Ah, the crime genre. People have been fascinated with the world of criminals
, and their lawyers
for ages. It must be the allure of doing wrong, the excitement of living a life of illegality and danger that attracts us to it. We expectedly and rightfully condemn these people in real life for what they've done, but you put a mobster story up on the big screen or give us control over a hitman on the small one, and we're there.
Speaking of hitmen, Eidos, creator of the popular Hitman series, has gone ahead and released a new game, which, if you're reading this review, you know to be titled Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, an action shooter/hard-boiled crime drama. It follows Kane, a middle-aged convict who unintentionally escapes from the firm grasp of the law with Lynch, a medicated psychopath
. The two form a fragile alliance as Kane tries to right ambiguous wrongs with his family and a criminal group known as "The 7." Things don't go as swimmingly as Kane would have hoped, however, and all sorts of crime story staples start popping up, including vendettas, back-stabbings and the like.
The story actually has a strong pull to it. The characters aren't glamorized as they might be in a Hollywood film: Kane is very much a troubled man, with very deep problems in his past that he can't quite seem to overcome. He wants to do the right thing, to make things proper with his family and employers, but circumstance and some tough choices prevent him from always keeping everything under control. His bald spot
is a nice touch as well- not something you see very often in video games.
The story may not be mind-boggling in its complexity
, but it is particularly well written and voiced, and there are some truly brutal moments that left me a bit shocked and surprised. I won't spoil anything here, but I will say that the game is very dark and not everything ends up as neat as many gamers might want it to.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is where Kane & Lynch trips up
, succumbing to mostly plain stop 'n' pop action and terrible controls. The cover system has become pretty commonplace since Gears of War popularized it, and Kane & Lynch attempts to follow in that game's footsteps. The problem is that the cover ultimately becomes useless, being either too difficult to get into or not protective enough of the player. There is no button that snaps you to cover like in Gears. Instead, you approach a corner or a wall, stand still, and the game will automatically place you against said cover. For some strange reason, you can only place Kane at the edge of something, and can't move him whilst in cover. There's no indicator as to what can be used as cover, so be prepared to guess whether or not the game will let you hide behind that car or duck beside that box. Oftentimes, enemies will still be able to shoot you even while in cover, negating its use entirely. It's frustrating
Just as maddening is the aiming. Targeting is finicky at best, but luckily you can customize the sensitivity in the options screen. However, even if you get used to the sloppy control, you aren't guaranteed to be popping many heads, since guns will repeatedly miss their targets
. I've honestly taken time to aim at an enemy's body only to completely miss, sometimes repeatedly so. And for those of you thinking about spraying and praying- look into how close you are with God.
I guess the constant missing of targets can be chalked up to attempted realism, the notion that guns don't always fire precisely straight. I'm not entirely against that, but come on- this is a game about career killers, not Silent Hill. In an action game where basically all you do is shoot cops and other criminals, the aiming should be smooth and tight, like a... Well, I'm not even gonna go there with that analogy.
The graphics, while stylish and clean, seem like some unholy marriage of current and last generations of gaming. Kane & Lynch can occasionally look great (mostly when focusing on its two leads), but watch out
when it doesn't. Plain, low polygon characters, clunky animation, and some bad textures are the low points of what otherwise could have been a good looking game.
At least it sounds better than it looks. The voice acting is top-notch; F-bombs are dropped with resoundingly excellent delivery. (And there are a lot of said bombs
, so that's a good thing) The music, when it pops in, gets the job done, and the more realistic sounding weapons create an atmosphere that is more in keeping with the game's tone than that of a Hollywood movie.
Speaking of movies, one can't help but mention Michael Mann in the review, as he was obviously a point of inspiration for the creators. A lot of the game's scenarios seem to have been lifted straight out of Mann's movies: there's the Heat bank robbery
, Collateral's nightclub scene
, and so on. Many of the action set pieces in the game are awesome, running the gamut from robbing banks to scaling skyscrapers to breaking out every convict in a prison. Yes, you read that last one correct.
The multiplayer is neat. On top of local split-screen co-op, there's an online mode known as "Fragile Alliance." In it, players start the match as a team of criminals set to perform a heist. The game gets interesting, however, when one or more players decides they don't want to share the loot. Players can betray their comrades and score more dough for themselves, but not without a price: traitors are marked as such, and any person killed by a teammate returns as a member of the police force with a chance for revenge. It's an interesting concept in spirit, but becomes a bit stale in execution, as most of the time it boils down to who has better mastery of the crappy controls, since it's virtually guaranteed someone is going to start a chain of betrayal. It's cool for a little while, but doesn't really have the draw of a game like Call of Duty 4 or Halo to keep you coming back for more.
It's unfortunate that this game had to be marred by bad graphics and sloppy gameplay, because if more attention had been paid to it, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men might have been a really awesome (if a bit generic) shooter. I'd very much recommend giving this one a rental first, as it is criminally short (oh dear, I've made a pun) and the multiplayer won't appeal to every gamer out there. At the very least you can make a fun drinking game out of it: take a shot any time a character utters the f-word. Just don't hold me responsible for the alcohol poisoning that will undoubtedly ensue
Dark, involving story +
Great voice acting +
Decent multiplayer -
Weak controls -
Broken cover system -