Last week on Thursday I traveled up to Eidos in San Fransisco to check out Kane and Lynch : Dead Men . David Bamberger whose senior marketing for the game, Jesper Kyd (award winning composer of the Hitman and Kane and Lynch soundtracks), and a few other Eidos team members were on hand for a community day to check out the game.
The first thing you are going to notice about Kane and Lynch is the story and the characters. It’s a very gritty game and I really question where in the hell minds became so twisted to come up with such a story. Essentially, you are Kane and were apart of an elite assassins group known as the 7 . You are condemned to death for a robbery you committed but the loot is lost because Kane hid it. Now the 7 has taken your wife and child and to spare their lives you have to get the loot back to them. Either way, they make it clear from the start you are going to die either way for betraying them . Lynch is busted out of jail along with you and he is essentially your handler. He makes the calls at the end of the every day to let the 7 know you are keeping up your end of the deal . If they don’t hear from Lynch on a daily basis, you’ll be killed. Lynch is a psycho. We’re talking “The Departed” level here. He’s set to go off into a rage at any time executing anyone in his path.
The single player is intense and is a good mix between Hitman style and Freedom Fighters gameplay. I loved the way the difficulties are named: “aspirin, codeine, and morphine”. You’ve all seen and read about the opening level where you’re holed up in a doughnut shop as SWAT and cops try and storm your stronghold while you await your getaway van. The guns, the sirens, the sheer number of police and mercs on screen at one time is very nice. There’s also a bit of squad based gameplay because as you progress into the game it’s impossible to just run and gun some sequences. The squad gameplay is pretty shallow as there are only two commands you can initiate, a defensive command and you can mark targets ala Rainbow Six . There is also an automatic cover system where you can run up to objects and use them as cover. While the environments are varied and there’s a lot of stuff going on it’s just not obvious sometimes what can be used for cover and what can’t. For instance, some objects can be used for cover only in the crouch position even though it would seem they could be used either way.
On the Tokyo Streets level you are set in a very flourishing and modern setting with pedestrians on the streets however you are under attack . On bridges above you there are snipers and at the street level with you are once again dealing with waves upon waves of enemies. Your squad size is a lot larger than previous levels and you’re going to need it. One innovation I really liked in KL:DM is that when an enemy sniper has you in their sights you get a bit of an early warning by a little window that pop ups in the lower left hand corner of the screen showing you what the sniper sees. If a sniper hits you, it’s a one hit kill. The dying system in KL and also neat. If you go down you can be revived by a shot of adrenaline. They’ve solved the problem of abuse by implementing a system where if you shoot one too many times you overdose and die. You yourself can also revive teammates after you go down as it’s essential that all your teammates survive or the game will consider it a failed mission. This did become a bit frustrating in my play through especially in some spots with a lot of fire because you only have so much time to save a downed teammate it seemed and when you go to revive them you yourself were not free from harm during the revival animations.
Though the game is a lot of fun it’s not without some issues. I found the recoil on weapons to be a bit overdone. Enemy AI sometimes isn’t all that bright. I walked up to enemies on a few occasions who should stared at me. The difficulty in later stages are very challenging and require a lot of patience to execute with your squad. Some people may view this as taking away from the fun of the game.
There is an offline co-op mode where a friend can play through the game as Lynch and it does give a bit of a different view of the narrative of the story which is a real strong spot for the title. The voice acting is also really well done. I would have liked to have to seen an online co-op as it makes perfect sense for this game however I was told they wanted to concentrate on making the offline experience as polished as possible. To me, the game does decently in single player and there’s a ton of room for improvement but where it shines a heck of a lot is in the multiplayer.
The multiplayer mode in Kane and Lynch is fragile alliance. It’s flat out genius in my book. I can’t believe it’s taken a developer this long to come out with something like this. Basically, you start out assaulting a bank for example with policemen trying to take you down. You got to work together to rob the place. The goal is to get as much cash as possible and get out alive to the getaway van. The thing is though, if you all play nice and get to the van alive you’re splitting money more ways than you necessarily have to. You can turn on each other any time during the game and cut down on the amount of ways you need to split the loot. But if you’re a traitor, you’ll be marked as such in yellow and everyone will know you’re just as likely to kill them at any time and it’s more likely later on in the game when the fire fight begins the guns will be pointed at you.
If you die, fear not. You come back as an officer of the law in full SWAT gear and are able to infiltrate and stop your old friends from getting out alive. If you kill them and pick up their loot you even get a 10% finders fee. This lead to some very hilarious encounters. Some rounds we’d have a DM before even going inside the bank. Others, I would hang back hang back, then “accidentally” throw a frag nade in the middle of my teammates causing them to die while swearing complete ignorance. I even was able to betray a teammate when it was just me and him and were about to escape to keep the entire bounty to myself. It’ll be fun as hell to play this game with your friends against strangers, just make sure before you go in you have a prior agreement about what you’re going to do.
The only downside is four maps at retail but the maps are good and enjoyable. Plus, DLC is coming shortly after release I am told. I’ll have a full KL review in the next few days with the entire retail game.