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Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Eidos
Developer: IO Interactive
Release Date: Nov. 20, 2007 (US), Nov. 23, 2007 (EU)

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Xbox 360/PS3 Review - 'Kane & Lynch: Dead Men'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 4, 2007 @ 4:09 a.m. PST

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is 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.
Who doesn't like a good heist movie? Ranging from classics like "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to the modern "Ocean's 11" and its endless parade of sequels, there's just something so satisfying about watching a well-planned heist. Sure, they're criminals, and generally they get what they deserve, but it's impossible to deny the allure of seeing a plan in action. That's why it's so surprising that so few video games have taken advantage of this ripe-for-the-picking concept, leaving us with simple games like Th3 Plan or the occasional unsatisfying mission in a Grand Theft Auto title. When Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was announced, combining the excitement of well-planned heists with the fun of cooperative gameplay between two friends, it seemed like a match made in heaven … or at least in Hollywood. That's why it's such a tragedy that Kane & Lynch is such a bust.

In Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, players take the role of Kane, a criminal and former member of the organization The7, who was arrested, convicted of brutal crimes and sentenced to death. However, on the way to his execution, Kane is "rescued" by a fellow inmate, Lynch, under orders from The7. The organization has kidnapped Kane's family and is offering him a choice: Return what he stole from them, or his family dies. Kane is given three weeks and the aid of Lynch to return the stolen loot.

Lynch, however, is more of a liability than an assistant. Absolutely bonkers, he has a habit of "blacking out" and going on a psychopathic killing spree that can only be controlled by his dwindling supply of psychiatric medication. However, Lynch is also Kane's liaison to The7, and if he dies or fails to report in, Kane's family dies. Having to deal with Lynch's psychotic fits in addition to his own time limit, Kane has to find a way to get the loot back, or know that his family's death is on his head.

The big problem with Kane & Lynch's storyline is this: Everyone involved with it is a hateful, despicable, terrible human being. They're all terrible mass murderers with less humanity than a Grand Theft Auto character, and it becomes almost impossible to care about their successes. For example, Kane, a family man who is trying to save his loved ones from a nasty fate, is arguably the most sympathetic character in the game. However, this is punctuated by moment after moment of him being a terrible scumbag who kidnaps, tortures and brutalizes innocent people. While his motive may be sympathetic, he is such a terrible and worthless example of a human being that it's not really possible to identify with him, and he's the most likeable character of the bunch! His counterpart, Lynch, sets the tone for his own actions when, in the first hour of the game, he murders all of the innocent bystanders in the bank. While it's not uncommon for crime stories to feature not-so-nice people, they're usually characters who you can sympathize with instead of being eager to see them die. In Kane & Lynch, your success in the game simply serves to extend the lives of absolutely unlikeable characters.

Kane & Lynch plays like a third-person shooter in the Gears of War mold. In fact, if you've played Gears of War, much of Kane & Lynch is going to seem quite familiar. Most of the gameplay features are identical in design, if not in execution. For example, Kane & Lynch uses the much-copied Gears of War cover system almost identically, but not as well. The big problem with the cover system is that unlike Gears of War, it's awkward and difficult to use. Trying to "stick" to a wall requires a lot of struggle and hoping that Kane or Lynch will listen to you before the police run up and shoot you in the face. Once you're behind cover, combat is rather dull and boring, with bland and weak-feeling guns firing rapidly at lame and poorly rendered enemies … it's just not exciting. A few neat ideas were implemented, like being able to throw grenades back at enemies, but they're few and far between and rarely used well. As a result, the game does nothing but feel like a poor Gears of War clone.

Even if one can get past the lackluster combat, Kane & Lynch suffers an almost game-breaking flaw in the form of the absolutely terrible squad AI. Much like (shock) Gears of War, Kane has a squadron of fellow criminals backing him up. If one of them goes down, Kane has to rush over and rescue him, and likewise, if Kane goes down, one of them can revive him with a shot of adrenaline. It seems simple enough, but it falls to pieces in execution. Your allies possess some of the dumbest AI in recent memory: They'll shoot randomly at enemies they can't hit, stare off into space and run head-first into bullet-spitting turrets. This is frustrating enough on its own, but you also have to try to keep some of these guys alive, which means keeping them as far back as possible and doing all of the work yourself. If you should go down, it's a real crapshoot as to if your allies will revive you. Most of the time they do, but sometimes they just stand around and let you fade away, which is aggravating. There are certain segments of the game that are almost unplayable outside of co-op mode, due to the absolutely terrible AI that Lynch displays, combined with that segment clearly being designed for multiplayer.

Kane & Lynch was clearly designed to be played co-op. While it doesn't fix the terrible AI, having a second player take control of Lynch both alleviates the problem and opens up new storyline segments that are otherwise inaccessible. However, Kane & Lynch's co-op suffers from two glaring flaws. One, it is set on a vertical split screen, which makes it difficult to see the action well, even on a large TV. The second problem is that co-op is only available locally. Despite being designed as a co-op game, Kane & Lynch doesn't let you play with friends online, unlike recent co-op titles like Gears of War and Halo 3, which is almost an inexcusable flaw.

That isn't to say that Kane & Lynch has no online features. The online mode, Fragile Alliance, is actually a really cool idea. Players hop online and team up as a group of bank robbers who pull a heist together. Each member of the gang gets a cut of the profits, and whoever has the most money at the end wins. However, there are a few twists here. You can kill your allies and take their money, but this also marks you as a traitor to your other allies, who can then gun you down for profit. Likewise, anyone killed during the heist respawns as a SWAT member who can kill his former allies for money, although it's a smaller sum than they'd have made from a successful heist. While Fragile Alliance is a really neat idea, it ends up being rather simplistic and boring, and after a few heists, most gamers probably won't see a reason to play it over the number of more interesting online Xbox 360titles.

Kane & Lynch combines beautiful set pieces with terrible human animations. The locations you explore are fantastic, ranging from a shootout against the police in a donut shop to a crowded Tokyo nightclub, to a humid jungle populated by mercenaries, and this is the one area where Kane & Lynch shines. However, while the locales look great, the people who populate them really don't. Character animations are weird and awkward. Most objects barely react to getting shot, and there's no clear indication of doing damage until the enemy falls over, without a mark on him. Kane and Lynch actually get wounded, although these wounds vanish over time and often appear in illogical areas. (Seeing Lynch walking around with a shotgun hole in his head is a bizarre experience.) It's particularly funny if your character goes down and one of your gang members revives you with an adrenaline shot, but since the needle doesn't actually appear in their hands, it seems more as if they're returning you from the dead with a friendly pat on the back.

Kane & Lynch does have excellent voice acting, even if the characters themselves are despicable. Both Kane and Lynch's actors do a fantastic job with their interplay and conversations, and the supporting cast is just as good, really lending a Hollywood feel to Kane & Lynch's otherwise-uninspiring presentation. The soundtrack is passable but is easily forgotten next to the superior voice work. However, one area where the game feels rather weak is with its sound effects. There's no sense of size or realism in any of the weapons; guns sound weak and pathetic, and grenades sound like small firecrackers. These puny effects only serve to make the already boring and frustrating combat all the less interesting.

The best way to describe Kane & Lynch: Dead Men would be "Ocean's 11" covered with a Gears of War sauce, but in the case of Kane & Lynch, this is not two great tastes that go great together. With frustrating, glitchy gameplay, lackluster and boring graphics, and perhaps the least likeable cast in video game history, it's difficult to recommend Kane & Lynch over the many similar, but better titles currently on the market. Even a unique multiplayer mode does little to salvage the title, and the lack of online co-op shoots its biggest feature in the foot. Unless you're absolutely dying for a game to play with a friend and have already exhausted Halo and Gears of War, Kane & Lynch is one partnership in which you don't want to take part.

Score: 6.0/10

Nobody was fired because of this review.


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