The people who made Kane & Lynch clearly love the movie ‘Heat’. From the opening, where you find yourself in the midst of an escape from a prison truck, to an ensuing selection of action sequences that pit the convicts of the title (and an assortment of others) in mass shoot-outs against law-enforcement officials, cinematic style is prevalent. It’s exciting, too, and hard not to be sucked into the midst of. It’s just a pity it doesn’t all hold together under the surface.
The game itself is a third person shooter, and a very violent and foul-mouthed one. You take on the role of Kane, who was being transported to his execution at the start of the game when other people interjected with their own ideas. The game’s adventure then takes you across a variety of occasionally insanely-testing missions, often with a squad of people on board to help you beat them. Most missions are action based, but there are moments when a bit of creeping around is easily your best plan.
Still, it’s the squad elements we enjoyed the most. Kane & Lynch really makes you feel a part of something, and as anyone who has played the hugely underrated Freedom Fighters can attest, developers IO Interactive know how to do squad combat. Ordering people around and engaging in mass firefights is as much fun, when on form, as you could want it to be. It’s also intuitive enough to quickly wrap your head around.
Where the developers struggle is in some of the gaming mechanics (after all, some would argue that they’ve still not got their Hitman franchise fully licked after all this time). For instance, the game has a feature whereby you, when pushing against an appropriate surface, automatically stick your back to it, thus allowing you to quickly pop out from cover and take a few shots.
The problem is, the shots taken here don’t always work: several times we blatantly shot our opponents, but because they too were behind an obstacle, the game decided they should survive. Fair enough if they were covered, but when we blatantly got a head shot, it’s tough to swallow. Likewise, being in cover can be fiddly at times, and it’s not as effectively implemented as it is in something like Gears of War. Given how much you’ll come to rely on cover, this is a significant problem.
And there’s another factor that hurts Kane & Lynch. For while it’s a perfectly enjoyable action game, it simply can’t buy itself a leg-up in a very crowded marketplace. Released in the midst of Call of Duty 4, Crysis, Gears of War PC and Unreal Tournament III, there’s nothing about it that lifts it above any of them.
Still, you can’t help thinking that if the gameplay mechanics were as fine-tuned as the style and the concept, then Kane & Lynch: Dead Men would have carved itself a bit of a corner of the market. As it is it’s good, but sent us looking for our copy of Freedom Fighters once frustration kicked in. A pity.