Review: Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Cale and Rich: Dead Unimpressed.
When they are not making more games in the always poplar Hitman series IO Interactive sometime make other games like the 4th best game ever made Freedom Fighters and now Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.
As in Freedom Fighters Kane & Lynch is a mix of third person action with tactical squad control although K&L also adds some other features none original but the now familiar sticky cover, recharging health, ‘adult’ storyline and the obligatory turret section make an appearances.
I have never hidden my love Freedom Fighters or even the last Hitman game and the prospect of a ‘spiritual’ sequel to FF as IO have been touting it got me exited in ways only previously sensed watching a Mya Diamond movie. However, my excitement quickly turned to a sensation of sinking dread upon playing the game for the first time. By adding to the FF formula and encumbering, it with features none of which really works K&L far from becoming a new franchise for this generation has been born a wasted stillborn mess of half-done features and badly implemented ideas.
It takes far longer to list the faults here is I will quickly tell you what they got right. There is a good variety in the different locals be it urban banks and freeway chases in LA or dark and claustrophobic nightclubs in Tokyo. They all look good with just the right amount of lighting and particle effects used to give them atmosphere and flavour. The music also serves the game well with more excellent compositions by long time IO collaborator Jesper Kyd.
So now, we must go from the slightly good to the mostly bad. What really makes me dislike this game so much is what a wasted opportunity it is. This game COULD have been fucking amazing. When you strip away the features that have been crammed in to appease all those cocks (me included) who expect things like sticky cover and recharging health you have things like the adrenaline system.
If you take too much damage, you collapse to the ground and slowly start to die. This gives Lynch or another player if you are playing off line co-op (another wasted opportunity) or Fragile Alliance mode (more on that later) a small window of opportunity to get you and give a shot of adrenaline that will get you on your feet and back in the fight. You can also administer this to any teammates in the same state but if you take too many does in a short time, you overdose and die anyway. It is not a huge leap in terms of innovation but makes more sense than ‘using’ an oversized first aid kit.
The aiming is poor with the over-the-shoulder zoom taking up to much room on the screen and every gun apart from the sniper rifle has way too much recoil making even a fired single shot stray meters off target. The best option is to roughly be facing in the right direction and just blaze away and hope for the best. The sticky cover doesn’t has an assigned button so you have to stand/duck next to the cover and hope Kane takes the hint, if you are a few pixels off the sweet spot he will not more leaving you exposed and most likely being shot by the enemy AI.
Another essential function not mapped to a button is reload which is automatically done if you have not fired a shot for a few seconds. This sounds fair enough but if you are waiting for an enemy to pop out of cover and then find yourself stuck in a two second reloading animation it is frustrating as hell but not as frustrating as their snipers. When you are being set up for, a sniper shot a crosshairs mini window appears in the corner of the screen and sure enough, you can watch as the fucker draw a bead on your brainpan with perfect accuracy. So you run for cover but he shoots you anyway. A short while after the adrenaline kicks in and you get up only to be blatted by the same sniper a second later. You collapse and then die from an overdose of adrenaline given to you by the AI teammate.
Like many games, it uses real-time cut scenes in the games engine. This helps keep the flow of the game going but can from time to time create weird situations where your team’s AI makes them bark instructions during important dialogue sections or jog on the spot. The erratic AI behaviour also carries into the games action sections. Being stuck on scenery, running in circles, refusing to move or defend when given an order all of these problems and more blight every aspect of the game.
None of these problems existed in Freedom Fighters so I can only assume that the move to HD has left the AI routines with digital downs syndrome. Levels with a high civilian presence like the Tokyo nightclub make collateral damage impossible to avoid with people running into crossfire and refusing to avoid grenades. Such is the suicidal nature of them, contrasted by the shear bloody mindedness of the cops who will shoot or drive right through them to get at you.
I had high hopes for Kane & Lynch as soon as I read those five magical words ‘spiritual successor to Freedom Fighters’ and whilst the game received something of a critical mauling I still remained hopeful.
So does it disappoint? Well in many ways yes. Graphically it has the stark, uninteresting look of a budget game (or Splinter Cell: Double Agent), there are a liberal amount of bugs and glitches and the enemy AI is pretty much as bad as I’ve ever seen in a game. If I’m shooting someone in the face I expect a reaction. I mean even the beasties in Doom at least move towards you.
Also the collision detection is absolutely appalling and the cynic in me actually thinks the shoddy AI might be a way of balancing the fact that your shots often won’t damage the person you’re shooting at. Also, much like Freedom Fighters in fact, enemy characters take a lot of damage. Which gets irritating when there are so many of them. Add to all that an attrocious cover system which just doesn’t work at all and I should be giving this game 1/10.
So why am I not also completely mauling this game? Maybe it’s the story, which refences all the classic heist movies or the memorable set pieces which are epic firefights with destructible scenery, stacks of enemies and a real sense of panic and urgency. The game is original, brutal and entertaining. At least some of the time. Also there is a lot of fun to be had out of the multiplayer modes that constantly tempt you to kill your partners for a bigger share of the loot.
Kane & Lynch does have enough of the Freedom Fighters about it to be considered some kind of sequel and whilst it isn’t fit to kiss the arse of everyone’s favourite anti-commie shooter it does have just enough quality to warrant a look.
Secondary Score: 5/10
The dialogue sounds like a bunch of ten year olds playing army in the park with every other character shouting “Fuck!”, “Shit!” Or “You fucking shit!” every other sentence. So a note to other developers, just because you have decided to go the 18, AO or whatever your local censors want to call it route, you do not have to have fuck as a comma not a curse. Just take the example of modern cinema like Sin City. Sex, violence, taboo themes in abundance but hardly a curse word to be heard because it does not need them.
Well I have spent almost all my time so far tearing the single player game a new arsehole such is the amount of shit in it, is the multiplayer any better? No the lack of online co-op that could have helped paper over the cracks with team AI is truly criminal. You can have a co-op game with a second pad but doing so would most likely end with one player lamping the other for failing to administer adrenaline or whoring all the ammo.
The Fragile Alliance mode that tries to replace the online co-op is as broken and flawed as the single player campaign. All the problems with aiming and cover carry over and add the inability to run or move quickly when crouched. If and when you do try to get revenge on another player the fact you can see their name through walls makes ambushes or any kind of tactical flanking impossible and pointless. The few that will play it will no doubt be whoring the achievement points as a good chunk of them are tied up in online mode.
If IO had given Kane & Lynch another development cycle to sort out the problems with the game engine and to trim the dialogue this could have been a possible GOTY nomination from me but as it stands it is just a broken frustrating game that squanders any good will you might give it. If they really do have Freedom Fighters II on their to-do-list and if there is even the slightest chance it will be anything like this then they can just leave the franchise dead rather than make another lemon-like piece of shit.