Disappointed in Suda 51’s latest game, Let it Die? Nick D. is and he’ll tell you exactly why he’s worried Suda 51 may be losing his spark.
During Sony’s press conference, the world was made aware of a new game from famed video game developer Goichi Suda, better known as Suda 51. Let it Die is a hyper-violent game and its minute-and-a-half trailer did little to impress me. More damningly, the game didn’t show any of Suda 51’s trademark creativity and whimsy. Instead, I saw something that would seem more at home in a novice development house and not Grasshopper Manufacture (Suda 51’s company). So I must ask: was this a bad trailer, one unrepresentative of the final product? Or is this game as devoid of life as it seems?
Suda 51’s Grasshopper Manufacture doesn’t make good games. That statement deserves an explanation, I would think. Some studios thrive on their excellent gameplay. Farcry 3, for example, wouldn’t be nearly as loved if the gunplay didn’t have that excellent weight to it. Batman: Arkham Asylum lives and dies by making you feel as if you are controlling Batman, both in terms of the force behind his punches and the sly stealth he can employ at a moment’s notice. If you removed the excellent gameplay systems from either of these games, you’d be left with much weaker, and possibly unplayable experiences. Just imagine an Arkham game where stealth simply didn’t work, and you were seen every two seconds; the frustration would be unbearable.
So, when I say Grasshopper Manufacture doesn’t make good games, I’m referring to their seeming inability to put fun, deep gameplay into their games. No More Heroes and its sequel are both games I own and enjoy, but I’ve played less repetitive Dynasty Warriors games. Lollipop Chainsaw, for how amazing its title is, never managed to press past mediocre because of its gameplay. And it isn’t just the bare combat systems either. In No More Heroes, Suda 51 thought it was a good idea for you to have to earn money doing day jobs in order to advance the plot. What ensued was a series of repetitive, poorly controlled minigames that you must complete over and over again just to get to the good parts of the game. No More Heroes 2, thankfully, removed this requirement, but they shoehorned in awful platforming segments with different characters that were more frustrating than watching Ghandi launch a nuke at you in Civilization.
You might think from the previous paragraph that I’m not a fan of Suda 51’s work. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Suda 51 doesn’t make good games: he makes unique games. Above all else in this industry, I respect uniqueness. For every 100 identical shooters, platformers, or derivative puzzle games released on the market, we are lucky to get five games that provide us with something we’ve never seen before. Grasshopper Manufacture does this, consistently. Yes, the gameplay is unpolished and poorly thought out, but you’ll never see anything quite like it.
For example, continuing to harp on No More Heroes, you are presented with an Otaku hero, Travis Touchdown, who orders a working lightsaber off the internet and goes off to become the number 1 assassin in the world. That is literally the least weird part of the game. I don’t even want to describe the often times genius of Killer 7 for fear I would fail to do the game justice. In Lollipop Chainsaw, you control a cheerleader with a chainsaw, who finds out she is a destined zombie hunter. Also, she caries the severed head of her boyfriend around her waist. To many, I’m certain these premises seem stupid, but one thing is for sure – they are different. Even the aforementioned, and reviled, day job minigames present an insane vision of game-making that you are unlikely to see anywhere else.
That brings us to Let it Die. It’s trailer is linked below:
What is this? It looks like a combination of Mortal Kombat and Manhunt. From what is being presented, I get that this is a largely multiplayer game due to the schlocky usernames everywhere, and people are tasked to kill each other in some kind of Thunderdome-esque setting. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the concept. The problem arises with the seeming total lack of creativity in the title. We are shown generic maniacs killing each other with generic murder weapons in the most generic way possible. This may slide for a new developer, but not Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture. I expect something different. In all honesty, would anyone have been surprised if the name Rockstar was slapped on the front and it was revealed to be Manhunt 3?
But that’s not what the game is about! A helpful reader might shout through his computer. Let it Die is simply a reworking of the now-cancelled Lily Bergamo, a game with a much more interesting premise. That’s true as far as I can tell. The game might still be inventive and weird in the way we expect from Suda 51. There is a problem, however. That is not what they showed. E3 is the Superbowl of video games. You get one shot to showcase your finest wares for a salivating home audience. If you fail to convey the message you intended to, that’s on you, not the audience. I’m not misinterpreting anything. What we got was a largely live action splatterfest with boring, ugly gameplay spliced in randomly. If Let it Die is more than this, then the creators of the advertisement failed.
All of this to say that I’m highly unimpressed. I reserve judgment on Let it Die until I’ve seen more, but things do not look good at this point, which is a shame. I don’t know if Suda 51 is backing away from the insanity that made so many people fall in love with him, or if this is a Kojima-esque prank, and he’ll reveal how sky-is-the-colour-red bonkers the game is when we next see it. Let’s hope for the latter because the last thing this industry needs is another developer towing the line.