Tucked away in the back corner of X07 was Eidos and IO Interactive’s Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. While the title hasn’t been at the forefront of any major gaming lists, it has generated some decent buzz and managed to get some attention at the show.
The first thing I noticed was the game’s refreshing art style. It feels like you’re in a classic heist or gangster movie where the main cast is all dressed in slick professional suits and the cops are your stereotypical blue-shirt fodder.
You take on the role of Kane, a disgraced former mercenary who screwed up his retirement job causing both himself and his family to be marked for death. Now Kane’s only hope is to complete one last job for his former employer in hopes that it will spare his family from sharing his fate.
Kane’s handler is Lynch, a heavily medicated sociopath with a nasty case of schizophrenia. Lynch is a loose cannon and could prove to be a friend or a foil depending on the situation. Though it didn’t play out in the demo, I’m told that conflicts between Kane and Lynch will be a key aspect of the final game.
The level I got to play was from very early in the game where Kane and Lynch have just robbed a Tokyo bank and are trying to escape. They must work together as a team to get their crew out of the bank and down the street to a get-away vehicle.
The demo played like any other squad-based FPS, though the controls felt a little loose. Kane has the ability to give basic commands like Attack or Hold and for the most part the A.I. will follow his commands. Sometimes, your fellow criminals don’t follow orders, but due to the nature of the game’s story, it was hard to tell if this was just sloppy programming, or because the character of Kane has a reputation for leaving his men behind. Which leads to perhaps the most interesting aspect of Kane & Lynch; death.
Because the game places a heavy focus on teamwork, it employs a “No Man Left Behind” mechanic. When one of your henchmen bites the dust, you, or one of your crew, must run over and revive him using a needle of adrenaline. This may not seem that unique if you played last year’s Gears of War, but what makes this implementation so special is that when you go down, your teammates will come and revive you. However it’s not a consequence-free way to escape death. If you die too many times, you’ll eventually overdose on the drugs. This means you have to pace yourself otherwise you’ll be going right back to the beginning to start again.
A.I. wasn’t the most impressive but as this is a work in progress it’s hard to fault them for it. I can however, say that I was impressed with the A.I.’s ability to find cover. Police were rarely just standing out in the open, often opting to hide behind a cruiser or pillar and only fire when it was safe. Kane’s crew does a similarly good job of finding cover; however, they are not the most adept at advancing their territory, which proves to be a problem when you’re trying to escape.
Taking cover is also handled differently in Kane & Lynch than in most games. Instead of relying on a button to take and maintain cover, you merely need to approach any context sensitive cover area and Kane will automatically hug up against the wall. Unfortunately, the feature worked very poorly in the demo. Only on rare occasions would Kane actually take cover and unfortunately those were the times when I needed it the least. I spoke with the representative from Eidos about the issue and he assured me that it was just because this was an early build and the problems should be cleared up in time for its release later this year.
Kane & Lynch: Dead men has a lot of potential, but a few key areas need some work if it’s ever going to be a truly great experience. Definitely a title to keep your eye on, but not necessarily a must-have just yet.