Kane & Lynch: Fragile Alliance Hands-on

We explore the backstabbing, double-crossing world Kane & Lynch promises to provide online.

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Kane & Lynch: Dead Men has, like one of its titular characters, a split personality. All of the content we've seen up to this point has been from the offline campaign mode. However, recently we went to Eidos' London home to check out Kane & Lynch: Fragile Alliance, the game's online multiplayer component, on the Xbox 360.

The online multiplayer has a very simple concept, in keeping with the campaign storyline: You and three to seven others are dumped into a scenario where the aim is to steal as much money as you can then get out.

Players all start out equal to each other. There's no class or character selection to speak of and no initial weapon selection: You're just dumped into the action. In the case of the level we got to play, Withdrawal, all players spawn outside a bank, with instructions to raid it for as much loot as possible. You then need to get to one of a number of getaway vehicles that will arrive out the back of the bank after a time--between three and seven minutes--set by the game's host.

Ladies and gentlemen, the heist is about to begin.
Ladies and gentlemen, the heist is about to begin.

The matter is complicated by the artificial intelligence-controlled SWAT units that swarm in from the rear as soon as shots are fired, as well as the bank's own security team (though it didn't seem to pose much of a problem).

If you successfully navigate the level, reach the getaway vehicle, and escape, you bank an equal share of the money stolen by you, as well as anyone else who made it out alive.

Because of the large number of cops pouring into the building, it's imperative you work as a team to clear your way through--at least initially. And that's where things start to get messy. By doing some simple maths, you can see that the fewer of you who make it out alive with the cash, the more money those who do survive will carry through to the next round, assuming you can still get it all to the getaway vehicle. This gives you a hefty incentive to kill your teammates and steal the money they're carrying--the amount is handily displayed with their gamertags over their heads--so you can then flee without having to share that precious booty.

Co-operation is key, at least initially.
Co-operation is key, at least initially.

There is a second complication, however. As soon as you kill a member of your own team, you become flagged as a traitor, meaning you show up in bright yellow on the minimaps of other players and a bounty is placed on your head. Players who kill you will get an automatic cash bonus for doing so. While this bounty doesn't carry over from round to round in a match, if you turn on your own team, you will spawn in a slightly different spot and find yourself wearing an obvious black shirt the next time out, so everyone knows to watch out for you. Also, if you leave the alliance by turning traitor, you will finish with the cash you have on you rather than a share of the group haul. This means that while you don't have to share your swag, you could be missing out on a serious wad of cash if you mess up.

Next, there is the simple matter of what happens when you die. Rather than simply respawning outside the bank or going into spectator mode, in Kane & Lynch: Fragile Alliance, you respawn as a SWAT officer. The aim of this is to stop the others from escaping, thus pulling ahead of you in the rankings, which are based entirely on the amount of cash you've managed to grab and keep. As a SWAT officer, you have a number of ways of earning money. You can just pick up cash that's lying around, having been dropped by careless (or recently deceased) robbers for a 10 percent finder's fee. Or you can get reward money for killing treacherous mercenaries, with the bonus being significantly increased if the traitor in question killed you earlier. If you die while playing as a SWAT officer, you are then left stuck in spectator mode for the rest of the round.

Sooner or later, though, it's all going to get very messy indeed.
Sooner or later, though, it's all going to get very messy indeed.

Holding onto your cash isn't as simple as just staying alive, though. When hit by gunfire, you will initially drop money rather than lose health. While you can pick it up once you've dispatched the miscreant firing at you, unscrupulous teammates can swoop in and nick it while you're still occupied. Those who are even more unscrupulous can just pepper you with nonlethal shots over the course of the game and slowly bleed you dry of cash.

In Withdrawal, the bank seemed to have between $1.5 million and $2 million available to steal. But because the cash is stashed in various areas of the bank and the game itself is fairly intense, we never quite managed to steal it all. Our most successful round involved sneaking out with one other survivor and netting about $720,000 for our trouble--despite only getting into the van with about $100,000.

This demonstrates another element to the competition: As long as you get to the van and the money gets there, you don't actually need to steal any yourself. This means that it's perfectly possible to hang back, hide, and generally act like a coward but still walk away with a slice of the loot. However, that's not going to make you popular with your teammates, who might decide they'd be better off cutting out the dead weight and executing you at the start of the next round.

Time for a bit of revenge...
Time for a bit of revenge...

Finally, money can be used to upgrade your weapons and armour. There are three packs available to purchase after each round for use in the next: medium, heavy, and special. These range from $30,000 to $90,000. Thess packs give you heavier body and head armour as well as grenades and a slightly beefier assault weapon.

Weapon choice doesn't make seem to make much of a difference when fighting inside the bank because people go down fairly easily if you shoot them accurately--also, if you shoot people accurately enough, not only do they go down quickly, but you're also rewarded with a satisfying smear of brain and skull across the wall behind them.

Weapons do come into effect when you're outside, as you consider the last-ditch attempt to stop your teammates from escaping, whether it is a SWAT member or just a greedy mercenary. The getaway vehicles are destructible but they move quite fast and can take a fair amount of beating... if you're trying to take one down with a pistol having wasted all your grenades and assault rifle ammo, you're just going to find yourself stood on the pavement feeling poor.

While we only saw one multiplayer scenario on our visit to Eidos, the game will feature many along similar lines and feature the same cooperative/competitive hybrid gameplay. We look forward to bringing you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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