As plot devices go, it's a classic. Instead of a lone protagonist we have an unlikely pair, forced together against their will. The resulting friction provides an opportunity for narrative exposition, an engaging relationship and entertaining arguments.
But while traditionally such a partnership consists of one crazy guy and one straight guy, the latter is nowhere to be seen here. Kane & Lynch is the story of two professional psychos.
Kane (balding, scarred fellow on the left) is a third-world business consultant turned negotiating mercenary. Things went a bit wrong after his young son accidentally shot himself and his wife divorced him. Lynch (balding, bearded man on the right) is a self-medicating schizophrenic who underwent similar marital problems some years back. The pair meet on death row in a prison transport van that's sprung by vengeful members of Kane's old secretive mercenary brotherhood The Seven. None too pleased with Kane's betrayal, they give him a chance to travel the world collecting the money he owes them in order to save his family, and Lynch is hastily appointed to go with him as watchdog.
In singleplayer you play Kane, and throughout your third-person running and gunning you're always accompanied by the unbalanced, pill-popping Lynch. When not player controlled, the pair turn to face each other and bicker, rapidly reaching histrionics.
In one of the levels we saw, the unlikely team wandered around a Tokyo nightclub. Having found the owner and taken her hostage, Kane handled the shooting on their way out while Lynch avoided fire with their victim over his shoulders. Play alone and Lynch is handled by AI, but for those of us with a friend willing to control the creepiest character PC gaming's seen in quite some time, split screen co-operative play is available, and looks serious fun.
In singleplayer mode, you use a fine-tuned version of the squad control dial from Freedom Fighters to order Lynch around, and any other mercenaries you get under your control. (Control over individual mercs can be passed between players in co-op.) Being mercs, you might find these colleagues unwilling to hand over ammo or carry out highly dangerous orders, but developers Io are taking steps to ensure this doesn't annoy.
Brutal is the word for the action itself. There's no HUD of any kind until you give orders or change weapon and the damage you take causes the camera to become increasingly juddery and tilted. Eventually things will start fading to white and your character will start yelling for help. Adrenaline injections keep you on your feet until the level ends and you can get some boring medical attention offscreen.
Accompanying all this, "highly innovative online multiplayer" is also promised, but being kept under wraps for the moment. We'll see. It's all sounding very intriguing. But following on from four Hitman games, we can't help but wonder what it is that Io see in baldies.
If were going to pretend to be criminals and gun people down, lets at least do it together.