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Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

They're men. But they're not dead. Yet. It's time for this army of two to take on one last job...

First thing's first. Xbox World 360 would finally like to send a public thanks to the fine nation that is Denmark, that oft-forgotten, southernmost Nordic nation. They've given us a fine selection of lagers, bacon, Lego and Michael Laudrup. All fine contributions to world culture, we're sure you'll agree. But right now, we're more thankful for Copenhagen-based IO Interactive - and their latest export looks like blockbuster stuff.

Playing Kane & Lynch is a tough yet exhilarating experience. It's grim, gritty, and very much in your face. It's a weird and welcome touch that the main protagonists are basically bona-fide scumbags. You won't learn to love either of them (even if you'll admire some of their skills). Kane, who you'll play in single-player, is the former family man turned con after his home life falls apart; Lynch is the schizo who turns psycho thanks to over-administration of bad drugs. Their 'banter' is strictly x-rated, hurling abuse at each other throughout. They're forced together through circumstance, and they can't stand each other. But until they've tracked down the cash, they'll have to stay together.

The new shots right here show off the two levels we've played through. There's really only one way to describe the experience: tough. The game might focus on the relationship of these two in the squad shooter, but making progress requires far more than firepower. Inheriting the spirit, and control system, from Freedom Fighters, how you manage the team of mercs is crucial. Ordering them about, thankfully, is quick and simple, enabling you to set up crossfires, perform pincer movements if you want, or have them simply follow you as an extra gun.

Our advice, though, is to become familiar with the on-the-fly-control system as soon as possible. Kane & Lynch is set to be a challenging game. IO's determination to produce "tons of smoke" and "thousands of bullets" is achieved by flooding levels with hordes of enemies, whether it's the your traditional criminal henchmen or the various agencies of police enforcement who don't take too kindly to your team's brutal, blood-letting rampage. Enemies aren't just quick on the trigger, but also pretty smart; they'll use cover effectively, rush your positions if it's the right thing to do, or take up defensive strategies, working in tandem with each other. So using your team intelligently will make your progression both quicker and far more satisfying.

So Kane & Lynch struck us as tricky thanks to the smart AI and sheer enemy numbers (and, to be honest, a couple of control issues that we're sure will be ironed out). Fortunately, ammo and weapons are plentiful. Plus you'll have a couple of other smart techniques at your disposal. They've taken the top crowd system from Blood Money and evolved it, so crowds can be used as cover, to melt away into, or used to create panic. When there are hundreds of people scattering in front of you, it's difficult to ascertain who your targets are. Trigger mass panic (and let's be honest, one look at these two would probably be enough) and you can cause a stampede for your own advantage.

And of course, you'll become familiar with a more traditional arsenal of weapons, which are plentiful. Shotguns, automatic weapons and snipers - ammo and guns are in easy supply, can be stored amongst other members of your team and stolen from the legions of dead bodies you'll leave scattered across K&L's beautiful scenery. If you're any good. And there's also the inclusion of tear-gas - not something you usually get to deploy in the wide world of videogaming, and it's another great way of changing the gaming environment.

The verdict

It's got a backstory worthy of the film that's already being made of it, the most intriguing gaming double act for years and some seriously satisfying brutal action. Graphically, it's super-impressive while playing it is supremely intense. You know what? We're well up for it. Any day now...

Xbox 360
Io Interactive
Eidos Interactive