Anyone with a crippling shortage of testosterone would do well to take a dose of Kane & Lynch. It's manly in ways real people aren't: swearing as punctuation, bullets and corpses everywhere, cheap shiny suits. It puts the 'mental' in 'sentimental', as Kane's hunt for his daughter raises the bodycount into the hundreds.
However, Kane & Lynch never rises above 'enjoyable', and the parts never quite gel into something I can wholeheartedly recommend. The action, a third-person shooter viewed mostly just over the right shoulder of Kane, is an interesting attempt to resurrect Freedom Fighters' (Io's previous attempt at an action game) blend of intense firefights and squad tactics.
The dynamic between the two main characters - Kane, an ex-merc saved from death row by a gang he double-crossed, and Lynch, the gang's tool to get Kane to do what they want - is always entertaining.
But there are huge flaws: notably shoddy friendly and enemy AI and an awful cover mechanism. Wherever the titular anti-heroes go they cause trouble - the kind of trouble that makes people shoot at them through crowded rooms. Kane can issue orders in battles, first selecting the man and then one of three actions (return, shoot or move).
The idea here is that the AI's autonomy can be overridden if you fancy busting out some fancy flanking manoeuvres. But it's quite clunky, particularly in a busy firefight, and Io's AI has a small habit of wandering away mere seconds after responding to the order.
"Move", you'll order, and they will, but the "stay" part of that direction seems to just dissipate, so while you're catching up, perhaps completing a beautifully planned pincer movement, they're over at another part of the level.
Even so, the cannon fodder gene is clearly dominant at whatever clone factory churned out the enemy AI. It's not as if any fancy moves are necessary - they'll happily stand and stare at you, or move to cover that gives you an easier chance of killing them. Io have fancy tech that generates huge crowds on screen with which to show off, but not one NPC has anything above a basic intelligence.
All this makes it fundamentally annoying that most failures in missions come from weight of numbers, cheap enemy spawns and inadequate cover. I can handle being beaten in a fair fight by a smart enemy, but when I'm behind a sandbag trying to get my bearings, I should be invincible. It's only fair, but all too often angles and cover allow bullets to graze the player.
Cheap deaths are an unforgivable part of Kane, which is exacerbated by a system that asks you to look after your team. They get killed, you don't resurrect them in time, and it's game over. This all comes to a head about halfway through the game when the action shifts to Havana in the middle of a coup, and the difficulty level takes a liking for high places. Sometimes you can't even move without dying.
Disappointment doubles in the co-op missions. They can only be played on one PC and require an Xbox 360 controller to work. To remove the keyboard and mouse from the equation is to strip away a lot of what makes PC gaming what it is.
Co-op works with the other player controlling Lynch, trying to keep his mood swings in order and occasionally diverting to side-missions. It's played on a split screen, crushing the images on horizontal boxes, losing half the screen to your cohort. Bah!
But most problematic is the broken multiplayer: frankly, we couldn't get it to work. In the same week it was announced the game went gold, the same week that we were told the release date was being brought forward, our attempts to connect a multitude of machines were stymied. We're hoping to take another crack at it in a future issue, as the idea behind a gang of people allying to rob banks is just too intriguing to let go.
Which just leaves me with the sad duty to inform you that Kane & Lynch is nothing more than a merely adequate shooter.
Coming from the people who made the superlative Hitman: Blood Money, it's a little hard to take, but the truth is that it's a one-dimensional experience, and just glancing around the rest of the reviews section it's clear that there's a metric ton of better games out in the same month.
Fun but severely flawed shooter