Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

kanelynchscreen1.jpgThey’re an odd couple, Kane and Lynch. One’s a “flawed mercenary”, though perhaps better described as a brutal killer, and the other’s a paranoid schizophrenic, although perhaps better described as a foul mouthed paranoid schizophrenic mass murderer. We get the impression Eidos were trying to stir up a bit of controversy with the game’s main characters.

There are two ways to look at Kane & Lynch – as a sequel of sorts to Hitman, with the squad based aspects of Freedom Fighters, the big thing being the two player co-op. Alternatively, as a game that focuses on cinematic storytelling and mature content (read: lots of killing and swearing). Before the game was even released, Lionsgate Films picked up the film distribution rights, so some people have been making a big fuss about “the story”. It is vaguely interesting, and starts off with death row prisoner Kane being busted out of prison by Lynch and his gang cohorts. We won’t say too much, but it revolves around Kane seeking revenge and such. In the process of the revenge getting, there’s quite a kerfuffle, and a lot of bloodshed. It’s not particularly high brow.

The basic gameplay is familiar fodder by now, a standard third person shooter that involves excessive use of cover and occasionally telling your squad where to stand. There’s nothing really new here, though the two player co-op mode is a big selling point. It’s billed as a heist game, though the single player game doesn’t involve a great deal of heists, apart from a very memorable bank heist that feels like it’s straight out of Heat. The multiplayer mode is quite interesting though, and involves a group of up to eight players performing a heist together – the twist being, that any player can decide to turn rogue and steal a larger share of the money for themselves. If all the players co-operate, they each walk out of the heist with equal shares of the loot – but if they turn rogue, they can try to win a bigger share, at the expense of being shot at by the rest of their team. In theory it sounds like a brilliant multiplayer game, and could be great if you were playing online with a bunch of people you already knew, but in reality it can get old really quickly.

It all sounds quite good, but the game suffers from lots of problems. Firstly, the controls are rubbish. Although aiming with the Sixaxis’ right analogue stick isn’t the best thing ever, other games (see: Uncharted) have proven it’s entirely workable. Here, aiming is slow and useless. Usually you’ll be standing behind cover and aiming your shots, which when combined with slow aiming and an annoying camera, can be quite frustrating. If you choose to run and gun, there’s no lock-on, instead you aim in the general direction of the enemy, and randomly make perfect shots if you’re close enough. Or you shoot a dozen bullets at their face and don’t hit them once. Or you actually see the bullets hit their face three times, but they’re still standing. It’s frustrating. As a last resort you can run up to the enemy and stab them, which is better than throwing the controller at the screen.

Subway shootoutThe other big flaw? The AI. It’s useless. Your squad are generally a bunch of morons. Their only saving grace being that they can inject you with adrenaline to bring you back to life when you’re lying in a puddle of your own blood. You can essentially die and be revived quite a few times if your squad have got your back. The thing is, you need the revivals – the game has quite a random difficulty curve, and some levels can be extremely difficult and frustrating. A few encounters are down to seemingly blind luck, especially as they require running and precise aiming, which thanks to the rubbish controls, is almost impossible. Then there are levels which literally require you to take on entire armies, except that your squad spend most of the time getting themselves shot or running out into the open to look at the sky. In parts it feels insanely difficult, but largely because the controls and your squad are useless, so it’s not difficult in a good way. It’s frustrating more than anything – that word’s popped up a lot in this review.

For all its annoyances, Kane & Lynch does provide some very visceral experiences. The soundtrack is filled with shouted swearing, psychopathic mumblings and gunshots, and some scenes see your squad of criminals pinned down against seemingly hundreds of cops, or engaged in gunfights whilst crowds of screaming civilians run past. There’s usually a lot going on, with some really elaborate environments – though the graphics themselves are often quite mediocre. Things generally feel very frantic and you always want to progress and see what happens next, which just about makes up for all of the frustrations. It could have really done with more development time to live up to the hype though.