Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

Considering the termination of Jeff Gerstmann’s job at Gamespot over his review of this game, it was with great trepidation that I loaded up Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. But after hiring four lawyers and drafting a couple of legal documents I was ready to take the plunge.

All jokes aside though, IO Interactive’s controversial shooter is a mixed package. Following the success of their ever-improving Hitman games (which has just recently spawned a blockbuster film), Kane & Lynch was to be a new franchise to replace the bald-headed, bar-coded and cold-hearted killer Agent 47. However they haven’t changed the formula much. Now there are two ugly-as-sin protagonists to control and a body count that would make even Rambo blush.

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The characters in Dead Men are what make this different from the dozen other third person shooters on the market. Kane and Lynch are complex individuals. Kane is the older of the two with a face that looks like it is held together by a single bloodied bandage. Once a consultant, his relatively normal life takes a turn for the worse when his two-year-old son Stephen finds his gun, shoots himself with it and dies. Two weeks after, Kane has a breakdown and his wife, who blames him for the death of their son, leaves him. He skips the country and becomes a cold-hearted mercenary who eventually is contacted by a mysterious group known only as The7. Things seem to be in place for Kane but after thirteen years of work with The7 his retirement job in Venezuela goes horribly wrong. He manages to escape with a fortune in diamonds but the authorities catch up to him and he is sentenced to death.

Meanwhile Lynch is a paranoid schizophrenic who made a blue collar living in a meat packing plant. He needs a large amount of prescription pills to keep his volatile nature under control but after one of his 'blackouts', it results in the brutal murder of his wife Anna. Now on death-row as well, it is never clear if he is the victim of a set-up or that he really has killed his wife in a delusional fit.

These two lovable critters cross paths in an armoured truck being transported to their last resting place – a maximum security prison. We soon learn that Lynch has premeditated an escape plan, but before Kane can figure out what’s going on, the truck is involved in a head-on collision. Suddenly an unknown group of mercenaries have set them free. However, this isn't a rescue. It’s a kidnapping. The two are taken to a construction site where it's revealed that the remaining survivors of the Venezuela job are behind the break-out. Not being all that impressed with Kane botching the job and then running off with the goods, they are understandably out for revenge. They make him an offer: retrieve the stolen items back in three weeks or his wife and daughter Jenny will be murdered. Successful or not, he will still be executed. Meanwhile Lynch is told to stick with him as a watchdog, reporting in to The7 on Kane's movements.

It is pretty complex and thanks to some great story telling and voice acting, really adds that extra much-needed dimension to the game. With the massive shoot out sequences and cut scenes, Dead Men practically grabs you by the collar and throws you down an elevator shaft from scene to scene. But those people looking for a Gears of War or Rainbow Six game will be disappointed.

This game is as rough as Kane’s mangled face. But this is all part of the game’s appeal in my opinion. For example one of the key scenes in the game is a back robbery escape and it is completely manic. Cops will come in shooting wildly, smoke grenades will be going off everywhere and you’ll be desperately running from desks to pillars trying to find cover. Taking cover is simply a matter of pushing yourself up against a structure and from there you can shoot blindly or peak out for targeted shots. Unlike Gears of War, taking cover isn’t quite as well implemented and some people will find pulling away from cover frustrating. Another similar aspect is that even targeted shooting isn’t very precise. When aiming at distant targets you will find yourself lining up a headshot and then using a whole clip before doing any damage. However this lack of sharp-shooting does create some great close-quarter action.

The scenarios are where the game really excels. You’ll be placed in a busy nightclub filled with punters, in the back of a van shooting at hordes of pursuing cop cars and even in Havana and Tokyo locales. Once you get used to the controls and the lack of finesse in shooting, you’ll be able to sit back and just enjoy the carnage that plays out around you. One of the great features of Dead Men is the ability to enjoy it with a buddy thanks to the two player co-op split-screen mode. Unfortunately the game is split vertically so seeing things peripherally can be tricky. But being able to plan out cover fire or rob a shopping mall with a mate is a lot of fun.

Like the gameplay, Dead Men isn’t as polished graphically as some might like. Although the character models are well rendered, some of the effects are a bit dull. Many of the maps have destructive environments so you can expect bullet holes on every surface and plaster flying off pillars. But some of the explosions and collision detecting is hammy at the best of times. Shooting a rocket launcher at a helicopter results in a little spark of flame and some smoke before the chopper plummets to the ground. There are also some pretty dodgy plot holes as well. One mission requires you to save someone from being squished by a dumpster truck screaming towards them. Logically you would think to shoot the driver of the truck but it doesn’t seem to matter what you use as you can’t smash the freaking windscreen! Eight clips later and the window is unscratched and your poor victim is now part of the cement. Frustrating but eventually a solution is found…on a gaming forum somewhere.

Another new feature is the squad mechanics that - amazingly - function quite well. The AI is pretty clued up throughout and will return fire or seek cover depending on the environment. But for the real control freaks you can issue commands to allies fairly easily. This can be particularly helpful to accomplish objectives by getting them to flank to the right and target a group of enemies while you sneak around the left for a clear shot. Unfortunately the aforementioned problem is you can take your time to line up the perfect shot, completely hidden, and then blow your cover by unloading 200 bullets and failing to hit anything. This is just due to the unusual cover system where even if you can see an arm or head, if they are “taking cover” you will struggle to hit them regardless of what is shot.

On top of the co-op mode, Dead Men has a novel multiplayer mode called “Fragile Alliance”. It’s a very clever name because the game can be played with between four to eight players and is a mix of co-operative and deathmatch at the same time. The players have the choice of teaming together to get through heavily guarded areas and get the goods. Or to double-cross your team-mates, shoot them in the back and grab the loot for yourself. As you can imagine, it can be a lot of fun. But could also destroy some friendships through treachery.

All in all, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men has some great assets. Intense gunfight scenes of chaos and a great storyline give this game a positive score but the overall package is let down by bugs and control difficulties. The other concern is that, multiplayer aside, the single-player story is short-lived, clocking in at around 7 hours from start to finish. Despite this though, you’ll be left with some great memories and a soft spot for the two characters before you’re finished.

"Intense gunfight and storyline, but let down by bugs and control difficulties. "
- Kane and Lynch: Dead Men
Follow Own it? Rating: R18   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 15 Min


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