Format: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Square Enix
Somewhat akin to ‘Die Hard’ – well maybe the slightly less good ‘Die Hard 4.0′ – Kayne & Lynch 2 doesn’t relent for a second. No sooner have one wave of enemies been contended with than another swoops in; and usually packing more fire-power than their recently departed comrades.
In many ways K&L2 feels more like a gun-on-rails Time Crisis-type game than a third person shooter. Enemies habitually cling to cover, only popping out sporadically to take pot-shots. Before long the action begins to resemble a shooting range; the challenge being to time well-aimed bursts of fire at the fleetingly exposed vital areas of guards, soldiers, police, etc., while keeping in cover until the auto-heal function kicks in.
Anyway, before the thread of the review is lost let us return to the beginning. Kane & Lynch 2 is, as you’ll no doubt have already guessed, a sequel to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, released at the back end of 2007. In similar vein, the sequel is a cooperative third-person shooter which can be played though alone or with a friend via online or even split-screen; players taking the roles of one of Kane or, usually, Lynch.
Our heroes are a rather unsympathetic twosome; both entwined in a world of organised crime and neither having much time for anything – even each other. The games visual style reflecting the shadiness of its protagonists perfectly; in fact the gritty, purposefully muddied presentation is a great improvement over the original, lending the game a highly stylised, unique look which the visual design team should be rightfully proud of.
The story begins with Lynch having set up home in Shanghai, even managing to find a girlfriend, a local woman called Xiu. Alas, never one able to avoid trouble, he’s become involved with a man called Glazer, a crime lord from good old Blighty of all places. Lynch has called on his old friend Kane to come to Shanghai for one last job, that’s right: “The final job they’ll ever need to do” – what could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot as you might have guessed from the myriad other movies and games which feature the exact same premise, although rarely has a situation gone as awry as the one you’ll play through here. From the slaughter of innocents, to the loss of loved ones and even a pretty full-on torture scene, K&L2 features enough of the old ultra-violence to make even A Clockwork Orange’s Alex balk.
Which brings us nicely back to where we came in, namely the non-stop shooting which could really have done with a little variation, or at least the odd sneaking section or something. If you’re a fan of Killzone and Gears then you’ll be wondering what I’m making a fuss about, if the considered approach of Uncharted 2 or BioShock 2 is more your thing then you might want to try the demo; what you get is basically the demo multiplied by about seven – just check out the screenshots on this very page, I mean how similar do they all look?
There’s little variation other than new locations and the odd new type of enemy or weapon; and that it’s not a long game (I plowed through it in about 5-6 hours on medium) is probably a blessing. However one scene, which places Kane and Lynch on a helicopter while unleashing machinegun fire at a skyscraper full of enemies (think Matrix), shouldn’t go unmentioned as it truly is a fun scene.
So, let us re-examine the evidence: unique visual style, central characters who deserve all they get, hackneyed plot, ultra-violence, little variation and mindless shooting. We should be writing this one off, well except perhaps for all but the most dedicated shooter fan but we’re not, and there’s one reason for that, something briefly mentioned earlier: multiplayer.
Developers, IO Interactive, have only gone and pulled it out at the last by offering not only the chance to play through the game with a mate, either locally or online, but also by expanded on the original’s ‘Fragile Alliance’ game mode in which you join a gang of criminals, capture something valuable (diamonds, shares, etc.) and make off with the loot.
The twist being that, not only must you engage with AI controlled guards, but also watch your back as allies look to put a bullet in your head and take all the loot for themselves. There are further variations on the ‘Fragile Alliance’ mode on offer too, ‘Undercover Cop’ and ‘Cops and Robbers’ for example.
Maybe I’m biased because the multiplayer is reminiscent of Counter-Strike (my favourite) but there’s something about it which keeps me coming back for more; in fact I can’t wait until the 20th when the game releases and more matches will be available.
Conclusion: Think of the solo-player campaign as boot camp for the multiplayer side of things and you won’t be disappointed in K&L2; it’s just a bit of a mystery how a title which offers so little subtlety during its single-player experience can offer so much depth to its multiplayer – the vagaries of gaming I suppose.