Suda51, the mad-man behind such hyper-stylised and surrealist video games as Killer7, No More Heroes and Lollipop Chainsaw, is back with his new game Let It Die. Let It Die is a rogue-like, beat-em-up, survival-action game exclusive to the PS4 and best of all, it’s free! There is a catch though, and that comes in the form of pesky micro-transactions. Let It Die follows in the footsteps of many Suda51 games; it’s stylish, it’s fun and it’s full of weird and interesting characters. What little plot there is is strange and engaging enough to set up the addictive gameplay that will keep bringing people back. One of the game’s only shortfalls is its annoying UI which slows the pace of the game to a crawl. Is this peek into Suda51’s brain worth your time? If the fact that it’s free didn’t sway you, let’s have a look.
Don’t mind me, just looking for my pants
Let It Die has you controlling what it calls “fighters” as you pummel and bash your way to the top of a tower. While this is the main plot of the story, in a twist worthy of a Christopher Nolan film you actually play as a pro-gamer sitting in an arcade that is playing a game called Let It Die on a gaming system called the Death Drive 128. While this second layer of the game is mostly used to get hints and tips from other characters, receive challenges, or hang out with the game’s mascot Uncle Death (who seems to be a literal skateboard-riding, sunglasses wearing Grim Reaper), there isn’t much more to this meta-level arcade. The majority of your time will be spent in the tower, trying to ascend its many, many, many levels. Uncle Death is the real lynch-pin here though, he is able to travel between both the arcade and the tower, helping out both the player and the fighter the player is using. This in itself suggests that the game Let It Die within the game of Let It Die is more like that Gerard Butler movie Gamer, where he is pretty much a human toon controlled by a teenager made to play endless rounds of deathmatch. Still following? Good. It wouldn’t be a Suda51 game if you weren’t questioning everything all the time, and confused about what you’re supposed to be questioning most of the time.
Combat is fun and seamless, with a control set up that is reminiscent of Dark Souls but with a less weighted feeling. In Dark Souls the controls reflect the oppressive nature of the game by making you feel weighed down by any and every item you have equipped, and then fine tuning those controls for combat. In stark comparison, Let It Die feels like you’re floating on a cloud. Running is easy, jumping is easy, combat itself is easy. It’s the enemies that are hard. There’s a vast variety of strange and wonderful enemies that will repeatedly hinder your progress to the top of the tower. You can smoke these fools with either your bare hands, guns of different descriptions or improvised, home-made weapons. The enemies don’t only include the denizens of the tower itself, but also any former fighter that may have died while under your control, or a fighter that has been sent to your world from another player. You have the capacity to store different fighters in a freezer, allowing you to keep a healthy reserve of bodies at your disposal. If you send one of your fighters to another player’s world, they turn into an enemy known as a hater. While you won’t be able to control them, if they kill another player you get a fairly healthy payoff in terms of experience gained, and vice-versa.
Bro, you got something on your face
Sorry to disturb you sir
The game is extremely self-aware of what it is doing, even when all it really boils down to is the standard task of avoiding the hazards of the tower, dispatching enemies and getting to the top. The game firmly has its tongue in its cheek, cracking jokes when you die (and you will), and it’s cel-shaded, almost anime-style graphics give the game an overall arcade-ish feeling that never takes itself too seriously.
This brings us to the major issue with Let It Die, that of its UI. Let It Die is a strange game in general and clearly draws inspiration from Dark Souls, but honestly the most punishing thing about this game is its UI. The menus are a mess, navigating them feels like you’re lost at sea without a compass and no stars. While this is an example of how deep the game’s systems run, it’s more frustrating than anything. You’ll see a little alert come up on the screen, then go into the menus, then try and find what the alert was telling you what is new. You’ll have to flick through several different pages to find the heading the alert indicated, then you’ll have to flick through several different subpages just to find what it’s talking about. Not only that, but the controls change when in the menus, so where circle was back it then changes to square. This seems like a legit troll from the developers, which while at first is a novelty, quickly overstays its welcome. I haven’t been this frustrated with the UI of a game since GTA V, which I ended up quitting because it felt like being in the mind of a sixteen-year-old, pepped up on three Red Bulls before their first date (that’s right, I didn’t finish GTA V, want to fight about it?).
The other mark against Let It Die is the use of microtransactions, but I guess I can’t hold it against the game too much considering that the game itself is free. You will encounter these pesky little intrusions when you die, being forced to use one to revive your player on the spot. To do this you’ll need to use the main in-game currency: Death Metals. Fortunately you can acquire Death Metals through several different avenues, from buying them with real money to simply logging in. Unfortunately you will use them quickly if you want to keep your individual fighter’s stats. That’s right, each fighter you make upgrades individually of your other fighters, and if your high level, main fighter bites the dust prepare to pay the price to get him back or say bye bye. If you choose not to revive them then the tower takes them and turns them into evil, glowing-eyed residents. Then you have to defeat them to claim them back, but if you’ve only got piss-weak fighters left as back up you’re shit out of luck. Not that that happened to me… The inclusion of micro-transactions is annoying, I would have rather pay full price for this game than eke out small payments just for the luxury of having one of my fighters back. It’s a hard game, so be a hard game, don’t concede the difficulty just because of the size of my wallet.
The horror, the horror
Just your everyday, skateboarding, Uncle named Death
I’ve really enjoyed my time with Let It Die; it’s been a nice distraction from the sea of first-person shooters that always seem to come out around this time of year. Its combat, while somewhat simplistic, is fun and entertaining. The characters are actually interesting to engage with and Uncle Death might just take the award home for best representation of a Grim Reaper this year. But the UI is frustrating beyond a doubt. It’s not necessarily game-breaking, but considering how much you use the different menus it turns a near seamless experience into an unsupervised toddler with a jar of vegemite – messy. On top of that the inclusion of microtransactions is just annoying. I thought we were passed this, did we not learn from Dead Space 3? At the end of the day though, the game is free so I can’t shake my fist at it too much. Is it worth your time? Yes, of course it is, it’s free! On top of that, it’s actually a good game that’s free, and that’s even better.