Kane & Lynch: Dead Men Reader Review
Good cop, bad cop. Starsky and Hutch. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Things are always better with two people, and Kane & Lynch doesn't deviate from the formula. Telling the story of escaped convicts on the run, Kane (an ex-mercenary) enlists the help of Lynch (pyscho-schizo on meds) to track down some stashed cash for payback; except things don't go quite to plan and turns into a hunt for revenge.
All quite a standard thriller affair, but the key thing here is that it's one that goes from action to action. It's a rather well-paced adventure, taking you from the crashed van, to the bank, to the delivery point, picking up old 'team mates' and then out for revenge. Throughout there's banter between the two main players, exposing what they were like before all the corruption, before the escape and what they think about the present situation. The voice acting puts the sort of spin on the characters that I'd expect; a slightly softened gruff of past high-octance death-dealing adventures, but still able to command at a moment's notice.
But besides the rather nicer-than-standard visuals, level design and ideas, and the change between all-out shooting and all-out running away whilst shooting, I believe the best bit about Kane & Lynch is the co-op gameplay. Having not played this in single player, all I can say is that - quite clearly - the game has been made from the ground-up with co-op in mind. Never was there a point when either player was sitting around waiting for a trigger point; there was always something both of them could be getting on with, with examples of cover and movement, all-out shooting and progression, and even the classic sniper-cover action. It was all quite, quite good.
And playing it on the hardest difficulty, in co-op, is the only truly way to properly play this game. What especially makes this playable are the well spaced save points; there's hardly any section that is too long to replay and even after a couple of goes you'll know what you should be doing. It keeps the action fresh and allows you easily progress to the next set-piece which is exactly what you want in this sort of game. Speaking of which, the developers have even made death an interesting prospect, and one which you might not mind encountering; for when you get knockdown, you can be revived with a morphine injection from your partner, but more importantly are the snippets of 'voices-in-the-head' that provide more detail to the protagonists' lives. The memories of screams of denial, or family chatter of what is to happen in the day, it all makes the characters that bit more enjoyable to play and further understand why they're doing what they are.
On your travels, you'll meet up with others from your past and they become part of your squad to which you can give orders. They are okay at doing what they're supposed to, but there can be no replacement for someone to actually do something more human-like. And it's all quite violent, both visually and in language. There was many a time when I saw Lynch shotgun a cop in the face, watching them get thrown backwards into a backflip. Nasty stuff, yet it's so theatrically pleasing.
So with all this good praise, I'm going to have to be picky and say that the cover system is a bit shit. It's context sensitive, which means no button pressing and you have to wait until it realises you want to stick to the wall. Which is usually a little too late and you've left the wall and gone on to shoot everyone.
The multiplayer, Fragile Alliance, is a neat idea although there are not enough people playing it. Comprising of the simple yet elegant nature of cross and double-cross, you start off as a gang member, go to steal money and make for the getaway spot. There will be guards between you, the money and the getaway, but then there are your team member. Killing your own makes you a traitor; you killed becomes a guard; all money is up for grabs and the one that steals the most and gets away wins the round. Simple, and it adds that extra angle of watching out for guards and your back - especially important when they are human players. It's just a little unfortunate that only four players can play at the same time and the maps are a little on the small side although do provide a little scope for varied play. But just like any other, it depends on who you play with.
So, for all the rather mediocre press that this game had garnered, it is actually something a little more than that. It's not wholly special but as a first and new IP by Eidos that is actually quite good and better than a lot of other drivel out there, I don't understand why people just don't give it a chance. It's a fairly decent sort-of-cinematic romp-around with some running-and-gunning that keeps the adrenaline going. Single-player no idea, but grab a mate and chow and you will not regret it.