Kane & Lynch: Dead Men First Impressions

We meet with Eidos and Io Interactive to get our first look at this upcoming squad-based action game.

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Shortly before traveling to Leipzig, Germany, for the 2006 Games Convention, where Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is being shown for the first time, we paid a visit to Eidos' San Francisco office for a first look at the game. Currently in development at Io Interactive--best known for its Hitman series and for 2003's Freedom Fighters--Kane & Lynch is a squad-based third-person action game that promises to combine the best features of those games with a particularly dark, character-driven storyline. We didn't get to take the controls on this occasion, but in the space of 20 to 30 minutes, we saw more than enough to pique our interest.

Having a sharp object hovering near your eye is never a pleasant prospect.
Having a sharp object hovering near your eye is never a pleasant prospect.

Kane and Lynch are undoubtedly one of the most intriguing pairings ever to appear in a game, not only because they met on death row, but also because they have a strong dislike for one another. The only thing that both men have in common as far as we can tell is that they both ended up on death row after having family members die under tragic circumstances. The backstories for Kane and Lynch will be told as you progress through the game, so all that you really need to know at this point is that Kane is an ex-mercenary who's widely regarded as a traitor by his peers, and Lynch is a schizophrenic who may or may not have murdered his wife while not in control of his actions. The two are compelled to team up when, while en route to their respective executions, they are kidnapped by a team of mercenaries known as The Seven and made offers that they can't refuse.

Assuming the role of Kane, you'll be tasked with completing dangerous missions for The Seven all over the world. You'll invariably be accompanied by Lynch (who can be controlled by a second player in the game's co-op mode), but the two of you won't always have the same objectives--at least going into a mission. In the first level that we saw, for example, Kane was required to infiltrate a Tokyo nightclub and kidnap the daughter of a powerful Yakuza boss, but Lynch was kept in the dark about the mission until moments before he was told to throw the unconscious woman over his shoulder and follow Kane out of the club.

The nightclub interior was reminiscent of similar locales in Hitman: Blood Money, but with a much more crowded dance floor, and it had some superb disco lighting that pulsated in time with the music that was playing. The music in the version of the game that we saw, incidentally, was a track from the Chemical Brothers, but in the finished game, the club will play original music on all three of its dance floors. One of the first things that we noticed as Kane and Lynch moved through the club was that they weren't able to simply run through the hundreds of dancers occupying the floor. Rather, the pair had to move through the crowd slowly, and Kane could often be seen dropping a shoulder or turning sideways to get past people without just pushing them out of the way.

It was a different story once Kane and Lynch had the club owner in their custody, though, as they needed to make a quick exit and had security guards attacking them from all angles. The guards were all wearing white jackets, which made them quite easy to distinguish from the regular club-goers, but the lighting was changing so dramatically from one second to the next that the guards were occasionally quite difficult to see. The guards went down convincingly when they were shot, but the thing that impressed us was that Kane was able to clear a path through the dance floor simply by firing shots into the air and scaring the clubbers.

The other level that we saw during our demo started on top of a Tokyo skyscraper, where Kane, Lynch, and two accomplices were disguised as window cleaners. Their mission on this occasion was to retrieve a briefcase from a boardroom, which we watched them do by rappelling down to the correct floor, placing a bomb by the window, and then doing battle with a dozen or so security guards in an impressively destructible environment. The portion of the mission that we saw looked like it was a lot of fun to play, but more than that, it served to show off a number of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men's features that we weren't previously aware of. You don't get any kind of health bar in the game, for example, but you'll know when you're close to death because the screen starts to turn red and the third-person camera skews at an awkward angle. You'll regain health slowly simply by avoiding enemy fire for a period of time, though we're not certain if first-aid kits or similar appear in the game. What we do know is that when you die (or have a near-death experience, at least), you'll be treated to snapshots of Kane's life flashing before his eyes, which is surely one of the most ingenious ways to tell a character's backstory that we've ever seen. We also know that characters in your group who are taken down can be brought back to life if an adrenaline shot is administered quickly enough, and your relationship with your colleagues will determine whether or not they try to save you in that situation.

Gun battles and rave clubs always make for interesting bedfellows.
Gun battles and rave clubs always make for interesting bedfellows.

When you're in control of your group, you'll be able to give them orders simply by looking at a target area or person and then pressing either a move or attack button. Tapping the button will give the order to one man (or two, if you have a full squad of eight), while holding it down for a couple of seconds will issue the order to the entire group. Your colleagues won't always have the same agenda as you, though, so don't be surprised if they leave you in the lurch once they've completed their own objectives. While you're attempting to retrieve a very specific item, for example, half of your crew might be interested in nothing more than grabbing some loot for themselves. You'll be able to keep an eye on your colleagues using the only heads-up display that appears onscreen at all times--a small box with colored shapes for each colleague, which lets you know how healthy they are and what their current action is. If a member of your group (yourself included) is in serious danger, you might also be treated to a brief picture-in-picture shot to alert you. The one instance of this that we saw was the view through an enemy's sniper scope with Kane in its sights, at which point the Io Interactive representative playing the game knew to get behind some cover quickly.

Our time with Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was all too brief on this occasion, but we enjoyed every minute of it. The prospect of a game that combines and improves upon the best features of Io Interactive's previous offerings is exciting to say the least, and the inclusion of a co-op mode where two very different characters often have very different objectives should add plenty of replay value. The co-op game won't support online play, unfortunately, but we're told that details of online multiplayer modes will be announced in the not-too-distant future. We look forward to bringing you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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