Kane & Lynch want you to hate them. There's just no two ways around it, the characters of Kane and Lynch do everything in their power to make you want them to fail. These men are absolutely unlikable, both men have spent the last few decades killing people, their language is coarse and the two of them have absolutely no respect for one another. Believe me when I tell you that the "heroes" of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men are the two most unlikable characters to ever been introduced in a video game.
But a little hatred can be a good thing when you're developing the next great crime drama. The crime genre is filled with unlikable characters being turned into heroes, look at the characters in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs or any Elmore Leonard book. There can be a lot of amazing tension when the main cast of characters hates each other, and you (the outside observer) can see everybody's point of view clearly. That's what Io Interactive (Freedom Fighters, Hitman) is going after in Kane & Lynch, the new action game for the Xbox 360.
Perhaps a brief introduction is in order. Kane is a family man who worked for a long time as a mercenary for a mysterious group known as The 7, only to be caught by the police and sentenced to the death penalty. Lynch, on the other hand, is a paranoid schizophrenic who is also on death row. Unlike Kane, Lynch is kind of a loose cannon, you never really know what's he's going to do ... or who he is going to accidentally kill. These two murderers are not friends, but in order to get what they both want the two of them are going to have to work together.
Not surprisingly, both Kane and Lynch are pushed together right from the get-go thanks to a somewhat successful prison break. Before long these two convicts are planning bank heists, running from the cops and trying to put their lives back to normal (not necessarily in that order). Early on this game feels like it has what it takes to be an amazing crime game, there is nothing but cop on criminal violence all around you, things are exploding, and everybody is reacting to the constant chaos.
Unfortunately Kane & Lynch: Dead Men can only sustain this level of excitement for so long. It won't take long before the non-stop bickering between these two characters starts to take its toll, couple that with the repetitive missions and you have a recipe for disaster. There were times when I felt like Kane & Lynch was the video game equivalent of having a kid in the backseat kicking your chair and asking "are we there what?" ... only there's no way of turning this car around, once you are introduced to these two characters you are committed until the end.
There are two major problems with Kane & Lynch's storytelling. The biggest problem I have with it is that it's just not very interesting. The game starts out acting like it's going to be the video game version of that 1995 movie, Heat. But it's not. In fact, the secret that nobody is telling you is that Kane & Lynch quickly turns into something of a military shooter. You don't enlist in the Army or anything like that, but before long you will be fighting guerillas in the middle of the jungle and waging war against what appears to be a terrorist militia. If you could chart my interest in the storyline, you would see that I became less entertained with each passing chapter. Had the whole game stuck with the banks heists and squabble between the convicts and the cops that would have been one thing, but I really started to lose interest once our two "heroes" left the country.
The other problem with the narrative is that it's kind of confusing. Instead of offering cinemas between levels that tell you where you're going next and what the mission is, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men just starts you off in a new location every level and expects you to know what's going on. It's actually kind of jarring, because you can go from breaking people out of jail in one scene to rushing a large Japanese skyscraper in the next. There were times when I felt like I missed an important cinema or something. But alas this is just the way it was made, the game doesn't seem to care that from level to level you seem to be going to almost random locations with no set-up what so ever.
But I can forgive a lame story and crummy transitions; what I can't forgive are the terrible controls. Kane & Lynch is controlled like a lot of other third-person action games; you control a small reticule and attempt to shoot down as many bad (good?) guys as possible. The problem is that the crosshair is sluggish and you never really feel like you're in control of your character. The good news is that you can tweak the controls a bit, but even after doing that I found that the game just didn't feel right. What's more, the game is clearly trying to get you to use cover to avoid being shot, but the cover system in Kane & Lynch is broken beyond all repair. Instead of giving you a button to press when closed to a barrier (ala Rainbow Six Vegas or Gears of War), the covering system in Kane & Lynch is automatic. That is, when you are close to something you can use for cover the game will automatically position your character next to it for safety. At least, this is what is supposed to happen. As I played through the game I tried my hardest to use the cover, but the computer just isn't very good at sensing when you should be flat up against a wall and when you shouldn't.
Kane & Lynch is a good idea that is plagued by poor controls, unbalanced weapons, a boring story and some questionable writing. That's not to say that you won't have a good time playing through this brief action game, but you will have to put up with a lot of poor development problems before really enjoying yourself.
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