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Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

IO Interactive decided it was time to take a break from the Hitman series and try out co-op gaming, with not one, but two anti-heroes; and thus Kane & Lynch Dead Men was born. Iíll admit, when the game was announced I felt that it could have been something that would be interesting, I mean I love getting to play a bad guy in games and the ability to do this co-op like in Gears of War? Awesome in theory, not so much in execution. Gears of War Ė I apologize for mentioning you in the same sentence.

Kane & Lynch stars the titular men, one of whom is a ruthless mercenary and the other a highly medicated psychopath. Iíd explain who is who, and why each are on their way to their death via the prison system but that would spoil the fun and shocking revelations of the game. Just know that you play as Kane, and if you can somehow finagle a partner to play theyíll take control of Lynch - otherwise the single player can order the other around via the less than desirable squad system. Apparently Kane used to be part of a group known as The7 and, before being tossed in prison, was part of either a massive heist or conspiracy. Obviously he supposedly is the only one who knows where the heisted item is. The7 break Kane out of prison while in transport and quickly partner you with Lynch in a quest to appease The7 so you can get on with your life. The game then turns to a weak revenge plot that quite honestly didnít hold my interest at all. Even playing as these bad, bad men couldnít hold my interest. Itís a shame.

Having an already workable third person engine, I hoped that the controls for K&L would have been a lot tighter than they are. Aiming your weapon, whether zoomed in or out, is a slow and somewhat imprecise process, especially in multiplayer. If aiming was the only problem then that might be ok, but even the cover mechanics the game employs are a broken mess; especially when compared to other 360 shooters. No need to press a button to enter cover, simply lean into a spot which you think might offer good protection, and sometimes your character will take cover. I found myself progressing through the game avoiding cover, and only using it when it was accidental and even then it was a panic to get out from cover.

As mentioned the single player game uses a lot of squad tactics that are mediocre. I understand the need for differentiating between telling a crew to lay down, suppressing fire and taking a position, but why canít the team take a position and look around to take out waiting combatants? I have found worse instances of squad controls and K&L, while definitely not the bottom of the barrel in this regard, doesnít quite have the right feel to be a solid squad shooter. Quite frankly, I personally stopped playing the single player campaign after making it to a certain point where you gain control of a large group of militants to make a strike. The game hit a turning point and fell into a very generic title with even worse game mechanics than the first 75% of the game. Most importantly, thanks to poor AI on both enemy and ally, the battles were always bloody and very rarely in your favor.

Hereís a quick note to any aspiring game creator out there Ė simply littering your game with an abundance of expletives does not make your game edgy, cool, tough, mature, or the especially important x-factor of video games - entertaining. On a somewhat positive note, the voice acting in the game is not terrible, but sadly itís not impressive either. Thereís still the feeling of all voices being recorded separately and then edited together in a disjointed fashion. Rather than the feeling of a real conversation taking place, itís a series of edits to stitch together something which sounds half-way decent. Graphically, the game isnít much to write home about but I didnít notice any major glaring flaws. The characters are slightly blockier than games of this generation and the overall feel of the world is fairly bland and dull. Even in the final tropical setting, itís a ďFar CryĒ from other titles that are placed in similar settings.

The one possibly redeeming reason of this game is the multiplayer aspect. You can work through the story mode with the aide of a partner; which might actually have been a little more enjoyable than busting through single player. Sadly, the option to play co-op online does not exist. The sole option for Xbox Live play exists in a mode called Fragile Alliance. In what is a nice take on a multiplayer game, you control one of up to 8 robbers on a mission to hijack cash from one of the very limited locations but with a possible twist. Each robber who makes it to the escape van is entitled to his or her fair share of all the cash safely taken. However, as any movie has shown us, a double cross is a good way to get greedy. At any time you can take out a teammate and steal his cash, but if killed they spawn as the police and have a chance to get payback. Each online session consists of multiple rounds. If you become a traitor early in a round, be prepared to be attacked on each subsequent round.

Personally, K&L gave me more problems than Iíve ever had with any Xbox Live title. Almost every time I tried to enter a game, I was kicked before even joining the lobby. On the rare occasion where you do connect to a game, chances are high that the game will freeze on you between rounds and require a reboot of the console. If you do manage to get into a quick match, most people only play with 4 at a time making the heist slightly boring and predictable. With a game style like this, having more players are more entertaining and an absolute must. Sadly the faults of the single player mode come into play here as well. With shoddy aiming and clunky controls, taking out a traitor or becoming one yourself can be tricky. But, fun can be had Ė in one of my games I was actually able to complete, someone pulled the ultimate heist. There were four of us working together to get the cash out, but only three entered the escape vehicle on the first approach as the fourth watched. As the vehicle drove away, he tossed a grenade under the van causing it to explode and kill all three of us leaving all the cash for the fourth. An excellent move that I wish I had thought of initially, but sadly moments like this are few and far between.

Thereís been recent controversy over this game concerning a fired editor over at a particular gaming site. I fully agree with what he said. This game is severely flawed and his rating was more than appropriate for this particular game. Sloppy and muddy controls, a broken aiming mechanism combined with a couple of characters who youíll never really care for at any point make for a dull and tedious gaming experience. Compound that with the shoddy squad mechanics, lack of online co-op, and a seemingly broken online experience doesnít make the game sound appealing in the slightest. The online arena does show some potential if you can connect and stay in a game, but that alone does not warrant enough of a draw and itís just not worth the effort of obtaining a copy. You can safely skip this game and not feel like youíve missed out on anything too important.