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IO Interactive's terrible twosome are unleashed and TVG finds out whether they can deliver the goods...
- Fun Cops 'n' Robbers gameplay at times.
- Original multiplayer mode.
- Buddy/buddy anti-hero premise.
- Gameplay becomes progressively more tedious.
- Poor visuals for a 'next-gen' title.
- Short campaign.
The Danish developer team IO has certainly struck a chord with the theme of Kane & Lynch. After all, what could be more of a compliment than Hollywood taking notice, buying up the film license and casting Bruce Willis in the starring role alongside Billy Bob Thornton. Famed for their successful Hitman series and other titles such as Freedom Fighters, IO continues the blood soaked shooter action with a couple of lead characters who define the term anti-hero.
Not Particularly Nice Work If You Can Get ItTo say that Kane and Lynch are dark characters is a bit like pointing out that reality TV is getting a bit annoying these days. While many anti-hero characters rely on the persona of coming good in the end, or doing bad things for the greater good, you'll see no such humility from these two sociopaths. They kill more cops than you can shake a truncheon at and concepts such as trust are alien to them. Kane does have the redeeming feature that he seems to care about his daughter quite a lot, which is nice. Lynch's only regaling quality, on the other hand, is that his killing sprees are due to bouts of paranoid schizophrenia. Okay, so it's not that endearing, but diminished responsibility and all that.
Anyway, they meet when Kane is on his way to get executed for his crimes as part of The 7 (a notorious mercenary group). The 7 are all supposed dead during a previous heist, but little does Kane know that they're after him and they want the loot that Kane stashed after the failed heist. On the van ride to the execution, Lynch busts Kane out. Unfortunately for Kane, he's delivered to The 7 who aren't happy. He's given an ultimatum: deliver the loot back to them, or his ex-wife and daughter will be killed. If he's successful, however, only he will die.
Du Heist?Lynch, the medicated psychopath, is set the task of watching over Kane in his attempts to retrieve the loot. This is the crux of the gameplay, which is set in a third-person, squad based shooter format. The first few introductory levels are certainly entertaining and you begin to immerse yourself in the story while enjoying the comfortable gameplay. However, as you pass further into the game, the enjoyment factor begins to disappear rapidly.
The reason for this is that it never quite raises itself beyond an average shooter experience, while there are a few aspects of the gameplay which really irritate. Take, for example, the cover system: It's designed to be fluid and intuitive, automatically snapping you into a covered position whenever you go near a solid object. In reality, you'll desperately try to move into this covering position by getting close to these objects, but the system simply doesn't recognise that your next to the wall and won't snap you into position. Then there's the fact that often when you crouch in this covered position, there's no way of staying in the crouched position without letting go of the crouch button, which is far too awkward when you want to shoot out of cover. Finally, and most annoyingly, when you're crouched behind an object, you'll often find that enemies can still get lethal shots off at you. This leaves you very few places to hide when you're about to die.
The squad system sees you controlling as many as five other characters, and even small battalions of soldiers during the Havana levels. These squads can be given rudimentary commands (attack this position, move to this spot etc.). This all works quite well, but the problem with the system comes in the form that if one of your squad members dies, it's game over for you. What's more, when a team member goes down, you then have a limited amount of time to reach them. On reaching them you administer an adrenaline shot to revive them. As they often require these shots in some of the most open areas on the hardest levels, it's a hindrance that you simply don't need. You'll end up dying if you go to revive them, and dying if you don't. It's a bit like Kane's conundrum with his family really.
Beyond the lacklustre covering and squad systems, the set-pieces also quickly begin to tire. They're kind of enjoyable for the first few levels as they nicely recreate the kind of epic stand-offs from movies such as Heat. However, when these set-pieces are repetitively thrown at you with more and more of the same enemy NPCs each time, the experience gets a bit tiresome. Additionally, if you're constantly having to revive fallen squad members, or desperately trying to find cover where this is none in a huge fire-fight, you'll die time after time for reasons that simply aren't your fault. This is no way to enjoy a videogame.
Problems are also encountered with an engine that is clearly previous generation. The ballistics governing bullet trajectories, for example, don't seem quite right. Often when you're firing around the corners of buildings, you'll have what appears to be a clear line of sight to your target, but for some reason the bullets ricochet off the wall beside you. Additionally, sniper sections reveal that direct hits sometimes won't even register with long range shooting, which is more than frustrating. While we're on the engine, though, the destructible environments were quite impressive and deserve some commendation.
Odd CoupleThere is an offline co-op available, where you can play as either Kane or Lynch. IO had previously promised that this wouldn't be a run-of-the-mill tacked on co-op game. Unfortunately, for the most part, that's exactly what it is. Lynch's psychosis was supposedly going to influence the gameplay, sending him into hallucinations where he'd think innocent bystanders were police. However, these situations were considerably more infrequent than had been suggested and, for the most part, you simply fought side-by-side with Kane in the conventional manner. There were sections where Lynch would perhaps be sniping from a high-point with Kane on the ground but, again, these were fairly isolated events.
It is essentially the same old co-op experience that we've seen in many other very average shooters. A further criticism comes from the fact that the squad system is even more frustrating in the co-op than it is the single-player campaign. For some reason, AI members of your squad refuse to revive you but require lots of adrenaline shots themselves. This means that you and your co-op partner will spend a lot more time reviving each other and your squad members. Given that this requires the usual dash of death to reach them before they collapse, it certainly doesn't add to the experience.
What does add to the experience, though, is the thoroughly original multiplayer game. Kane & Lynch's sole multiplayer mode, 'Fragile Alliance', is built around the heist. You begin every level as a heist member where you're looking to score loot from a particular target (e.g. corrupt senators, banks, drug dealers etc.). You must get to the loot and grab as much as you can before escaping via a getaway vehicle. The problem is, there are AI bots trying to stop you from doing this. If you die, you are resurrected on the AI team where you'll now get rewards for taking out heist members. Alternatively, if you stay alive on the heist team, you can kill your accomplices and take their loot, although you'll be labelled as a traitor on-screen for the remainder of the round.
In a genre that's overflowing with unoriginal capture the flags and deathmatches, 'Fragile Alliance' certainly is a breath of fresh air. We had a lot of fun playing it and, to be honest, it's the only significant reason to buy the game. If you're the sort of gamer who's not particularly bothered by single-player campaigns but spends hours online with the multiplayer modes, Kane & Lynch might be right up your alley. We've never experienced anything quite like it and it certainly ups the games originality stakes as well as its longevity. However, at a fairly short 10 hours, the single-player campaign once again lets the game down here.
Graphically, the previous-gen Glacier engine doesn't do the game any favours. While the engine has clearly been heavily modified for its use on the next-gen machines, the modifications haven't been quite enough unfortunately. There's a slither of lighting effects and clearly IO have put a lot of work into the facial details of both Kane and Lynch, but it's still significantly below par for what you'd expect this far into the next generation. As for sound, some of the musical score compliments the sinister tones of the game quite well and the gruff voice work fits the characters nicely, making the game fairly aurally seamless at least.