Kane & Lynch: Dead Men Preview
If you've ever wondered what a more focused version of Grand Theft Auto might be like, you need to check out the upcoming Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. This hot action title for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC is scheduled to drop this November, and we're gonna get down and dirty with the nitty-gritty - a more fitting description for this game doesn't exist, by the way - so get ready for a rough and wild ride. Several portions of the game have already been available for play at previous events this year, like the Games Convention 2007 in Leipzig last month, and Io Interactive has released plenty of new info. No, you won't be able to play Grand Theft Auto IV this year, but the K&L bad boys have the solution in the palms of their heavy-weapon-toting hands. But be warned- you'll be dealing with better AI than you've ever seen in GTA games, and just about every second will be crucial to success.
A third-person squad-based shooter at its core, this game has you taking control of...well, a couple of "dead men" if you're not ultra-careful. Io's latest production is bound to be very controversial simply because your targets are frequently law enforcement officials; i.e., the police, SWAT, FBI, and anything else the state or government can throw in your path. One of the first levels, Tokyo Streets, has you attempting to escape a building while under heavy fire from the local police. You'll be taking cover as often as possible, too, because every enemy in K&L is probably a lot smarter than you're ready to give him credit for. And remember, a lot of the environment in this game is highly destructible, which means that the cover you choose may not be cover for long; keep low, keep out of sight, and keep moving. But hey, you can take advantage of anything combustible around you, provided you're a bit strategic when selecting your position. Cops hiding behind their cars? A well-placed grenade will take making things a lot easier on you.
Yes, we just used the word "strategic" when describing an over-the-top action game. This is because of that aforementioned intelligent AI and the fact that it's not just you against a small army of police. You'll have a whole crew at your disposal, and the cops will frequently know exactly where you are and what kind of firepower you're packing, which immediately forces you to think a bit more than usual. Awww...right? Enemies will stay hunkered down behind cover for a while, and the only way to get a clear shot at them it to somehow execute some flanking maneuvers, which of course requires that some of your crew distract the target(s). If those targets are constantly running between cover and staying mostly protected, they can be extraordinarily difficult to deal with, and you don't want to risk your own position - and well-being - by being overly aggressive. Despite the concept behind K&L, you'll actually be spending a good deal of your time locked in a defensive position rather than a position of power or control.
Also, you will obviously only control one character at a time, and that will be Kane. Lynch is a little nuts, and he can pose a problem if you don't keep him on a short leash. Apparently, according to those who have already sat down with a playable demo of the game, Lynch has been known to fire on already-deceased enemies (for fun, we guess), and evidently, he may not want to take direction all the time, either. But at the very least, you know you're up against some very ticked off authorities, and you know you have to find a way for everyone in your crew to work together. Lynch may be psychotic, and the rest of your crew might not appreciate being told what to do, but hey, thieves need leaders, too. That would be you, and you're going to be issuing commands on a routine basis throughout your intense experience. Fans of other squad-based titles like Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon will enjoy this style of play, and while it does appear rather simplistic, we've heard nothing but good things about your allies. They're actually effective!
Your crew commands are straightforward: stay, follow, and attack. But depending on the situation, your crew will adapt to what's going on around them and act accordingly...despite the constant whining and complaining. You can also issue an order to one particular crewmember or the entire crew simply by either tapping or holding down the command button. Therefore, it appears players won't have any problem whatsoever getting accustomed to the controls, and rather than struggling to get a handle on those, you'll be focusing on the gameplay. And that's always a good thing. But that doesn't mean the game will be easy; it simply means that we won't be struggling to master the controls, and sometimes, that can be an issue with squad-based titles. Instead, we'll be using the time to battle our way free of the pesky authorities, who are destined to be our primary source of trouble throughout. Kane and Lynch clearly have a death wish, but can they survive? Heck, should they survive?
Well, if they don't, one of your teammates can bring you back to life if he acts quickly enough. Those of you familiar with Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter are quite familiar with this concept; a comrade goes down, and if you can beat the timer, you can "resurrect" him. This will be one of the obvious benefits to keeping your crew close during crazy firefights, because it's not likely you'll make it all the way through this game without dying a bunch of times. You'll have a fairly large arsenal, though, and considering the easy-to-grasp squad controls, there's little excuse to constantly getting gunned down in the thick of battle. However, there is the possibility you'll face nasty snipers and tear gas, so you will have to assimilate to any added complication. Hopefully, we'll be able to save at any point or at the very least, enjoy a lot of checkpoints liberally sprinkled throughout each level.
Lastly, as the name might suggest, there should be a cooperative aspect of the game. Supposedly, Io has said a second player will be able to take the role of Lynch at some point, but we can't really be sure if this will be a requirement. We can't imagine it would be, but perhaps the co-op portions will be a feature that adds a greatly appreciated amount of diversity to the gameplay. Split-screen? Or even online multiplayer? Anything like that could really give this game a boost, especially because the very idea of these two guys "out on the lam" is enough to inspire numerous multiplayer/co-op possibilities. Without any doubt, there's a lot to be excited about here, but we still have a few questions for Io and Eidos: once we get out of a jam, will the game be more open-ended like GTA, or will there always be an objective? And if there are frequent objectives, can we go about accomplishing them in multiple ways? Basically, we just want a better idea about how much freedom we can expect, but beyond that, we're thoroughly stoked for this anticipated holiday game.
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is slated for a November 13 release, and it's certainly showing a great deal of promise. We'll be sure to keep you apprised of any new developments, and we suggest you keep an eye on this one as well. Looks mega-cool!
9/14/2007 Ben Dutka