Kane and Lynch: Dead Men

November 26, 2009

I’m off to a very positive start by sharing some gripes about mainstream shooters, so now I would like to talk about a shooter I absolutely love.


Kane and Lynch: Dead Men.


Yes, the game that may have lost Jeff Gerstmann his job.


Kane and Lynch was released back at the end of 2007 to a very mixed reception. Some people called it trash, others thought it a decent shooting game. It had a lot of advertising, especially on Gamespot, and was made by IO Interactive, the team responsible for the Hitman series. The fact it was forgotten so quickly speaks wonders of just how swamped by shooters the industry was and is.


So what was the game like you ask? A third person shooter with a cover system and squad commands. You could carry around a sidearm and a primary weapon as well as grenades. There was a general mix of automatics, a couple shotguns, a sniper rifle and a silenced handgun in later levels. You could blindfire from behind cover, and give your squad the command to defend a spot, move somewhere or attack someone.


Yes, I have just described every shooting cliché ever. Yes. This is probably the point where other people forgot it, while it stuck with me. Since I play so few shooters none of this felt overplayed or too generic to me. Don’t mistake me, I knew it was, but I wasn’t desensitised to the medium yet so it was still an enjoyable experience. It did have a very nice revive system, where should you or your team get killed, just smack a needle full of adrenaline into their heart to get them up. Revive too often in a short space of time and you’ll overdose.


It’s other distinction was where I ended up finishing the game, co-op. Offline, splitscreen co-op which around this time developers just forgot about. For some reason this most basic of multiplayer techniques had just disappeared in favour of online co-ops and it was killing so many games. I have only ever spent money on 1 month of Xbox Live, and so I have never played online multiplayer, meaning half the content was shut off to me in so many games. Shadowrun, for example, would have just been a total waste.


After struggling on a level due to a total barrage of bullets I invited a friend round to try it on co-op to see if we could make it. Starting on the first level under the intention of training we ended up playing the whole game through in one sitting. This makes it sound short but we were having so much fun it didn’t matter. Especially hilarious was the in game cutscene that we messed up at least 50 times because we thought we should be shooting.


And now for the main reason why I liked the game. The story. Good God the story. It’s like if Guy Ritchie was American and given a giant budget. This is not a space marine game or an elite military task force, this is a game that knows perfectly well that you are playing criminals, you are committing murder with every bullet and they make sure you understand this the whole way through.


The titular Kane and Lynch form our main characters, who will be playable throughout the whole game. Kane was a family man until his son got hold of his gun and shot himself by accident. His wife left him and took his daughter away, and Kane went on a self destructive path that eventually landed him as a mercenary. After being enlisted by a group called The7, a job goes wrong and Kane leaves them to die and makes off with the goods. He is then arrested and put on death row.


Yes, you’re playing a murderous, ageing, depressed traitor. His motivations are clear and his personality well developed. The only weakness is we’re never told how he became a mercenary, but Kane is so ashamed of his life it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’d never mention it. This grants him a believable mysterious past as it becomes clear that Kane has never been the most moral of people and meeting people from his mercenary days during the game tells us that nobody, and I mean nobody, likes him.


His counterpart is Lynch, a schizophrenic with possibly multiple personalities. He is heavily medicated and lives happily with his wife for many years. Then he comes home to find her brutally murdered. Lynch claims he didn’t do though evidence says contrary and he too is put on death row. The7, not dead yet, contact him about a deal regarding Kane. They’re going to break out Kane so he can return their goods, and Lynch is going to watch him in return for his freedom and joining The7.


And that’s where the game starts, in the middle of a huge prison transport bust as Kane and Lynch both cross a city under orders of a small group of mercenaries. And then it just gets worse. You go from daring bank robberies to high speed chases to high profile kidnapping until you’re breaking into prisons, waging a small war on the streets of Tokyo and fighting an actual war somewhere in South America on a roaring rampage of revenge. And it all feels like a natural flow. The jump into said war is a might jarring as there’s not as much build up as other elements of the story but you’re soon acclimated to the situation.


There’s a real attention to making characters real. No one is a hero, and no one is a villain. The7 do bad things to Kane because Kane did horrible things to them. The people you recruit will constantly whine and argue and sometimes even threaten and it is only the promise of a big pay off that keeps them going. Kane himself is emotionally dead and approaching his 40s now, he won’t run that fast and fights dirty with a bladed ring. The subtle bald patch adds tons to the character. Lynch is a ball of rage with a receding hairline who kills for fun and more than once he royally screws up everything when his pills run out. In fact in the co-op mode you can enact these psychotic episodes as visions, enemies and NPCs all shift and change without any warning.


Just a heads up, this game has multiple choice endings and they are both of them depressing. Seriously.


With so many incredibly bland, meaningless plots that were just a shuttle from one battleground to another and characters who could be replace with bricks with trigger fingers it is just amazing to be given this real person to play as. No, you’re never going to sympathise with them but you’re damned if you don’t actually care about what happens to them, even if it’s a need to watch this plane crash through to the end.



So that’s Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, a game that needs all the love it can get.


Yes, I’m the only person looking forward to the recently announced sequel.


Sorry this wasn’t funnier, as an apology accept this joke:


Two men were standing on a building suit arguing about who was strongest. They decided to settle their argument by seeing who could throw a brick the highest. The first man got his brick and hurled it straight up. In a few seconds it came plummeting back to Earth. He smiled smugly at the second man who stood up to take his turn. The second man gritted his teeth, steadied his feet and with all his strength tossed the brick skyward. They watched as it went up and up and up…


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