E3 2013 Preview: Killer Is Dead is fast, stylish, and sexy

If I would have left E3 without playing Killer Is Dead, I'd be greatly disappointed. Thankfully, that wasn't the case, and one of the last places I stopped by was the XSEED and Marvelous booth, where I had the opportunity to get some hands-on time with the upcoming game from Grasshopper Manufacture. Simply put, this is Suda51 and Grasshopper doing what they do best. Killer Is Dead is bloody, stylish, and unique, which is to say it's right in line with the studio's past endeavors.

Character identity and personality have always been important aspects in Grasshopper titles. Whether we're talking about the badass group known as the Killer7, the hilariously pathetic Travis Touchdown, the joyously stereotypically hot-tempered Garcia Hotspur, or the charming Juliet Starling, it's obvious that having protagonists that matter is something seen throughout Suda51's several projects. That remains true in Killer Is Dead, which stars Mondo Zappa, a professional assassin whose life is filled with mystery and unanswered questions.

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Killer Is Dead takes after the gameplay tropes of games like No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw. There's a lot of fast-paced hack-and-slash action, with Mondo having access to various attacks and combos. He can also dodge, which comes in handy if you're not a fan of getting hit by things in video games. Dodge at just the right moment, and you'll be able to deliver a powerful parry move, which usually involves mashing on the Square button for crazy amounts of damage to whatever poor sap thought it would be a good idea to attack you.

Mondo isn't just skilled in swordplay, however; he can also dish out some heavy firepower. His left arm is replaced by a high-tech cannon that can pull off a number of different attack. One attack acts as a regular gun, unleashing strong shots that can knock enemies back and eliminate far off threats. One section during the demo had drones flying around while I took fire from some bad guys on a far-off ledge. Mondo's left arm shots were the perfect tool for getting rid of those pesky bots and distant enemies.

Another attack I really enjoyed was the freeze gun. As you progress, you gain different abilities that can be equipped via Mondo's left arm. The freeze attack is ideal for slowing down enemies, which tend to be quick on their feet. This attack doesn't work on bosses, so don't expect a free ride when the bigger battles come around.

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If you'd rather drill your enemies (not in that way; you know you were thinking it), Mondo can also harness a huge drill attack. It's essentially what it sounds like: His left arm turns into a drill that can be used for melee combat. Simple and to the point, right? It's also really cool and turns your foes into bloody mush.

Progression is fairly linear in Killer Is Dead. While there are extracurricular activities to spend time with, the actual levels put you in large spaces against several enemies at a time. Defeating all enemies in a given area grants you access to the next section of the level, but you also have to do a little more to proceed at times. One example is a stage with a huge pitfall in the middle. In order to continue ahead, I needed to shoot down a structure to the left side of the area to create a makeshift staircase and bridge. It was nice little change of pace that allowed me to do more than just enter, kill, and leave.

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As far as visuals are concerned, Killer Is Dead is undoubtedly turning out to be the most gorgeous game from Grasshopper yet. It's fittingly stylistic, and there's a clear influence that seems sparked by both Killer7 and Shadows of the Damned, but graphically, Killer Is Dead just appears to be more polished and aesthetically impressive.

It's very apparent that this is going to be one of those games that really appeals to fans of Suda51's work. Even action game fans in general, however, have something really cool and interesting to look forward to. If you like crazy stylistic experiences, nonstop action, nicely placed humor, and that familiar Grasshopper appeal, it goes without saying that Killer Is Dead should most definitely be on your radar.

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