That is an odd thing for a professional games journalist to open an article with assuming he wants to maintain some façade of respectability at least, but I’ve said it nonetheless. At bit-tech we’re reckless with our game reviews.
Crime is a natural topic for computer games to explore because it provides natural adversaries and challenges which everyone in the world is familiar with, whilst still giving normal law-abiding citizens a chance to escape from the mundane realities of modern living. It’s why the Grand Theft Auto series has done so well from the offset.
Lately there’s been a trend among games to get a stronger focus on story and to get both more cinematic and realistic at the same time. The trend has produced a fair few oddities, but one of the few potential gems of it all has been Kane and Lynch.
Developed by IO Interactive, the same team behind the Hitman series, Kane and Lynch is best described as a co-op heist movie about a half-blind rogue mercenary and psychopath who may or may not have murdered his wife.
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Needless to say, it appears to have a lot going for it in terms of originality and premise. The key though is whether this originality and cinematic feel can become more than just the blurb on the packaging and translate through into fluid and interesting gameplay, so let’s take a look at the game and see if it can walk-the-walk as well as talk-the-talk.
One of the major appeals of a game like this is the story and Kane and Lynch certainly doesn’t fail to deliver.
The main character in the game is Kane, the half-blind mercenary. At the start of the game Kane is on death row and writing a letter home to his daughter who he hasn’t seen in a long, long time. Kane's history is a troubled one; a regular office worker, his life fell apart when his five year old son found his revolver and shot himself by accident. Unable to cope and with a history of running away from responsibility, Kane snapped, left his family behind and ended up drifting into the life of a criminal.
Years pass and Kane eventually comes to the attention of a group called The7, a criminal organisation with strict rules made up of the world's mercenary elite. The7 accepts Kane, who proves to have a natural talent for gunplay, into the group and for a while Kane finds his place in the world again – until a job goes wrong. Left with a fortune in stolen swag and believing the other members of The7 are dead, Kane runs again and ends up stuck in jail.
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On his way to be executed, Kane meets Lynch – a psychopath prone to blackouts who isn’t sure if he murdered his wife or not. When the pair are abruptly sprung from jail, Kane learns that Lynch is working with The7, who have offered him Kane's position in the group if he can prove himself worthy by supervising Kane. Kane is then blackmailed into recovering the loot in order to save his kidnapped family – though Kane accepts that he’ll die either way.
The story is pretty epic and pretty fast-paced then, with a very clear no-nonsense attitude taken towards the characters and the narrative itself. There’s very little in terms of chaff and extraneous (man, I love that word) dialogue and you very quickly get the feeling that the writers have considered and weighed the value of every syllable. Stylistically, the game is near perfect – every word and exposition is kept brief enough to stop players getting twitchy, but long enough to convey the full meaning.
Be warned though – the game isn’t for kids and straight off the bat the game is swearing and screaming at you. There’s scenes of quite open brutality and more than one mass-murder which is more meaningful than just a player mowing down hordes of Nazis. In keeping with the excellent pacing though, all this brutality remains securely in an appropriate context and is important to the way the story unfolds.
There’s no unnecessary Manhunt 2 style executions – but there is plenty of quick neck-snapping action handled in an adult manner. It’s actually quite refreshing in my opinion, but admittedly I am a crime-loving freak.