Reviews March 22, 2010

Kane and Lynch: Dead Men

Kenneth Seward Jr

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Kane and Lynch: Dead Men
Reviewed by: Kenneth Seward jr.
System: Xbox 360
Genre: 3rd person shooter
Rated: M
Players: 1-2 (2-8 online)
Cost: $59.99
Publisher: Eidos
Developer: Io Interactive

“…more F bombs than you can shake a stick at”

It is hard out here for a gamer! I mean, there are just so many potentially good titles coming out this year. With all the hype, and the fact that most gamers aren’t rich, it’s hard to differentiate between what should be bought and what should be forgotten. This brings me to Kane and Lynch, developed by the makers of Hitman, Io Interactive. While Kane and Lynch certainly has potential, I am not sure if it’s a must buy.

The game starts with Kane on death row, writing a letter to his daughter. It seems that Kane, being a mercenary and all, has been at odds with his family. His wife left him with their daughter after their son accidentally killed himself when he found one of Kane’s guns. Shortly after that incident, Kane became part of an elite mercenary group called The7. He worked for the highest bidders, taking part in military conflicts around the world. At least till a mission in Venezuela where a lot of innocent people were killed. Rumors have it that he was the only survivor and made off with a large sum of money. To bad he was arrested and sentenced to death when he came back to the US. What makes matters worse is that the rest of The7 thinks he really did steal the money and purposely left them for dead.

Then there is Lynch, a schizophrenic murder who also happens to be on death row for killing his wife. Usually Lynch is a nice, yet vulgar criminal. However, when he has one of his psychotic episodes, he is a homicidal maniac. The7 contacted Lynch while on death row and promised him that he could replace Kane in their organization if he helped them get revenge. On their way to get executed, Kane and Lynch are freed by The7. They have kidnapped Kane’s wife and daughter in order to force him to work for them one last time. The7 wants Kane to retrieve the stolen money or they will kill his family. Lynch is brought on to make sure Kane doesn’t try to run off with the money, in exchange for Kane’s spot on the team after The7 inevitably kills him. This certainly seems like it’s going to be one hell of a video game right? I mean you have great characters and an interesting plot. All you need is stellar gameplay and you would have a potential “game of the year” on your hands.

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Now don’t get me wrong, Kane and Lynch has a lot going for it, it’s just that not everything works the way it should. Let’s consider the campaign mode and highlight the pros. Being a third person shooter/action title where the main characters are criminals, there are a lot of amazing shootouts to get into. There is something exciting about fighting off dozens of SWAT while hiding behind a concert pillar that’s being blown into confetti. Adding to the excitement is the inclusion of allies. With very intuitive controls, telling them what to do is extremely easy. To cycle through each member of your crew you use the D-pad, to tell one to hold his position you tap X, and to tell one where to go, you point in to the desired location and tap B. You can even tell a member to attack a given target by pointing at it and tapping Y. If you want your entire crew to do something, you “hold” the button corresponding with the action you want to take place. And, because the AI is smart, you won’t have to worry about babysitting each member of your crew. They will seek out cover when getting fired at and will use the safest route to get to their assigned position. When you run low on ammo, the closest one to you will let you know that he has some to share (regardless of the gun you’re holding). Another notable feature is the way this game tracks your health. Following today’s trend of using a simplified hud or onscreen display, only the most important icons are shown during play. What this means is that you won’t see things like a health bar. As you get shot, and get shot you will, your screen gradually turns red. In order to heal yourself, you’d move out of harms way until your screen turns back normal (like the shields in Halo). If Kane…I don’t know, takes a bullet to the face, you will fall to the ground and the screen will turn white. Your crew will try their best to revive you by administering a dose of adrenaline. After a couple of seconds Kane will stumble back to his feat and continue the fight. You can do the same for your crew if they are heavily damaged.

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Now it’s time for the Con’s of the campaign mode. As much as I like the story when it started out, as time when on, my enjoyment of Kane and Lynch’s struggle waned. Most of the story is relayed through Kane and Lynch’s dialogue. The problem is that I stopped believing that they were criminals because of the ridicules amount of cursing going on; there are more F bombs than you can shake a stick at. I am not saying that criminals don’t use curse words, it’s just that Kane and Lynch’s dialogue feels forced at times. I mean do you really have to say “Oh F**k” three times, then “F**K”, followed by “S**T” to get your point across. There was even a time when I ran low on ammo and Kane yelled out “I need more ammo” that was followed by “F you” by Kane, even though he still gave me ammo. I don’t like to use such “symbols” in my reviews but it would be hard to show you what I am trying to say other wise. This game, fueled by its somewhat realistic story line, is hindered by unbelievable characters mucking up the experience. One thing that really disappointed me was the fact that Lynch’s condition isn’t exploited more in the game. We are given this great premise about Lynch being a schizo and it’s used very little in the story line. There were two times when Lynch lost it and killed someone, but both times were scripted and took place in cut scenes. Towards the end of the game, Lynch all but loses his schizophrenia for no apparent reason. Co-op doesn’t help either. When a second player is controlling Lynch and he starts to go crazy, everyone on his screen turns into a cop. While this is a cool feature, it doesn’t add anything to the gameplay as the “cops” he sees don’t pose any kind of threat. The only way to make the effects ware off is to wait, which adds another wasted opportunity to do something interesting with Lynch’s condition.       

Another aspect of the campaign mode that needed more work is the use of “cover”. If you want to hide behind a structure, you move towards it and your character will snap onto it. At this point you can blind fire at enemies, aim around the structure for more precise shots, or leave “cover” by moving away from the structure. In theory this feature works, but when it isn’t implemented well it really hurts the gameplay. There are many times when I wanted to hide from pesky bullets and Kane wouldn’t “snap” onto the wall. I would be pressing up against the wall and nothing would happen. At other times, I would try to flank an enemy by running around the opposite side of whatever structure that was between us, only to get randomly stuck to it. This resulted in the enemy carefully placing six or seven bullets in my side and me having to start from my last checkpoint. I don’t understand why, with games like Gears of War or Rainbow Six: Vegas using proven cover mechanics, wouldn’t Io Interactive just use a button that would allow you to adhere to surfaces.

The multiplayer mode, like the campaign, is also a mixed bag. Up to eight friends can join a server and try their hand at being criminals. The host can choose the location (which in turn chooses your objective), the number of rounds, the time limit for each round, and how many players are allowed to join. When the match starts, your team must work together to successfully steal a large sum of money. Once the money is secured and you’re ready to escape, you must make your way to a get-away van while fighting off cops/bodyguards. An interesting twist is that anyone of your teammates can turn on you and steal the money for them selves, as they will not have to split their share with the others. If someone becomes a “traitor” (by killing a teammate) they will show up as orange on the radar. This will make it hard for the backstabber because the player that takes down a traitor gets a cash reward. Once a teammate is killed, he re-spawns as one of the cops. If he then kills the remaining criminals, he gets a reward as well. If a player dies, the only money he keeps are the cash rewards (hence the importance killing traitors when you’re a criminal and killing criminals when you’re a cop). If at the end of a match you were lucky enough to have to some money, you can use it to buy better weapons and gear for the next round.

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While it’s fun to play as a group of robbers trying to take down a bank, there are a lot of problems keeping this mode from being great. I really don’t like the fact that you can’t kick “jackass” players. The fun that could be had by this type of gameplay is successfully killed by jerks online. The idea is that once you have taken down the opposition and stolen the loot, players can turn on each other in attempts to take the money for themselves. This is broken when you have guys shooting teammates before you even inter the place you’re going to rob. There is no reason a player would do that other than to piss everyone off. This could easily be fixed if you could vote to have the harasser kicked from the game, but you can’t. You have to put up with them until all the matches are over, resulting in people quitting games early. Then there is the problem with buying weapons. You must select from only three different sets of equipment. Each one is priced differently and comes with a certain gun, number of grenades, and some sort of armor (like flank vests).  This lack of real choice in gear makes stolen money often seem useless. Once you buy your gear, and as long as you don’t die, you won’t have anything else to spend your hard “earned” money on. And don’t get me started on the grenades. I have never seen such large explosions that resulted in absolutely no deaths. Why even include them in the equipment sets if they are going to be a waste of time? I even once saw a grenade explode beside a NPC. His car was in flames but he was completely unharmed.   

The last problem lies in the difficulty settings…there are none. Let’s say your team wants to work together to complete a job. If everyone on your team has played a third person shooter within the last three years, you will easily take down the AI controlled opposition. It’s just too easy. I guess the developers at Io Interactive thought people would be betraying each other more.  

Bottom line

Kane and Lynch is definitely worth a rental. It just, like the criminals themselves, rough around the edges. The fact that this is a big year with blockbuster titles dropping every week doesn’t help this game’s chances of being bought at all. Or if it is bought, nothing is stopping people from trading it in at their local Gamestop.

Gameplay: 6
The mechanics of Kane and Lynch function as a third person shooter should; it’s just not a good one. The story’s shortcomings are made worse by the fact that the end of Kane and Lynch’s tale will leave you saying “wait…that’s it?”

Graphics: 9
I can’t complain. Kane and Lynch is a good-looking game.

Sound: 7
The sound quality of the bullets, explosions, and music is great. The bad script is what keeps this game from earning a higher score.

What’s New: 5
Really, there is nothing in the campaign mode that hasn’t been done. However, the online multiplayer mode was a nice try at something new.

Replay Value: 1
There is no reason play the campaign more than once (and no, the dual ending does not help here). The multiplayer mode, given that there are only four maps and the AI is easy to run over, gets rather boring after a short period of time.

Final Score:

5.6