If you are a fan of IO Interactive’s previous outings (Hitman, Freedom Fighters) than the premise behind Kane and Lynch will undoubtedly intrigue you. Dark and gritty storytelling mixed with violent combat and a duo of anti-heroes is the perfect palette for a game designed by the people behind Agent 47. The difference with Kane and Lynch however is that while it does nail the somber tone of the aforementioned titles it lacks the polish IO is known for. Regardless Kane and Lynch is still a sadistically satisfying experience that just feels too rough around the edges to become a true classic.
While there are two main characters to this twisted story the single-player game only lets you play from one perspective. Here you will follow Kane, an ex-mercenary who is broken out of prison and forced to recover something of importance for his former employers known only as The7. The catch is that they have kidnapped and threatened to murder your wife and daughter if you do not comply. The second half of this estranged duo is Lynch, who you can only take control of in the offline co-op mode as player two. Lynch is a sadistic psycho path with a raging temper and a troubled past. Throughout the game you will obtain bits and pieces of each characters past, but it would have been nice to be able to dive deeper into Lynch’s story as possibly a second single-player experience.
This is the area where Kane and Lynch does excel though. While the story can be vague at times it does keep you interested. It reminds me of a summer blockbuster action movie complete with exotic locales and intense gunfights. As you travel the globe in search of ways to exact revenge and save your family you will be privy to some of the best levels I have experienced in quite some time. Whether you are sifting your way through hundreds of dancers in a Tokyo night club or rappelling down the side of a giant office building Kane and Lynch delivers some of the most interesting level design in recent memory. The downside is that most of the time you have no idea why you are even there. Later in the game you are thrown into a giant conflict in a third world country and for the life of me I can’t remember why I was there.
The core game is substantial enough to satisfy most action gamers and the design is excellent, unfortunately execution is where Kane and Lynch begins to fall flat. The game suffers from a lack of polish in several key areas the first being difficulty. While the game is a solid challenge on normal there are several instances where questionable hit detection and poor squad AI will have you repeating areas over and over again. There are also instances where the objective is not nearly as clear as it should be resulting in frustration and constant reloading of chapters. There is also the issue of glitches found in the game such as falling through geometry and the generic cover system that feels more random than anything else.
Another huge issue is that the perspective from which you spend the entire game is disorienting until you adjust to it. The over-the-shoulder camera is certainly the best design for third-person action games, but when your character takes up so much of the screen aiming can become a chore far too often. Your squad will also feel brainless at times as they run blindly into the line of fire. The health system is also hit and miss mainly because it feels highly unbalanced. There is no health meter, but instead when you take enough damage to be knocked down you have to rely on your partner to revive you with a quick shot of adrenaline. Of course that means anytime a teammate bites the dust you have to do the same for them. Unfortunately if you do not get to them in time or try to revive too often you will overdose and have to begin the mission over.
The biggest crime Kane and Lynch commits though isn’t the glitches or subpar gameplay. Instead the biggest disappointment is that the entire game feels and plays like a great co-op experience and yet the developers have opted to not include online co-op play. Granted you can take on the experience on a single console via horizontal split screen, but you don’t have the option to choose who you want to play as (player one will always be Kane and so on and so forth) and let’s be honest today’s gamers are spoiled with the ability to play games on their own screen. This game screams co-op play and unless you have someone willing to sit down and play through the entire game and shell out for an extra controller you are simply out of luck.
Online does exist in the game though and once again great design is only hampered by poor execution. The online mode is called Fragile Alliance and it is an entirely new take on co-op and competitive online gaming. You begin the game as a group of thieves on a heist; the object of course is to make off with as much loot as possible. The kicker here is that at any point during the heist you can betray your teammates or work together with others to cut down your team’s size thus increasing your profits. The catch is that all dead comrades will return as opposing law enforcements and no doubt have a vendetta for you. The idea is phenomenal and a great breath of fresh air from the standard deathmatch variations most online shooters try to force feed you these days. Unfortunately with a lack of players online and the same balance issues and random gameplay from the core game it becomes little more than a distraction. Hopefully with some balancing this could become a hit with the sequel.
From a purely presentation standpoint there is nothing special about Kane and Lynch. The main characters look good, but everyone else looks recycled from level to level. The environments are beautifully designed but lack great textures to make that stand out visually. The sound effects are standard at best and the voice acting is actually quite good, but the abundance of the f-bomb will likely turn off some gamers from an otherwise well-written game. Outside of the co-op and gimmicky online mode there also isn’t much to keep fans coming back for more. Difficulty levels are absurdly unbalanced making the tougher ones too much of a chore instead of a good challenge.
Kane and Lynch: Dead Men is the equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie directed by Michael Bay. It will be enjoyable by shooter fans and criticized by everyone else for having so many problems. The fact of the matter is the scenarios in the game make it worth playing through alone and the addition of a new type of online play solidify a weekend full of good times. While it won’t wind up on any award lists or personal top ten games of 2007 Kane and Lynch has a certain charm that will entertain fans of the genre long enough to make it a Blockbuster night.