satire should, I think, always be something people can mistake for the real thing. I hate it when satirists think they can skip straight to the part where they make fun of the thing they are critiquing without worrying about the underlying art/media. It has to be fun/interesting first. Otherwise, it’s just “college” satire.

        • Fluka

          The older I get, the more I become suspicious when anyone labels their work “satire.”  Half the time it seems like it’s a way of either A) excusing faults in your game/story/etc because it’s “supposed to be that way!” or B) having one’s cake and eating it too.  So you can have a game where you get to murder sexy large-breasted prostitutes *and* you can say “No no!  It’s a critique of that!”  It’s such a boring, predictable excuse.  Why not make something good instead?  Or at least be honest about your base intentions?

        • Simon Jones

          I am completely in favour of being honest about base intentions and am solidly in favour of the ‘Embracing the Terrible Base Urges Of Women As Well’ end of the gaming gender thing.  So I can see where you’re coming from there.

          That said, I am really growing incredibly irritated when people trot out argument B).

          It’s rapidly becoming the default screen for ‘I am offended by this but don’t want to say so because it’s ambiguous enough that I’m not sure if I’m offended by it’ or ‘I did not realise this is satire and didn’t get it but now somebody has explained it to me and I do get it, sorta but I don’t want to look stupid.’

          I think in part it’s at least the result of the internet becoming uncomfortable with the concept of any sort of bite to satire. We only want shit that makes us comfortable and reinforces our existing prejudices. So ambiguity is going to go right out the goddamn window and we are going to eat those delicious irish children.

        • NakedSnake

          @disqus_X4YE2qf8IB:disqus I think the problem is that virtually every piece of media that is somewhat “shameful” makes a claim at satire. It doesn’t all have to be boobs and guns, though. I remember back when Desperate Housewives came out, and the creator kept insisting it was a satire. Well that shit went on for 8 seasons… it was a soap. When a piece of media is somewhat embarrassing to consume, saying it’s satire helps make it easier to justify. Most of these “satires” actually have no bite at all. After all, what piece of media does not comment on and/or subvert the expectations of its genre to some degree or another. Compounding this problem is that “satire” rarely teaches us something truly subversive. Usually it’s just making fun of something else. Well then, it’d better be funny.

          I guess what I was trying to say before is that the majority of media, satire or not, needs to stand on its own and be prepared to be understood according to its “straight” interpretation. I mean, if you have to say it’s a satire, then (1) the satire is probably pretty ineffective, (2) you’re desperate that people don’t try to understand the game as-is, which implies you don’t think that part of the game can stand on its own.

          Very rarely, a piece a media comes along that functions purely as a satire. Like Little Inferno, for example. I was willing to deal with the weak gameplay because I was interested in the themes and underlying message. And it was a coherent piece of work where the gameplay reinforced those themes. But most of the time, it’s just a word people to throw around to justify other weaknesses in their (mostly non-satirical) work.

        • Fluka

          @disqus_X4YE2qf8IB:disqus No, argument B is not a screen for anything.  I’m perfectly happy saying “I am offended by this.”  Filling your game with pornographic violence and/or treating women like shit, but doing with a smirk, is not particularly brave or cutting.  It’s simply going back to the same tired old well, but patting yourself on the back for doing so.  What “existing prejudices” is something like Gigolo Mode supposed to shock me out of?  I’m already perfectly aware that James Bond type characters are assholes.  Surely it’s the game’s responsibility to prove to me that it’s good satire, and not mine to appreciate it just because they say it is. 
          “Satirical” sexism and racism sure feel a lot like the real thing a lot of the time.

        • Simon Jones

           Oh yeah. But I’m thinking of something like, to poke out gaming a bit, Far Cry 3 where I personally got what he was kinda poking at, because in my view it wasn’t exactly subtle but there was some discomfort from those who didn’t share my reading. 

          That’s the kind of thing that I’m having an issue with. Not the ambiguity so much but there seems to be a sense that people need to be explicitly and unambiguously told there’s an alternate reading to the text.

          Which leads to things like Hotline Miami which got treated like it was a commentary on violence because it looked like a commentary on violence as opposed to a commentary on how cool it was when he killed those dudes in Drive.

        • Simon Jones

           @Fluka:disqus  Which is kind of my entire issue here. The moment it gets into a discomforting area, it’s assumed to be the real thing. I’m not talking about this game in particular but at the moment…

          Okay, back in 2003 there was a column written by Barry Humphries, arguably one of the worlds greatest absurdists and satirists,in the persona of Edna  Everage, a character that was created to satirise and comment on a particular kind of small minded suburban nastiness. It was on the Spanish language and it was small minded and nasty.

          What we got instead was an assumption that it was a racist diatribe because it kinda looked like one.

          Which is kind of where ‘It looking like a horse and sounding like a horse’ leaves us.

        • Fluka

          @disqus_X4YE2qf8IB:disqus It is the responsibility of the writer or game maker to make their case, not the responsibility of the audience to accept it point-blank.  If “satire” of racism and sexism is indistinguishable from “real” racism and sexism, adding the satire label isn’t going to make me any happier to have to encounter that stuff in a game.  The intentions behind it may be loftier, and you might consciously know that the author doesn’t “mean it,” but it still hurts to have it be there.  Over and over again.  You can’t tell people to not feel the emotions they feel.

        • NakedSnake

          @Fluka:disqus @disqus_X4YE2qf8IB:disqus If I may, I think that there are actually two different types of satire that we’re talking about here. Firstly, there are games (or other media) that function primarily as games and then have a satirical “dimension”. I would call this winking satire. The second are the games or whatever that are primarily intended as satire – straight satire. If I understand correctly, Fluka is saying that winking satire is often used to cover up or excuse behavior that might otherwise be in bad taste. On the other hand, Simon is saying that straight satire is too often poorly received since they it is so hard to distinguish from the real thing.

        • NakedSnake

          To clarify a little more, I guess what I mean is that straight satire is almost saying “isn’t it insane and ridiculous that this sort of thing exists and/or some people actually think like this?” Winking satire, on the other hand, seems to come from a place where it’s just laughing at something.

        • KidvanDanzig

          Verhoeven understood this better than any other artist I can think of. So many people take Starship Troopers seriously, it’s astonishing.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          The phenomenon @Fluka:disqus is describing is a completely legitimate criticism, though it’s not limited to satire. The idea of “absolution through irony” is pretty prevalent in postmodern art (especially heavily commercial postmodern art that pretends to have a secret critical or anti-capitalist bent – see DEVO releasing a faux-subversive teeny-bopper album through Disney in the early 00s, winking all the while…) and pretty noxious. Often this kind of stuff does have giant, blinking “IRONY” or “SATIRE” lights around it, but they smack of “protesting too much” by artists who want to have their problematic cake and eat it, too.

          I’m assuming the Vonnegut quote you’re slagging off is the one about being what you pretend to be, and needing to be careful who you pretend to be? It’s a pretty fucking great quote, and relevant as hell for cutting through so much bullshit.

        • Simon Jones

          It certainly is an awesome quote of absolving the reader of a text from any thought or effort on their behalf.

          Rather than thinking you can deploy some awesome glibness. By Vonnegut no less. So you’re clearly smarter than whatever it is your criticising. Because…Vonnegut!

        • NakedSnake

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus Not to start another whole discussion but I love that Vonnegut quote, too. I often think of it (and Mother Night in general), when reflecting on the nature of identity. The fact that “good people” hold secret darkness/anger/hate in their hearts is problematic to them, but does it make them bad people? I’ve met many good people who worry that they are “secretly” bad. Conversely, is someone who mainly perpetrates destructive actions secretly redeemed by their hidden tenderness and hurt?

          This shit is all so problematic that I have decided that “identity” is nothing more than the sum of our actions. All of our intentions are just context to those actions. It’s like a democratic nation-state: each action that the state actually does may be vigorously debated or opposed by internal force. But history will (for the most part) remember what the state actually did, not the extent to which it almost did something else.

      • JamesJournal

        When I turn on the radio in GTA and hear a Cluckin’ Bell or Ammu-nation commercial that’s satire.

        Saints Row is just absurdity for the sake of absurdity. 

        Lollipop Chainsaw was the only Suda 51 game that felt like it was specifically poking fun of anything instead of just being ridiculous because otherwise it’d be out of the Suda 51 brand.

        Juliet seriously joked about one of the zombie overlords being a My Chemical Romance rejected and I actually laughed.

  • Chewbacca Abercrombie

    I beat the Alice level and thought it was pretty cool, then it unlocked gigolo missions and besides being something I would have a very hard time explaining if my wife walks by while I’m playing that part, I found it very confusing. I wasn’t entirely clear on what I was supposed to be doing or why. I turned it off and then got hooked on Sleeping Dogs. I really need to go back to it soon though. Maybe go back and finish the last two thirds of Lollipop Chainsaw I’ve never played yet as well.

    • Sandwichands

       You will have a wei better time with sleeping dogs.

      • JamesJournal

        Gigilo mode makes the dating missions in Sleeping Dogs seem awesome in retrospect. Drive the car really fast and the girl bangs you, and vanishes from Hong Kong completely 

  • drygear

    This game has gotten a lot of flack for the Gigolo mode but I think there’s more to it than what’s on the surface.
    Mondo Zappa is supposed to be a James Bond like character, and it’s not a very positive portrayal. The review notes that he comes of as blank more than stoic, and I don’t think that’s an accident. At the end of the cutscene following a very successful gigolo mission it shows Mondo with a serious expression about to walk out of the room, and in the background is the girl half-naked and asleep.
    To me it makes it look like he’s really just using the girls. He doesn’t look particularly happy about it afterwards, but that’s what he does.

    I think the gameplay part of the gigolo missions is also an abstraction of the actual seduction process. I don’t think they’re really saying he picks up girls by staring at their tits until he gets the courage to give them a present. The minigame is more of a metaphor, I think. I just have a hard time believing Suda51 isn’t aware of how absurd it is. I don’t have any evidence of this, except that Suda51 seems to be really interested in game mechanics and how experimenting with them can be used for different purposes. Making a stupid minigame in order to express a point is exactly the kind of thing Suda51 would do.

    Hopefully this is coherent. I will admit that I’m a fan of Suda51/Grasshopper games and don’t want to believe they’re as misogynistic as it appears on the surface. So maybe I’m reaching for excuses for them.

    • feisto

      Well, here’s an interview with Suda51 (sorry, all Japanese) where he explicitly states that he created Gigolo Mode to give players a relief from all the killing and describes it as a “reward” for the players.

      http://www.famitsu.com/news/201303/28031031.html

      He talks about it a little more, and it’s pretty clear that Suda51 thinks that a) Mondo is the shit and that b) Gigolo Mode is an awesome minigame.

      • stepped_pyramids

        In interviews, Suda51 has generally not acknowledged any satirical intent with his games. In at least one interview, he explicitly says he identified with Travis Touchdown and that Travis Touchdown was him as he wished he could be.

        • The Guilty Party

          So it’s the opposite of ‘satire mistaken for the real thing’.

          That’s certainly … it’s something, that’s for sure.

  • KidvanDanzig

    “Grating” and “titillating” aren’t mutually exclusive qualities, you know. Given the game’s pedigree I really, really doubt that particular subtext is present.

    More than any other designer in the business, Suda51 is adept at having bad design be part of his “brand” and embraced by “smart gamers”. He’s like the Dreamworks Animation of video games, there’s a cheapness and simplicity to the meat of the things he makes but there’s enough off-the-wall frenetic humor to make them appealing in spite of their fundamental thinness. I’m convinced Shadows of the Damned was an outlier solely because of Mikami’s involvement in its production. Mikami makes games.

    Dude’s certainly got a voice, it’s just a very limited one. He’s good at coming up with weird settings and character concepts and then completely squandering them on Warioware-meets-last-mission-of-MGS2 snoozefests.

    • Kyle O’Reilly

       That burrito metaphor pretty much sums up my problem with Suda.  Yes, there’s an interesting layer on top here, but if what’s underneath is so vapid, why even eat it?

  • M North

    I’m still unsure of Suda’s role in this game. It looks as if he had a big part to play in the game – certainly bigger than Lollipop Chainsaw or Shadows of The Damned – but he wasn’t the game’s main director by all accounts. As for his work, I think he’s like Suzuki; his main purpose isn’t some grand interrogative process in which he asks questions of the medium hoping to relay grand messages but instead one where he just plays around with it for the purpose of making something entertaining in a different way.

  • JohnnyLongtorso

    I don’t understand why Suda51 gets a pass for bad game design because
    it’s “intentional” or “trolling the audience”. It’s still a shitty game,
    trying to dress it up like it’s some clever commentary on game design
    or sexism or whatever else doesn’t change that. Shadows of the Damned is
    the only game of his I’ve managed to complete, and even at 6-7 hours it
    was padded out with bullshit. No More Heroes I quit once I got to the point where you had to do stupid side missions to earn money, and this game I gave up on after probably 30 minutes.

    • rvb1023

       I wouldn’t exactly call his games “bad game design”, though it’s quite possible I’ve played some of his older stuff that is unplayable (Flower, Sun, Rain for instance). His games usually end up rough around the edges but generally in the average mark as far as mechanics go. Even the grind in No More Heroes was varied enough in the odd jobs you would do you would keep playing just to see what weird things you would do next, even if it did get old after a while.

    • Kyle O’Reilly

      I believe it’s because the game development community doesn’t really have any singular voices or “auteurs” (barf) like Suda.  There are game studios with certain styles but not single people, so he’s a bit of a celebrity and probably more fun to write about from a reviewer’s perspective.

      But this also means, that it seems like people are afraid to explore the idea that he’s just a shitty game designer playing to typical Japanese game design tropes of hack n slash, T&A and a stoic “cool” Main character but with an air of esoteric nonsense smothered over it.

      • The Guilty Party

        Pretty much the entire review could be replaced by your second paragraph there.

    • neodocT

       I think bad game design is still bad game design, but it does come colored in such a weird, exciting and unique way that it is a bit forgiven. I think that I’ve mentioned this before here, but I would personally rather play something flawed but unique than solid but dull.

  • TheMostPopularCommenter

    So, the silver catsuit lady and the nurse lady are the same person, right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/gpsmith86 George Smith

    What we have here is a handful of missions that fuse a pretty great art style with a rather basic but compelling hacky-slashy mechanic. The result is a pretty awesome feedback loop, and I play games for the feedback loop.

    Unfortunately, there’s maybe 5 hours of that, padded out with lots of awful challenge missions focusing on boring item hunts and yawn-inducing side mechanics (turrets, bikes, etc.)

    Then there’s the goofy shit with the ladies. On the one hand, it’s not nearly as egregious as the sum of games press hyperbole has made it out to be (but really, what is?). Custer’s Revenge this ain’t. On the other, it is entirely as stupid and pointless as this review describes.

    More levels focusing on the core mechanic would have made this an easy recommendation, but as it is, I can’t imagine paying full price unless you’re a lunatic like me and want to make a point of supporting Grasshopper Manufacture by purchasing one of the 10 copies this will move in the States.

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    After reading so many reviews over the past year that discuss negative sexuality in games, I’m curious if anyone knows of any games that treat sex positively?  I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

    • Simon Jones

      Because sex positivism is generally the domain of the terrible, smug and earnest, you’ve basically got Anna Anthropy and her ilk round that end of things.

      So, if you must…

      • Kyle O’Reilly

         Whoa buddy, cool your internet jets.  You’ve dodged the question entirely while trying to suck the air out of the original  complaint (which is pretty universal knowledge; games aren’t good at portraying sex positively as in a non-exploitative manner) all while slandering a perfectly cool person in Anna Anthropy.

        So if you must make massive dismissive generalizations, try not to be a jerk about it.

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          Thank you.  Also, my comment of “I can’t think of any off the top of my head” by no means meant that I thought none existed.  Just stating that my memory is poor sometimes.

        • Simon Jones

          While I admire the general idea behind her philosophy about games, I honestly find Anna Anthropy’s actual game output to be painfully undergraduate and the sort of games that are deliberately  attempting  to counterbalance the problematic approach to sex in games to come across like that line from King of the Hill about Christian Rock.

          So yes, I was addressing his question.

          There are games that are trying to be positive about sexuality.

          They aren’t very good because that’s generally all there is to them.

          This does not say good things about the game industry but that doesn’t mean we need to say nice things about the games.

        • stepped_pyramids

          Anna Anthropy’s approach to sex isn’t a whole lot better than that of mainstream gaming. I don’t know why that amounts to “slander”.

    • Fluka

      Not to beat the same dead horse I’ve been beating the past two weeks, but SAINTS ROW 4.  Most vestiges of the previous  weird GTA-ish misogyny have vanished, leaving behind an atmosphere of consensual pansexual glee.  Mind you, it’s mostly over the top comedy – at one point, your character performs an impromptu quicktime event striptease just because they damn well want to – but it still feels pretty darn happy and inclusive.

      It’s a lot more restrained, but Gone Home is at least realistic in its treatment of sexuality as something that is often confusing and difficult but also normal.

      • Roswulf

        I’m…not sure about this.

        MILD SR4 SPOILERS TO FOLLOW THOUGH I CAN’T IMAGINE KNOWING WHAT FOLLOWS WOULD ACTUALLY IMPAIR ANYONE’S ENJOYMENT OF THE GAME

        Saints Row IV is full of callbacks to the previous Saints Row games, and sometimes that tilts it towards GTA-ish misogyny. It’s not constant, and it’s notably better than Saints Row III, and the pan-sexual romance options are spectacular. But the DJ Veteran Child stuff is pretty skeevy and Tanya(?) is a scantily clad woman running about turning people into mindless sex slaves.

        The whole thing would be fine if the game didn’t end up adding both of them to your party of puckish rogues, albeit as secondary copies. I dunno, it made me feel icky.

        This ties in to the “Is Saints Row 4 satire?” question raised above. A satirical Saints Row would confront these dark aspects of the series’ past in its callback sequences- the Saints Row we got blazes by the problematic aspects as part of a gleeful but somewhat vapid celebration of games, hedonism, and the human will to blow things up.

        • Fluka

          Yeah, that’s why I said “most” vestiges, rather than all.  The parts which delve into the past of the series were an excellent reminder of why I don’t normally play this kind of game in the first place.  Luckily, they’re fairly easy to just ignore as in-simuation homies.  Not a perfect record, but I still feel like the positive bits far outshone the vestigial grossness.

      • http://gameological.com/author/mattkodner/ Matt Kodner
    • neodocT

      I think the Fallout series tends to be pretty sex-positive. You can become a porn actor in Fallout 2, New Vegas has Fisto and several understated gay characters. Yeah, a lot of it is played for laughs, but not in a negative way, I would argue.

    • Boko_Fittleworth

      Mass Effect series? Not perfect, surely, but pretty positive overall.

      • Aurora Boreanaz

        There you go.  Definitely one of the better ones.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Bare/2015246 Andrew Bare

        CURSE YOU, @Boko_Fittleworth:disqus !

        • Boko_Fittleworth

          From hell’s heart I comment at thee!

      • hcduvall

        The Dragon Age games (Bioware in general) have always been pretty inclusive. That said, I can never take Mass Effect seriously because of the asari will always strike me as convenient pandering.

        If anything, the major flaw in Bioware’s handling is that everyone ends up sex crazed. My Shepherd helped the asari escort(?) in the first game, she thanked me, and I chose “That’s it?” and then we had psychic sex or something. And all I wanted was money.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Bare/2015246 Andrew Bare

      The Mass Effect games qualify, I think, providing you’re not considering the actual quality or sensuality of the sex scenes themselves as part of the “treat[ing] sex positively] equation (and I don’t find those scenes as hilarious as most people seem to, but I wanted to cover that base). 

      The sex scenes come with fully realized and written characters and only come after extensive dialogue over the course of the game. The sex you have is (within the story, at least) with someone with whom you have formed a strong connection. The scenes themselves aren’t exploitative or lurid. 

      • Boko_Fittleworth

        That sounds about right. It’s grading on a bit of curve, to be sure, but everything you note is right on. In general I think Bioware has been getting better and better about that stuff — it makes me look forward to Dragon Age: Inquisition (not for this reason alone, but that’s part of it).

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          I think it’s grading on a tremendous curve, honestly. The mechanics of seduction being laughably written dialogue trees which you “win” be getting to fuck your squadmate for making the right choices, and the overall aesthetic choices of the series to populate its universe with various silly T&Aliens both speak to video games (at least AAA ones) still being hopelessly adolescent, especially in their treatment of sex.

        • Roswulf

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus I’m a bit more positive on the Mass Effect romances. They aren’t the highlight of the writing by any means, but of the two I played through the Tali one had some moderately interesting material on physical intimacy (the Liara romance also happened).

          More broadly, I think how one feels about Mass Effect and sex comes down to how one feels about the Asari. The games do some interesting things with them- the background Asari/Krogan romance may be my favorite world-building detail in the trilogy. But they are still a race of sexy buxom space bisexuals who will totally do anyone. And Morinth, the femme fatale who kills with space sex doesn’t help. The overheard conversation suggesting the Asari are using mind-control to make everyone THINK they are sexy and buxom may or may not help.

          But damn it, Mass Effect’s treatment of Krogan and Salarian sex was beyond reproach. BEYOND REPROACH!

        • Boko_Fittleworth

           The Asari case is interesting because it’s an example of the Mass Effect universe being really problematic on the level of the general but really successful on the level of the specific. That is, the problems that @Roswulf:disqus describes are certainly true of the generic Asari we run into dancing in bars, etc, but at the same time they barely apply at all to Liara, Aria, or Samara, three major, complex characters who are all primarily about their jobs; their sexuality only indirectly informs who they are or what they’re about.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Heather Kelly’s Lapis might kinda sorta fit the bill? It’s both ‘positive’ in the sense of ‘sex-positive’ that it thinks sex is a good, not shameful thing, and also ‘positive’ in the sense that it doesn’t engage in problematic objectification, and, as a bonus, is intended to be educational, which could be seen as a positive.

      However, it does use its mechanics and content as a metaphor for sex, rather than being up-front about it, so one could make a good argument that it is not actually a “positive depiction of sex.”

    • JamesJournal

      Bioware games usually do a decent job of this. You can attack some of the more sexed up character models all you want. And the mechanic of selecting the right dialogue options to get laid will always be weird. But if I were watching the Mass Effect games as a TV series or something, I couldn’t tell you that the depiction of sexuality was any worse than Fringe or Buffy

  • Mike Wolf

    I really, really like Suda51′s work, and I’m sure I’ll be picking this one up too, basically because even if his games aren’t necessarily great, they’re inevitably interesting.

    Also, I can’t not say this game’s title in the voice of Team Fortress 2‘s Heavy.

  • nummymuffincookoobutter

    “It’s all for a purpose. All three games use tedium and barriers to realign the player’s perspective. They ask you to think about the reasons behind what you’re doing.” Usually, I’m playing a video game to relax after a day of stressful tedium. These games sound awful.

    • Roswulf

       Perhaps it would be fairer to say these games sound like they aren’t for you.

      I will never choose to watch Shoah. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold value, or is awful in anything but the obviously awful sense.

      I realize this is pedantic, but the internet’s general tendency to transform personal preferences into absolute mandates of quality drives me absolutely batty.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Exactly. I don’t require art to entertain me, just engage me. And the sooner we remember that games are art and not just toys to distract and entertain us, the better.

  • Andy Lopez

    Really looking forward to playing this. Lollipop wasn’t that great, but I’ll chalk that up to the unbearable nature of James Gunn and MSI. 

  • globegander

    Article I wrote on how eroticism and murder intertwine and clash in Killer is Dead, producing a complex, if understated experience:

    http://globegander.tumblr.com/post/59534088268/love-killer-is-dead-eros-and-thanatos-in-grasshopper

    I wrote this essay some time ago in early August based on my experiences with the import version of the game. Originally, I simply wished to explore some its overall themes albeit in a rather comprehensive and lengthy fashion. However, set within the context of being released so closely and concerning subject matter of considerable consternation to the less favorable reviews of Killer Is Dead, it has incidentally become, with little to no alteration to the original material, a defense of the game’s creative and structural decisions. To summarize, it explores the thematic significance of the Gigolo Missions, how they help establish Mondo’s character arc, and the manner in which the game’s story isn’t so much simple as it is understated.These are the impressions and conclusions I drew from playing the game and hopefully it provides an intriguing and fresh perspective on it for you guys.