If we had lazyitis, we'd probably take one look at Kane & Lynch and diagnose it as 'Freedom Fighters meets Hitman', with a more ambitious narrative. But that would be lazy, even if it turns out to be true. Instead, we'll continue to quote the official line in the absence of actually having had a hands-on. In Eidos' bestest PR speak, we're told to look forward to a "story-driven, fully co-operative third-person action shooter title, with intuitive crew mechanics, heavily populated destructible real-world scenarios, a volatile partnership and brutal attitude."
During our visit to Leipzig a couple of weeks back, we had a chance to sit down with IO's art director Martin Kramme Guldbaek and chat about the game's development, whether we'll see it on other platforms, how long the game is, and about the torture of making a decent demo.
Eurogamer: Can you tell us about the multiplayer at this stage?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: The multiplayer - which is a pretty big part of the whole package is based upon one single idea which we can't really figure out why nobody has had before, so we're going to wait at least half a year before we release any info on that, because it looks like a new online game mode. We would hate it if someone beats us to it, it would be pretty annoying.
Eurogamer: When's it out? Which platforms?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: It's a Spring 2007 release, and it's announced on PC and 360.
Eurogamer: Any particular reason you've ignored PS3? Surely you have dev kits?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: We have quite a few of them, we have 15 or something like that. We have done a lot of development work at IO on PS3.
Eurogamer: Ok, then maybe you're not up to speed as much on PS3 as the other platforms?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: There are a few things, I think, we're technically up to speed with. The 360 has been performing well in-house for quite a while. There are some online capabilities that we're not completely sure of how they work on the PS3, so there's some uncertainty there. We can't talk about it. Doing three modes on a new franchise on two platforms simultaneous release is a bit of a feat.
Eurogamer: Why aren't you doing Kane & Lynch on PS2 and Xbox as you did with Blood Money?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: There's no Xbox market, they're selling super few games right now. The PS2... It's a possibility, but launching a new franchise is dangerous on an old format. You have to sell it at full price, and there aren't too many first time buyers. It doesn't have many of the 'front runner' as such, and also when we do this on 360 and PC, quite a bit of marketing money comes in from Eidos. That way, launching a new franchise is easier on emerging consoles. I'm not saying things won't happen, but it would jeopardise the deadline seriously. Our engine is super scalable, and it is running on the PS2 still, but it's just the amount of submission, different languages... it doesn't fit with how much money you make out of it. And it's BORING! [laughs]
Eurogamer: How long have you been working on Kane and Lynch?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: About a year.
Eurogamer: Is that all? That's pretty swift development these days...
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: No it inherited a lot from earlier projects, like Hitman, there is some technology, but it's mainly used in specific areas like heavily populated city areas where you decide when the action starts, but that's more or less all we used from Hitman. We used a lot of Freedom Fighter - we were happy with the base mechanics, so we've taken that and refined it a little bit, and then built the framework around the new franchise, namely Kane & Lynch.
Eurogamer: Is this a much more combat-heavy game?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: A lot of it is.
Eurogamer: Any stealth elements involved?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: There are stealth elements - not in the way that you'd think of it like Splinter Cell, it is much more stealth in the way that I take care of a few guards so that the 15 other guards don't see what you're doing. The game has close combat as well so that each part makes more sense, especially when you're in civilian areas. We'll be seeing something in the night club where if we didn't play in god mode and didn't have unlimited ammo, there would be quite a bit of stealth and close combat with the guards
Eurogamer: We noticed in Hitman Blood Money some references to Kane & Lynch. Does that mean that this is part of the Hitman universe in some way?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: That I can't comment on. I can't... I won't comment on that.
Eurogamer: That's a yes then!
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: Naaaaah, it means we'd be stupid to give a definitive answer.
Eurogamer: Are you saying you'd have to play it to find that out?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: Errrr, no...
Eurogamer: Now you're working on this big new franchise, does that mean less focus on your other brands?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: IO has grown quite a bit, we're still working on other franchises.
Eurogamer: Presumably there will be another game in the Hitman series, though?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: Oh definitely. We've got to give it some work though, but it will continue. There's some pretty spanking news coming out about that soon, we'll have to see where that goes. But for now this is the biggest product we're working on. We've got about 100 people on the team, and as such this is the biggest we've had at IO so far, as well as expanded with some outsourced people as well.
Eurogamer: How long would you say the game is?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: Around 12 hours. We aiming for not more than 16, not less than 10. We're also conveying a story. We've done one thing which is hurtful to the gameplay time - we've got quite a lot of checkpoints. It's quite forgiving. In memory terms, it's super expensive to do that, but I think you'll feel better.
Eurogamer: It's less frustrating because of the checkpoints?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: Yeah.
Eurogamer: Is it fair to say it has a lot in common with Freedom Fighters?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: If you've played Freedom Fighters you'll be right at home. It's still the same simple one-click to send one guy/all the guys control system. There's a follow mode called 'mimic' because they try and do as much as you can, like if you sneak or you're hiding behind something they will try to do the same thing. The 'fire at' mode is highly context sensitive in the way that if you fire at geometry they will lay down suppressive fire, if they find soft targets in the area, like cars or people they will try and do that. We also use a lot more destructible cover in Kane & Lynch.
Eurogamer: There doesn't seem to be any menus in the game - is that deliberate?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: One thing that happens when you make a game that goes from the start to the end without any break is that we don't have any menus. We don't have anywhere you can buy weapons or equip weapons or anything like that, but we're in a situation where we want a lot of weapons. Yes, I want rocket launchers and sniper rifles and all of that, so we can't just put them in crates or dead enemies or whatever. The thing we do most is look at how to best use the crew members, so instead of weapon select we have a system where if you get close enough to them you can see their inventory. Some of the guys won't give you their stuff because they really hate you. Some of them are much easier to deal with. Lynch in his psycho mode won't give you his shotgun, for example.
Eurogamer: Are either of the levels you're showing off likely to become the demo?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: I'm not quite sure. This one has the problem of being near the end of the game...
Eurogamer: The problem with your Blood Money demo was that it really wasn't a good representation of the full game...
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: Don't go there. Not our decision.
Eurogamer: So you won't be making that mistake again?
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: Shhhhhhh! Let's be frank about it. Let's blame somebody else! [laughs] To be fair a lot of people like it that way as well.
Eurogamer: But it didn't really show off the game in its best light.
Martin Kramme Guldbaek: It did not [laughs]. Unless you do a demo simultaneously at end of development... It's a pain to do demos when you're wrapping up a game, because you've entered submission and there are so many other things to sort out.
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men will be available on Xbox 360 and PC in 2007 from Eidos.