Kane & Lynch: Dead Men Impressions

Eidos and Io Interactive stop by the GameSpot office with the latest work-in-progress build of their upcoming action game.

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Toward the end of last month, Eidos and Io Interactive confirmed that a previously unannounced PlayStation 3 version of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is in development alongside the Xbox 360 and PC versions. A day or two later, representatives from both companies paid us a visit and brought the latest work-in-progress Xbox 360 build of the game to show off some of the progress that's been made since we saw it last August. We weren't allowed to get our hands on the controller during this visit, but we were still able to get a feel for how some of the gameplay has changed and is continuing to evolve.

The Tokyo Highrise level where our presentation got underway was the same one that we saw last year, but it was looking even better and, as soon as the action got started, it became clear that the gameplay has also improved. Disguised as window cleaners who are accompanied by three other guys, Kane and Lynch must rappel from the roof of the skyscraper down to a boardroom, get in through the window, retrieve a briefcase, and then escape to the street via the front door. But before they can do any of that stuff, they will need to deal with a handful of enemies on the roof.

According to Io's game director, Jens Peter Kurup, one of the key strategies in Kane & Lynch is positioning your colleagues in such a way that they attract the attention of enemies and, in doing so, afford you an opportunity to flank them. That's exactly what Kurup did on this occasion. He got the fight underway by tossing a tear gas grenade toward the unsuspecting enemies and then ordering all four of his squadmates to take up positions toward an area of the rooftop where they could attack the enemies from behind cover. The tear gas disoriented the enemies as they came under fire, so by the time they recovered their senses to return fire at Lynch and the rest of the group, Kurup—as Kane—was already well on his way to a position off to the side from which he was subsequently able to pick off the enemies no longer in cover behind a bullet-ridden helicopter.

During some sequences, the camera will reposition itself to afford you a more cinematic view of the action.
During some sequences, the camera will reposition itself to afford you a more cinematic view of the action.

With the enemies taken care of and the small rappel point icon located, it was time for Kane and his crew to make their way down the front of the building. As they rappelled down, the camera automatically repositioned itself a couple of times to afford us a view of the great-looking city streets far below and of the boardroom window for which they were aiming. The only way to get in was to plant a small explosive on the glass, which took long enough for many of the room's occupants to take up defensive positions by the time the explosive detonated. After sending the rest of the group in, Kane followed and took up a position behind one of several pillars in the room. Most of the enemies were focusing their attention on the rest of the group, but one or two of them spotted Kane following them in and were slowly tearing apart the aforementioned pillar with a hail of bullets. Destructible cover is a common feature in Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, and it's one of a number of ways that the game encourages to you to keep moving when you might otherwise be content to camp in a good spot. The pillars in the boardroom aren't totally destructible, but it's possible to take enough chunks out of them so that anyone hiding behind them is exposed to some extent.

Kurup explained that you don't have to press any buttons to take cover behind objects in Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, you simply push toward one, and Kane will back up against it. You'll still need to use a crouch button to get down behind smaller stuff, but apart from that, moving in and out of positions of cover shouldn't be something that you have to think about too much. One of the control mechanics that you will have to think about is firing blind or on the move versus taking a moment to stop and take aim. Pressing the right trigger button will fire whichever gun you have equipped with reasonable accuracy, but you'll find that the gun's recoil has a noticeable effect on your aim, and if you're behind cover, you'll be firing simply by moving your arm over or around the object you're behind. If you hold down the left trigger button before firing, you'll switch to an over-the-shoulder view that improves your aim quite dramatically. But this also means you'll be poking your head out of cover, or if you're out in the open, standing still for a moment.

A similar mechanic that we got to see in action during the boardroom sequence was one that used melee attacks. If you're too close to an enemy to shoot at him effectively, the right trigger button will automatically hit him instead. The blow won't be fatal, but it'll incapacitate your enemy long enough for you to take up another position. Alternatively, you can choose to perform a lethal melee attack using a small blade by pressing a different button. The animations accompanying these attacks are very satisfying, but you'll be out of cover for at least a few seconds anytime you use them.

Kane and Lynch will occasionally indulge their darker sides when there's a pause in the action.
Kane and Lynch will occasionally indulge their darker sides when there's a pause in the action.

Once the boardroom was cleared and the briefcase was retrieved, Kane, Lynch, and their group were afforded a few moments to regroup before the next wave of enemies came crashing through the door. These brief pauses in the action are very deliberate because they give you an opportunity not only to recover any health that you've lost, but also to trade weapons with your colleagues if you wish. The characters that you'll be fighting alongside and their arsenals will change as you progress through the game. Each of you will only be able to carry one pistol, one rifle, one grenade (frag or incendiary), and one canister (tear gas or smoke). The assault rifle that Kane was carrying throughout most of our presentation looked to be a powerful and versatile weapon, but we can see how it might prove interesting to swap it for another character's sniper rifle or shotgun to play through a level in a very different way.

The next objective was to escape from the building via a large atrium that spanned some three or four floors. There were plenty of enemies standing between Kane's group and the elevator down to the ground floor, along with a number of innocent bystanders who were doing their best to get out of the way once the bullets started flying. There weren't quite as many places to find good cover in the atrium sequence, so Kurup took the opportunity to put plenty of smoke grenades and tear gas canisters to good use. One of the neat things about both of those thrown weapons is that they affect you and your group in exactly the same way that they do your enemies, so if you get too close to them, your vision will be compromised. It's even cooler that you can pick up grenades that have already been thrown—regardless of whether it was you or an enemy that threw them—and toss them again. They're not always easy to locate, given their effects, but when you get close enough, a small message will pop up on the screen telling you which button to press if you want to throw them back.

Arguably the most useful new feature that we got to see in action during the highrise escape was a map option that pulls up a map highlighting the locations of you and your crew whenever you activate it. The map also automatically points a camera at your next objective. The only time the camera won't point to your objective, which was the elevator on this occasion, is when you have a man down in need of an adrenalin boost. In that case, the camera will point you in your colleague's direction instead. Incidentally, your colleagues are capable of reviving you in the same way that you can revive them. But whether or not they bother to revive you will depend on how far away your body is and what their opinion of you is at that time.

Reaching the elevator marked the end of the level, and after waiting a few moments for Lynch—who was enjoying a particularly indulgent kill—the crew found itself in the lobby where armed police were struggling to manage the large number of civilians fleeing the building. Our session came to an abrupt end before we were able to check out the Tokyo Street level, but we're told that it won't be too long until we get an opportunity to play through it for ourselves.

The atrium will be barely recognizable by the time you've shot your way out of it.
The atrium will be barely recognizable by the time you've shot your way out of it.

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men certainly looks like it will provide plenty of challenge, as evidenced by the fact that much of its storytelling is done through flashbacks that only occur when you die. We're told that the game will feature at least three different difficulty settings, and that the amount of time you need to spend telling your colleagues what to do will increase significantly as you move up through the settings. Toward the end of our meeting, we were also told a little about the cooperative mode, which looks like it will only be supported offline. As announced previously, the second player in a co-op game will take on the role of the schizophrenic Lynch, which we're now told will be a quite different experience from playing as Kane. Specifics are being kept under wraps for the moment, but it appears that playing as Lynch will mean seeing the world through his eyes: a world where enemies and innocents occasionally look the same and where Lynch feels more powerful every time he kills multiple people in a quick succession. We can't wait to try it, and we can't wait to bring you more information on this one as soon as it becomes available.

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