"What the f*** happened back there?"
"I told you. The gas mask was hot."
"SO YOU F****** KILL EVERYONE?"
I remember, distinctly, seeing the trailer for a new IP from Io Interactive (creators of Hitman and Freedom Fighters) and becoming deeply enthralled. It did not have whimsical use of the game engine, did not promise incredible, new ways to dispatch your enemies. The trailer did not even hint so much that it *was* a video game. All it did was show you what they planned to deliver; a great story filled with intense action.
For the most part, Io Interactive hit the nail right on the head. The opening moments of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is incredible. It's pulse-pounding, and the rapid-fire of the semi-auto weapons all around you as you look for any kind of cover/safety is disorienting. Of course it should be, seeing as how you just survived being rammed head on by what looked to be a Peterliner.
I can't tell you more about the story, but rest assured that for fans of Heat, Ronin, or any crime movie ever made basically, it's a keeper. The plot here is deep and is fleshed out. Not everything is spelled out, and some things are left to your imagination. In the end, Dead Men is best described as a great interactive story, but not without its own flaws.
Kane & Lynch is nothing like Hitman. Where Hitman is stealthy, Dead Men is loud. Where Hitman is cultured, Dead Men is in-your-face, knuckle-dragging gritty reality. Dead Men is, I have to say, very realistic. The recoil on the weapons are fantastic, if only because it's probably one of the most accurate I've ever seen in a video game. I've heard complaints that the aiming system is off, but this is not true. Most gun fights happen within a ten foot radius, and in real life you would not see someone grabbing a head shot from fifty feet out with a pistol. It just doesn't happen. Dead Men takes these aspects of real gunplay from the real world and applies them to the video game setting, and sometimes with mixed results.
While the aiming is definitely accurate and true to life, it is also a little hogwash at times. Firing from cover, for example, can be kind of tedious when your aiming reticle is hovering over the distanced shooter, but yet instead of shooting at them, you're shooting at the sandbags you're using as cover. Of course to remedy this you just hit the Left Bumper and stand, and bang, enemy dead... or you're dead... either way, someone's dying.
Which brings me to the cover system. Expect to die. A lot. Even on the lowest difficulty setting (Aspirin), you can still die upwards of twenty times on save. This game is tough, and you have squad mates for a reason. For the most part they can be pretty dumbwitted, clunky, and not of much use, but when the adrenaline is pumping, an intense firefight breaks out, they can become your saviour. However, this does not fix the cover mechanic. In order to snap into cover, you do not press a button but instead stand next to a wall and jiggle the camera perspective, and voila, your character is in cover.
The problems with this is, of course, that sometimes you can wind up in cover when you don't want to be, or that you can't get in cover quick enough and you're pumped full of lead within twenty seconds, on the ground, twitching, dying, and having flashbacks of your life. Since you only need to be shot two or three times to catch death, and since it's so damn easy to die in Dead Men, it's actually a really good thing that the Adrenaline Shots have been introduced.
I imagine they have been carried over from the Hitman games, where if you're too low on health, a quick shot of adrenaline gives you a nice boost. In this game, it works out that, if you fall in combat, a teammate can rush in to give you a shot to the chest and revive you... you need to be careful though; too many adrenaline shots in too small a time frame, and you're done.
While the gameplay can be a bit wonky, it, for the most part, is very solid. This game IS more Freedom Fighters than Hitman, but that doesn't mean there aren't influences that carry through. The settings are, for the most part, imaginative. The Tokyo Night Club, the Retomoto Building, and even the LA knock down, drag out brawl you get with cops after trying to rob a bank is all wonderfully done. The later levels, however, seem to trade the lush, civilian environments for jungle and war-torn cities. This is where Dead Men starts to falter.
And of course, this brings us back full circle. The plot. The story. The driving force behind the Kane & Lynch experience. It is, for the most part, incredible. I've sat through many games in 2007, and almost all of them have been great except for one area; the plot. This is where Dead Men truly shines.
Kane & Lynch is not for everyone. It is not meant to be played by grandmothers or little children. The frequent use of "dirty words" only helps define this. This is strictly for the 18-34 male demographic that so many blockbuster action films try to grab every summer... but this game, for some reason, succeeds. The gritty telling of a man sent to death row for the murder of twenty five Venezuelan citizens, his only wish to speak to his daughter, to explain, to beg for forgiveness, and his unlikely partner in crime; Lynch. A man who has black outs, can't really remember what happens, and has all of the tell-tale signs of Schizophrenia. His wife was murdered, and he's honestly not sure if he did it or not.
In all honesty, I can't divulge the plot without ruining the experience. Needless to say, Kane is not a hero. He is a tragic figure with tunnel vision, and wants only one thing; to protect his family. Lynch, The7 watchdog, is also along for the ride. The two don't like each other, and that's apparent from the start... but part of what makes this game so intriguing is the almost Abbot and Costello ranting between the two leads. Abbot and Costello soaked in blood and the streets littered with bodies, but Abbot and Costello nonetheless.
I've done my best to dance around the plot. I've also done my best to describe the faults this game has, and their triumphs. Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, is a tragic story of a tragic character who doesn't give a damn what happens to him, so long as his family remains out of harms way. The characters, the sidekick, and the deeply depressing ending (either or, pick one), really strive to let the player know that Kane is responsible for everything that happens to him. It is not in spite of his efforts that these bad things happen, but because of them. In the end, it's damned if you, damned if you don't.