IO Interactive has spent the last year or so thinking about what's real. That doesn't mean the developer's selling its car, renting out the flat and heading to Goa with an acoustic guitar, some awesome liquorice sticks and a dreadlocked chick named Mary-Beth it met on the Circle Line, however. Rather it means that the designers of Kane & Lynch have been studying the kind of things people associate with reality - prodding through the internet in search of whatever it is that has the power to jar and shock by virtue of its authenticity. They want something that will make you drop your ice lolly and think, "Ooh, that's a bit raw for a videogame". Sorry, Mary-Beth.
That's why one of the entries on the developer's first-reveal slideshow presentation is "More Real". It's a peculiar kind of bullet-point, perhaps, but these are peculiar times, particularly for Kane & Lynch, a franchise that's probably more closely associated with boardroom scandal than couch-bound thrills at this juncture.
A quick reminder may be in order, actually. Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was the fruits of a strange marriage between Ray Liotta and Terry Nutkins, as Kane (the kind-of handsome thuggish one with a military background) and Lynch (the definitely not handsome one with some severe emotional problems) dodged a one-way ticket to death row before shooting up a variety of holiday locations ranging from LA to Havana.
It wasn't particularly brilliant, truth be told, even though Lynch, looking rather a lot like the kind of person found putting his hand up to ask about poinsettias on Gardener's Question Time, made for an unlikely proposition on the front of a videogame box. It wasn't particularly stylish, either: a drab chug through drab locations, in which you filled the shoes - in single-player at least - of the drab, sane guy rather than his sparky partner.
Neither of these things are problems the sequel's likely to suffer from, however. The story this time hinges on a simple arms deal gone wrong, and the setting is videogames' latest group craze, Shanghai (possibly so popular because the inevitable army of out-sourced artists won't have to look far to find visual references). "It's the most urban place on the planet," says game director Karsten Lund, "the best place in the world to disappear."
More promisingly, the focus of this outing is Lynch rather than Kane. That means squad dynamics are ditched, but instead you get the chance to be a raving psycho who approaches events in a more improvised manner.
All of that is secondary, however, to the delivery, and that brings us back to the quest for reality. These days, reality is found on YouTube, according to IO Interactive - not the animated LOLcats and grannies-slipping-on-roller-skates side of YouTube, but the blurred cameraphone-and-atrocity aspects: the furtively-captured police beatings, and the frantic subway fights seen over someone's shoulder.
The developer's being surprisingly thorough, too. Every element of Kane & Lynch 2 has been tweaked to fit in with the central aesthetic, from the start screen and its disconcertingly humdrum shot of car interior with traffic wheeling past, through menus that ape the video service's selection lists, to that familiar buffering icon - very familiar to me thanks to Vodafone's broadband, which appears to run on an infrastructure made of suet puddings and old string - which replaces loading bars.
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