"Dear Jenny," starts Kane, former mercenary and titular protagonist of Eidos' adult crime thriller, "I've been trying to write you this letter for 14 years. Today is my last chance. This afternoon I will pay for my mistakes with my life."
Thus begins the story of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, a game about loss, betrayal, revenge... and guns. Lots of guns.
Dead men do tell tales after all
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men kicks off through the blurred vision of the merc after a brutal prison van crash and escape. Bullets fly everywhere as your ski-masked benefactors engage in a tense stand-off with the police while the nuances of the game and plot are established. It's during this explosive opening that you're introduced to Lynch, a psychotic murderer who needs medication to keep his schizophrenia at bay.
Both men are forced into partnership after a powerful criminal gang called The7 blackmails Kane into recovering something they think he stole. With his wife and daughter held ransom, the scarred protagonist enters a quest for redemption through criminal means, knowing The7 will take his life and his family if he fails.
John McKane's Platoon Die Hard in Heat
Like many recent story driven games, Kane & Lynch is designed for a streamlined style of gameplay and presentation. Very little beyond the action is shown on the screen. Rather than health indicators, your viewpoint starts to turn red and tilts when you're taking too much damage, which is your cue to get out of the line of fire or suffer an untimely demise. Likewise, your map and ammunition counter only appear when needed, although the game offers visual guidance to help with objectives.
As a result, Kane & Lynch is an immersive experience once you're familiar with the controls. Celluloid inspiration is aplenty, as scenes play out similar to Heat and other big name movies while you progress through bank raids, jungle assaults and city battles. It's the set pieces that steal the show, convincingly placing you within manic van escapes, rooftop shoot-outs and daring office attacks; all very memorable for their grand scale.
A range of nice touches also enhance the tension of proceedings, such as tear gas and smoke fogging up your perspective, and the flashback tinged sounds of Kane's life ringing in his ears when he's on the verge of expiring, increasing the sense of drama and brooding atmosphere which is ably achieved by a powerful soundtrack and well acted script.
All you need is a friend
Along with Lynch, there are a number of associates who join you at various points. Unless assumed by a second player in the fun split-screen co-operative mode, Lynch and anyone else who joins you are controlled by Artificial Intelligence. Although you can give them basic orders, they'll generally follow your lead, firing at will and taking cover around the destructible environments - which is essential for you too as there are a limited number of morphine shots for revival if you've taken too much punishment.
Ironically complimenting the spirit of co-operation in Kane & Lynch is the online multiplayer mode, Fragile Alliance. Up to eight players can take part in a heist across a number of environments where you're forced to team-up to succeed in getting the loot. Then you can choose to either continue your tenuous partnership to try and escape alive (which means you're obliged to share your spoils) while fighting against the heavily armed police, or turn on your cohorts in an attempt to get away with most of the cash and become the winner.
What makes Fragile Alliance shine are the choices thrust upon you. What's the best route to get out alive? Do you drop some cash as a distraction to get away and risk your leaderboard rank? Can you truly trust your gang? Should you be the first to break the alliance and get the drop on the others? It's a brilliantly fresh and addictive mode that keeps you guessing at every turn, made better by the ability to respawn into the game as a guard if you die, or getting bonus points by killing the instantly marked traitor.
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men has the expected qualities of a high octane interactive movie, all the way down to its action packed finale which offers a moral choice at its conclusion for two separate endings. It adds up to an entertaining romp to mirror a Hollywood blockbuster. Hook it up to a large High Definition TV, grab some popcorn and enjoy.