Review: Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

In single player mode, you’ll play as Kane, a mercenary on his way to death row who gets busted out by the group he’s thought to have betrayed, The 7. With your wife and daughter in danger, you’ll have to get money back to The 7 or else they’ll be killed. To help you and make sure you’re still doing what The 7 want, you’ll have Lynch work alongside of you, a sociopath with a tendency to black out and start killing anything that offends him in the slightest of ways.

You’ve made amends, you’re not afraid of dying, and just when you’re about to meet your maker, you get busted out and are forced to meet what might essentially be a fate worse than death: the kidnapping of your wife and daughter.

This is where you’ll find yourself in Kane & Lynch, a game created by IO Interactive, the same team responsible for the hugely popular Hitman series of games. If you’re not familiar with Hitman, you played 47, a professional assassin in a world that was somewhat realistic in that people weren’t trying to kill you every ten seconds. Kane & Lynch has a similar feel to a certain degree as some of the places you’ll visit remain completely neutral allowing you to execute whoever you please.

In single player mode, you’ll play as Kane, a mercenary on his way to death row who gets busted out by the group he’s thought to have betrayed, The 7. With your wife and daughter in danger, you’ll have to get money back to The 7 or else they’ll be killed. To help you and make sure you’re still doing what The 7 want, you’ll have Lynch work alongside of you, a sociopath with a tendency to black out and start killing anything that offends him in the slightest of ways.

As a third person action game, you’ll find yourself roaming mission usually being shot at by hordes of police or armed guards who have no problem taking you out. It’s strange then that while you can be taken out by a head-shot, it can take as many as two or three bullets to the head to take your opponents out.

You’ll probably notice early on that the artificial intelligence feels like it’s stumbling. Characters don’t move brilliantly or intelligently nor do they seem to take hits realistically. When you die – and it will happen – you can be brought to life by a shot of adrenaline. If this happens again and again in quick succession, you’ll die of an overdose. The problem with this whole “resurrection” side of the game is that Lynch or no one else in your team is there to help you, you’ll die pretty quickly, and since the AI isn’t the best around, that could happen pretty frequently.

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While the story in Kane & Lynch is short and actually easy to follow, the script is marred by a constant desire to yell expletives for no apparent reason. If you’re one of those people that loves games that yell obscenities for no other reason but because they can, then this “mature” game should find itself in your hands relatively soon if it hasn’t already. But for a script to use what’s recognised as bad language every two or three words just seems lazy. It’s almost as if the script writer got lazy and figured it would be more edgy if the characters yelled angrily at each other every ten seconds.

As a result, the characters seem shallow and pointless. You know what the characters are after from their mood and personality, but you also feel as if you’re being treated poorly because there’s all this wasted dialogue.

That’s a shame too as the acting isn’t bad. There’s a lot of aggression in the voices and sound effects are excellent. The music on the other hand makes minimalism seem like a big thing. Ambient noise seems to be the flavour of the day with Kane & Lynch so if you’re expecting some strong music, you’d do well to look elsewhere.

Graphics are a mixed bag. They’re not bad but they could have been better. Character animations ultimately seem flawed and IO Interactive seem to have found a solution for this by making characters move as little as they can most likely because they look stupid doing so.

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Multiplayer leaves you with an interesting feel. You can play through the game in a cooperative mode but only with a split screen gameplay. The difficulty of the game makes this a useful idea but a shame that you’ll be forced to do it while you’re both playing on the same screen instead of on different consoles.

You’ll also be given a mode called “Fragile Alliance” which is the multiplayer mode you should be playing. Allowing you to put up to eight people in a squad and pull off a bank heist, it will also give you the opportunity to rip off your friends. This is cool and they can all come after you, but it doesn’t really change the next time you play it through thereby removing it of any challenge.

What makes Kane & Lynch better than just being “problematic” is an underlying feeling that you can do whatever it is you want. Take the Tokyo Nightclub scene early in the game for instance. When the climax starts, you can fire your gun off at whomever you like without any real consequences. It’s almost as if the developers have tried to be as liberating as Rockstar are in the Grand Theft Auto series.

As a result, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men feels more like it’s uncompleted. You get the idea that the game could have been a lot better when you start to realise that the level design is quickly growing monotonous and predictable. There are times when parts of the game will drive you up the wall while other parts will just be sheer delight. It’s definitely one of those games that isn’t for everyone.

Should you buy it?: Only if you like to play games that could have been better. Go play something else. Seriously.

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Developer: Io Interactive
Publisher: Eidos, Atari
Classification: MA15+
Formats: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
URL: Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark

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