Kane and Lynch: Dead Men: A Detailed, Retrospective Review
Bear in mind that this will be a long review, so anybody who wants to skip certain sections or simply skip to the final verdict is free to do so. For those who want an in-depth assessment of the game’s merits and drawbacks however, I hope that you enjoy reading my full review of Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, and my first gaming review in general.Contents:
1. Introduction/ Context
5. Sound (Voice acting)
7. Artificial intelligence (Squad/Enemy/Civilian A.I.)
9. Replay Value
11. Conclusion (Should you buy?)
12. Other recommendations1. Introduction / Context
Kane and Lynch: Dead Men is a tactical squad-based third-person shooter developed by IO Interactive, the developers of the Hitman series, a similar squad-based shooter Freedom Fighters and later a new intellectual property called Mini Ninjas. The game managed to sell 730,000 copies, a respectable showing considering that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released just nine days prior to the game’s release and the market was already in full swing before that with the releases of Halo 3, skate, The Orange Box, and Project Gotham Racing 4. Kane and Lynch was released to fairly mediocre reviews by mainstream critic standards in 2007, with IGN rewarding it a respectable 7 out of 10 and Gamespot rewarding it a 6 out of 10, citing it to “have a lot of promise, but nothing in this game works out nearly as well as you'd hope”. The game has also become infamous for getting Jeff Gerstmann fired from Gamespot for giving the game the aforementioned 6/10, contrary to the wishes of his superiors as the site was hosting major advertising campaigns for the game and was making a hefty sum off the hype leading up to it’s release. Is Kane and Lynch: Dead Men truly a game that lived up to its mammoth hype engine however, or did it turn out to be a disappointing mess? Well, yes and no.2. Story (6/10)
The story of Kane and Lynch: Dead Men is an engaging one, although it may be somewhat hard to follow for some. The game starts with Kane (Adam Marcus), being driven to death row to await his execution, after being charged with the manslaughter of 25 Venezuelan civilians. Kane ends up getting involved in a planned breakout by The7, an elite partnership of mercenaries whom Kane betrayed four years ago. Kane is informed by The7 that they have his wife and daughter and that he has three weeks to return the money he stole to The7 or they will execute his family (wife and daughter). He is then assigned James Seth Lynch as a partner, who has his own deal with the The7, and the two set out to recover the lost cash.
The story has a rough charm to it, constantly presenting you with new locations, each remarkably different from the last such as the Mizuki nightclub or the infiltration of the remote Hacienda compound towards the end of the game. The game’s story is also very immersive and you feel Kane’s pain as he comes across difficulty after difficulty as he edges ever closer to his family’s execution.
Despite the game having a wealth of unique locations in which to play through, the constant switching of locations can make the game difficult to follow, as you may feel as if you’re being shuttled around the place without any sense of direction, especially if you’re a casual gamer and you’re playing the game for the first time. This is especially noticeable between the Tokyo and Havana arcs, in which you’ll probably be wondering whether the game has skipped a level or two as you’re dropped in the middle of a civil war brought upon by The7. To conclude, the pacing of the game is solid but it gets a bit erratic around the mid-point of the game which may mar the experience for some.
The game also features two unique endings, each of which is fitting of the game and highlights Kane’s ‘Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t’ predicament. The story is also helped along by titbits of information about the upcoming mission as well as hinted backstory presented during the loading screens. I found this to be interesting and valuable, especially as the game is helped along by top-notch voice acting from Brian Bloom (Kane) and Jarion Monroe (Lynch). I do, however, feel that the game would have benefited immensely from an audio log system, covering the lore of the Kane and Lynch universe as you delved into the minds of the ‘flawed mercenary’ and the ‘medicated psychopath’, as well as some much needed information on the underdeveloped character profiles of The7 and Kane’s wife and daughter, as well as information on the squad members that you break out of death row roughly half way through the game. Even reams of voiceover-less text detailing the characters and settings of the game a la Clive Barker’s Jericho would have been preferable to leaving the idea out completely, which leads me onto my next point.
For a game that has strived through its crude and unapologetic marketing campaign to paint two deep and multi-faceted criminals, the two main leads have little to no character depth or development beyond what was displayed prior to release. This was THE main selling point of the game in the months leading up to its release, Eidos! Two profound and engrossing anti-heroes with the depth and substance to make their mark on video gaming history. The omission of this integral feature is terrible and is one of the biggest drawbacks of the title. A saddening missed opportunity here. The story as a whole however, despite the disappointing though passable characters, will keep you playing, as Kane's pursuit of amnesty for his wife and daughter and the destruction of The7 may keep you engaged and entertained for the better part of the campaign.3. Graphics (6/10)
Graphically, this game isn’t anything special and there isn’t anything of real merit to be pointed out in this section. The graphical department did an acceptable job, the environments are average and I’ve come across few negative technicalities regarding this area. I will say though that the main character models are well-detailed and there are a few levels in the game that do feel slightly more polished and colourful such as the Pagoda exchange level and the Mizuki nightclub, which help take the game’s graphical score from a mediocre rating to a slightly above average rating. Again, they get the job done, but don’t expect the richness and attention to detail that came from the AAA titles of its time, like Bioshock or Gears of War. Relatively polished settings like these, though they may be few and far between, help to bring Kane and Lynch: Dead Men's graphical rating up to a 6/10.4. Gameplay / Controls (4/10)
The gameplay of Kane and Lynch: Dead Men is definitely one of the weaker aspects of the game. The controls feel counter-intuitive, with the reload button assigned to the 'A' button, as opposed to the 'X', 'B' or shoulder buttons, and the sprint function assigned to the left analog stick. Games such as Army of Two: The 40th Day had great control schemes, as the intuitive 'A' button for sprinting and the 'X' button for reloading allowed fluid engagement in combat. Kane and Lynch: Dead Men’s gameplay however feels clunky and poorly thought out.
There are also a few stealth-related objectives towards the end of the game, but the stealth function is broken and you’ll just end up alerting everyone, as there aren’t any good ways to stay hidden besides crouching. It just seemed like a poorly thought out, tacked-on addition to pad the game out at the end. Thankfully, these sections are relatively short and bearable and they only feature towards the latter half of the game so it’s not anything that really needs to be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to buy the game.
There are also a few sections that involve shooting out of a moving vehicle. These sections feel weak as well, as the sloppy and floaty feel to the guns can make it difficult to get off a good round of fire. This is especially noticeable in the second driving segment towards the end of the game, which, on Hard especially, turns into a trial and error experience in which you will be forced to die constantly to memorise which enemy, guard post or jeep needs to be taken out first to avoid taking the precious few bullets needed to send you back to the previous checkpoint enraged.
Thankfully, the HUD in this game is presented well. Each individual icon that displays the status of your squad is recognisable, and the display isn’t over-saturated in any way by a health bar, as the game features a regenerative health system that feels like it belongs. I felt that the HUD could have been improved by having a small, discoloured bar underneath your squad commands for sprinting, as your sprint only lasts 3-5 seconds and it’s impossible to tell when your sprint has recharged or if you’re still recovering.
If you are downed, you can be revived by your teammates through the use of an adrenaline shot. These shots can be a double-edged sword however, as taking more than one shot over a short period of time can result in overdosing and death. I felt this system worked really well, as it gave you the opportunity to correct your mistakes, as you’ll probably be a lot more cautious after you’ve been revived, encouraging slower and methodical gameplay as opposed to getting revived as many times as you want and not learning from your mistakes. On the other hand, I’m glad the game doesn’t simply send you back to the last checkpoint if you’re downed in the same vein as Rainbow Six Vegas and most other shooters, as you’re allowed to work out what didn’t work last time and rectify that in the field, instead of being sent back to some distant checkpoint and forgetting what got you killed in the first place.
Overall however, the gameplay is definitely something that needs to be revised if this franchise is ever going to become a sufficiently profitable venture. With a fair amount of practice and experience you can become a fairly skilled sharpshooter, and even have fun with the gameplay as I did, as it’s definitely playable for most, but if you’re coming to this game from a run-and-gun perspective, from franchises such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honour, then you may be in for a rude awakening as you adjust to the tactical nature of the game.5. SoundVoice acting (8/10)
The game is also helped along immensely by voice actors Brian Bloom and Jarion Monroe, each of which have worked on projects such as the CSI series, Silent Hill, Psychonauts and later the A-Team and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty. The dialogue of minor characters is also done well, and it is clear that IO Interactive invested the time and effort to choose voice actors that suited each respective character as closely as possible.Kane's unfaltering brutality, even towards former comrades, shows that he will stop at nothing to protect his daughter.6. Difficulty (7/10)
Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, as a tactical shooter, isn’t an easy game. This usually means, as with most tactical shooters, that even the lowest difficulty will provide a challenge to those who simply rush in and expect enemies to drop like flies in front of them. I found the difficulty of this game appealing, as it encourages you to take a slow and steady approach when necessary. Veteran players, with time and effort, are able to master the game and can gun down and evade enemies with ease (which can be very satisfying) and players going in expecting an easy ride will be penalised. Although this will result in a few unfair deaths due to the poor control scheme, lazy cover system and the unnatural accuracy of some enemies, the difficulty ends up feeling very in keeping with what the game should be, and it is certainly gratifying to master (I completed my hard playthrough in 3 hours).7. Artificial intelligence. (Squad A.I, Enemy A.I, Civilian A.I) – (6/10)Squad A.I.
The squad A.I. is decent. Your teammates respond appropriately when you go down as they rush to revive you, for the most part, and they react accordingly to the three squad commands that you can issue (Attack, Regroup, Defend). There are occasional glitches however, such as the A.I. running blindly past an enemy shooting at them from 15 feet away but it’s negligible.Enemy A.I.
The enemy A.I. is essentially the same as the squad A.I. in that they can shoot from insane distances and they can also let your squad casually run past them on occasions. Again, however, it’s passable for the most part and nothing related to the enemy A.I. will detract from the overall experience.Civilian A.I.
I felt that the civilian A.I. programming was done well, as the crowds react accordingly and flee in terror as shots are flying past them from all directions. Occasionally, a few glitches occur such as the A.I. hiding in plain sight as armed gunmen swarm around them but overall the A.I. in this particular area is passable. It is surprising however just how many models this game can render on screen at once, even if the facial details for these models are a bit lacklustre.8. Multiplayer (6/10)
The multiplayer of Kane and Lynch: Dead Men is a mixed bag. The game definitely brings some fresh ideas to the table, with the introduction of ‘Fragile Alliance’, a mode in which a group of mercenaries attempt to pull off a heist against various high value targets (HVTs) and high-value locales. The thrill of this mode however is that your teammates can betray you at any time and hoard the money from themselves as they attempt to escape with it all. The fundamental aspects of the mode work very well and are very unique, as you try to collect as much money as you can, before either turning on your teammates and making a dash for the escape vehicle or escaping with all your teammates but receiving less cash, as the money is shared out between the survivors of the heist. There are, however, many flaws to this fresh and innovative mode. Firstly, the enemy A.I. can siphon off your health quickly and shots from multiple enemies at once can easily result in death. Normally such a feature would be a sign of realism and the sense that you could easily be taken out at any moment would heighten tension. However, this can prove frustrating, as you will constantly be fighting the loose controls and the poorly implemented cover system, which only lets you take cover behind certain objects. Secondly, a flaw which has plagued many tactical shooters from Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter to Rainbow Six Vegas, is that the enemy A.I. can be unnaturally accurate at times, shooting you in the back from a mile away with an assault rifle as you scramble to find cover to hide behind. This flaw is most evident on the map ‘Hot Coffee’, the primary map it seems.
Thirdly, the game was only released with FOUR, that’s right FOUR maps. I’m not sure whether this was due to pressure on IO Interactive to meet a deadline or otherwise, but it means that the game’s multiplayer quickly becomes repetitive, as the same maps are constantly recycled. An additional four maps have since been released as free DLC to make up for the Turning Point: Fall of Liberty levels of failure that comes with releasing a heavily promoted title with only four maps, but these maps, along with the achievements for them but I’ll get to that later, feel rushed out as a necessity to fill the void. Many of the DLC maps, while appreciated, fill like an on-rails experience, as the maps are comparatively linear when compared to the original four maps shipped with the game, leaving little room for experimentation and ensuring that you’ll grow bored of these four maps even faster than the four from the original rotation. Kane and Lynch: Dead Men - 'Fragile Alliance' in action.
To summarise, this mode would have been exciting when played for the first time when the game’s servers were active, but the mode would have quickly grown stale due to the lack of replay-ability, A.I. flaws and a limited pool of maps, with only die-hard achievement hunters staying to finish off their achievements, as the masses returned to the titans Call of Duty and Gears of War, and the niche markets returned to Team Fortress 2 et al for their multiplayer fixes.Co-op (4/10)
The game also features a co-operative function. Unfortunately, this function is LOCAL CO-OP ONLY. I personally played half of the local co-op campaign, and there wasn’t anything that stuck out for me personally, although it does boost the game’s replay value by a small margin. The absence of online co-op campaign, however, was and will be disappointing and inexcusable for many people, especially when the squad-based gameplay and dual protagonists would have matched perfectly with the mode, although I doubt that anyone who bought it from the bargain bin or plans on doing so would be too bothered about the exclusion of this feature.
There is, however, an interesting addition to the co-op mode in the form of Lynch’s psychotic episodes, in which Lynch hallucinates and sees everybody around him as police officers. Although this is touched on and seen through Kane’s perspective in the single-player campaign, we never actually get to experience Lynch’s mental breakdowns in this mode, so the addition of this feature in co-op is definitely something worth checking out if you plan on purchasing this game, as it’s a feature that I haven't seen executed before in similar games. There are also a few achievements tied to it, if that’s your thing.9. Replay Value (3/10)
Kane and Lynch: Dead Men has little replay value, which was one of the reasons that it rapidly declined to a bargain bin game only a few months after it’s initial release. The multi-player offerings were interesting but it wasn’t something that the average gamer would stick with for more than a week or two after the strong wave of repetition set in. The lack of an online co-op campaign feature doesn’t do it any favours either, and the lack of collectibles, meaningful or otherwise, and the fact that there’s only two relatively minor Easter eggs, meant that only the game’s achievements and the possibility of a second playthrough for the story gave players the incentive to start up the game after their initial playthrough. 10. Achievements (4/10)Achievement difficulty: 7/10 (More time-consuming than skill-based)
The game’s achievements, like the majority of the game so far if you’ve been reading the whole review, are a mixed bag. The single-player achievements are well designed, with a good balance of story-related achievements, co-op achievements and achievements awarded for performing specific in-game tasks with your squad, co-op partner or simply by yourself. The achievements ’Headmaster’ and the ‘Have Gun, Will Travel’ achievements also make reference to Agent 47 (the Hitman series) and the popular American TV series, ‘Have Gun, Will Travel’, which aired from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. These achievements in particular are well thought out, and showed that IO Interactive it seems treated Kane and Lynch: Dead Men’s achievements as part of the game as opposed to a tacked-on afterthought.
I wish I could stop here, but I must cover the awful multiplayer achievements. IO Interactive, with their 4 map multiplayer, for some reason expected people to light up with ecstasy at the opportunity to complete such brilliant achievements as REACHING RANKS ONE AND TWO IN. THE. WORLD. Not only that, but the two achievements are practically unobtainable due to the lack of a regular leaderboard reset (UPDATE: there was a bizarre leaderboard reset in 2013 as TrueAchievements lit up at the chance to unlock these stupid achievements) and the fact that the top 50 to 100 spaces have been hijacked by a few bored troglodytes, each with a multitude of online accounts and Xbox’s bought specifically to stop anybody earning the achievement beyond the first few months that it came out (Why, I don't... Never mind). IO Interactive also thought it fitting to include a Complete 200 matches achievement, which would have encouraged hardcore achievement hunters to kill their teammates as quickly as possible to shorten matches when the game was active, destroying the tension of the game’s multi-player and reducing the game’s lifetime. An Obtain 150 million dollars achievement is also present, which is a true grind, as shown by the 5.65 TrueAchievement ratio, and the ‘Win 50 rounds of Fragile Alliance as a Merc’ achievement takes away the opportunity of any hardcore achievement hunter playing the game properly as they are forced to avoid killing anyone and running away with the money, as killing a teammate will turn you from a mercenary to a traitor, voiding the opportunity to work towards the achievement in that round. The game also has a pesky luck-based achievement called ‘Double Trouble’ in which players needed to kill two traitors in one round. The achievement can only be obtained if you have 5 people in a match and only if you’re very lucky and you come across a pair of run-and-gunners who kill their teammates outright a la Saints Row and you manage to out-gun both of them for the achievement. DLC Achievements
The DLC achievements feel poorly thought out as well, with a total of five achievements totalling 250G. The poorly distributed gamerscore results in a vastly unbalanced awarding system, in which the achievement ‘Drug Lord’ (100G for playing a match on all 4 DLC maps) is worth more than the ‘Most Wanted’ achievement (50G, escape with $150,000,000), an achievement that would have taken countless hours to unlock, as opposed to the ‘Drug Lord’ achievement that wouldn’t have taken more than an hour or two. The DLC multi-player achievements add to the already disappointing and downright frustrating achievements that comprise Kane and Lynch: Dead Men’s multi-player achievement offerings.
In terms of boosting, which is now the only way to obtain the multi-player achievements now that the game is inactive, you’re looking at about 40 hours to obtain all multiplayer achievements minus the unobtainable leaderboard achievements. In terms of single player achievements, you’re looking at about 15-35 hours worth of gameplay depending on whether you use a guide or not (I didn’t).
All in all, IO Interactive manages to deliver yet another mixed bag with it’s achievement list, with the sensible single-player achievements offering a stellar contribution to the game, and the grindy and borderline unobtainable leaderboard multi-player achievements detracting from would have otherwise been a fairly well-done and enjoyable achievement list. I would have been generous here and given the game’s achievement list a 5/10, but because the unobtainable achievements mean that the game is uncompletable which would have and will leave many hardcore completionists fairly aggravated at the prospect of an uncompletable title, I’m lowering the score to a 4/10; below average.11. Conclusion / Final verdict
In conclusion, Kane and Lynch: Dead Men was a game that failed to live up to the hype. A lot of the things that IO Interactive tried worked, such as the mildly engaging story, brilliant voice acting and the ambitious multiplayer, but the weak gameplay, limited modes and multiplayer variety, as well as the average graphics sadly bring it down to mediocrity.
Kane and Lynch: Dead Men's final score comes in at a 6/10.Should you buy it?
I’d say that this game is worth picking up for £15 or less (UK) or at a price of $20 (American dollars) or less in the USA, although pricing shouldn’t be a problem as the game is a bargain bin title and can be picked up for less than a fiver in the UK, at least, or even for 99 cents in the US, so there’s no doubt that you’ll be receiving value for money, especially since the game’s single player clocks in at 6-8 hours, which is respectable for a bargain bin title. For Australian readers, I’ve done some quick research on your inflated prices (my sympathies to all of you) and you shouldn’t be paying more than $30-$35 Australian dollars on this game, as the experience doesn't warrant more than a passing sum of money. For run-and-gunners or those less tolerant of a game’s flaws, as well as those who may fail to recognise the rough charm that this game has, I’d recommend avoiding it and picking a shooter or two from the list of more conventional shooters below. 12. Other recommendationsIf you liked Kane and Lynch: Dead Men you may like:Binary Domain (2012)
The developers of the Yakuza series have produced one of the best-overlooked gems of 2012 so far with Binary Domain. Even with cheesy, nonsensical voice acting and a relatively weak story, the game features a fluid and fun combat system and is one of the few games that gets boss battles right, surpassing Gears of War in this regard, as well as showing immense polish and care with the outstanding graphics and attention to detail. A definite recommendation here.Max Payne 3 (2012)
Another masterpiece from the talented minds at Rockstar Vancouver, Max Payne 3 gets almost everything perfect, with the high production values resulting in gorgeous landscapes and attention to detail, action-packed and polished combat and a unique cinematic style, as well as an expansive multiplayer mode which makes Max Payne 3 one of the few games with a multiplayer mode worth playing in an environment where Call of Duty and Gears of War dominate the multiplayer frontier. The game also has a healthy, engaging 8-10 hour single-player campaign which is great when compared to Kane and Lynch 2’s outright insulting 4-hour romp through the bland and repetitive streets of Shanghai. Another brilliant tactical shooter to play (after you give Binary Domain a shot of course since that game hasn’t even reached 5,000 gamers played yet).If you dislike this game and enjoy more conventional, run-and-gun third person shooters I’d recommend:Dead to Rights: Retribution (2010)
Dead to Rights: Retribution is a reboot of the Dead to Rights franchise from the sixth generation of consoles by Volatile Games, and it passes itself of as a solid action-fueled adventure that focuses on delivering tight and responsive game-play through police officer Jack Slate and his canine companion Shadow. The game is also one of the only games ever to implement a dog into a video game and have the dog ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING USEFUL. And for that, I recommend a purchase if you can pick it up cheap.
Thanks for reading my Kane and Lynch: Dead Men review. Please up-vote the review if you found it helpful. Positives and constructive criticism are welcomed in the comments.My reviewing scale:
1 Star: 0 - 2.4.
2 Stars: 2.5 - 4.9.
3 Stars: 5 - 6.9.
4 Stars: 7 - 8.9.
5 Stars: 9 - 10.