I’m going to start things off by looking at the multiplayer side of the game. Normally I’d choose to focus mostly on the singleplayer stuff, but I’m doing it for two reasons. The first is that I’ve already looked at the singleplayer side of things. The second is because the multiplayer campaign is pretty damn interesting in and on its own.
There are two modes of multiplayer; co-op and Fragile Alliance. Co-op is exactly what you’d think and allows two players to work through the singleplayer campaign. Co-op is available on every platform, which is good, but only in offline mode, which isn’t quite as good. That means if you want to play with someone then you’ll have to do it split screen and they’ll have to sit pretty close to you unless you have a really
long-range wireless controller.
The co-op campaign is different from the standard singleplayer game in a number of ways but, since I ended up discussing that in detail with Morten Heiberg the Lead PC Programmer for the game, I’ll come back to that a little bit later. For now, let’s look at the Fragile Alliance mode.
Fragile Alliance is the only ‘true multiplayer’ mode available in Kane and Lynch
and is built around the idea that each and every heist movie ever made (a genre which provided massive inspiration for the game) has some sort of double-cross at the climax.
The gameplay itself is simple. Up to eight players start a level as a team of criminals in balaclavas and are tasked with getting away with as much loot as they can from one of four available levels. The actual loot is always different, but we got to play two different levels which had the team having to steal money from a American bank or stealing drugs from a Yakuza strong hold.
Players who die as criminals will respawn as cops, click to enlarge
Opposing the players is a team of A.I. controlled police officers (or Japanese mobsters in the Yakuza level). If a player is killed then they respawn ten seconds later as a tougher-than-average SWAT member, complete with Kevlar and SMGs.
Or so you might think – in reality the game is massively complex but, like with all good things, it’s all in the details. There are two main principles to remember; friendly fire is always on and that although players have to work as a team, there is always a clear winner.
Once the criminals have successfully gathered some loot, the challenge is then to escape the level by getting to the getaway car so that the loot can be divided
by the survivors. The idea is to be the survivor with the most money – something which can only achieved if you are one of the few (or the only) criminal to make it out alive. Therefore, players who are first encouraged to work as a team are then forced to make a choice about whether to betray their team or not.
The game is, as Morten later said, like a see-saw and players have to learn how far they can push it. Sure, you can kill the rest of your team at the start of the level, but they’ll just respawn as cops and will all work against you to claim the bounty which is then placed on your head for being a traitor. That bounty can be claimed by both criminals and police by the way. Betraying your team will also earn you a black shirt instead of the usual Reservoir Dogs
white, so other players will easily identify you and treat you as a risk.
The Fragile Alliance game mode is built around the idea of betrayl, click to enlarge.
The other route is to efficiently work as a team, bag the cash and get out – but it will leave you with very little cash to buy weapons with for the next round. Quickly players’ personalities seep into the game and gamers get a chance to show their true colours. Are you a team player or are you, like me, constantly waiting for the right moment to throw a grenade into the vault and wipe out your allies?
There’s much to love about the Fragile Alliance, especially the little nuances which make the game interesting such as the ‘Money Shield’ effect which allows gathered cash to absorb damage but drops loot on the floor (again, encouraging players with little cash to act out of desperation).
However, there’s also a downside and it turns out that the Fragile Alliance mode is a see-saw in more ways than one. The main thing I didn’t like was the 200 second time limit on each round. On the plus side, this drives up the tension another notch and keeps things fast paced, but it also makes things feel too
fast and a lot of the time it felt a slightly more lenient time limit it may have been in order.
The time limit also has a domino effect on other aspects of the game, especially the level design which tended to be a little on the basic side so that players couldn’t get lost. However, the most annoying thing of all was that I had to cut my multiplayer preview short when I had just perfected the art of surviving through one level and avoiding my allies. I didn’t want to stop playing, which is a testament to the quality of Fragile Alliance I suppose, but in the end I had to go and interview some guy about a game…