Friday, 2 July 2010

Welcome to Shanghai

Kane and Lynch 2Kane and Lynch: Dead Men is still quite fresh to me, having replayed it on Games for Windows just this weekend. I’ve always thought it was an underrated title. I don't particularly want to get into the whole Jeff Gerstmann controversy; however, it is worth noting that the game suffered somewhat critically. Kane and Lynch’s visuals weren’t great, but they weren’t offensive by any means. They were functional and worked relatively well in combination with the intentionally clinical environments. Said environments heavily supported gameplay scenarios sometimes directly replicating the source material touching on scenes from Michael Mann’s Heat and Collateral. It’s true strength was in it’s protagonists – a pair of seemingly unlikeable criminals with a penchant for the old ultra-violence. Through the course of the game I got quite attached to these two potty mouths and was greatly anticipating their next outing together.

Kane and Lynch 2Fortunately I was one of the lucky people who got their hands on an early demo code for the follow up, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days. Here are my impressions.

The demo opens with a reference to the YouTube nature of the game’s visuals in the form of a “buffering” loading icon - a hint of things to come. The game’s menu backdrop appears to be a window looking out to the slums of Shanghai backed by an Asian pop ballad interrupted occasionally by barking dogs and slow ominous footsteps. I’m reminded of John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow”. Kane and Lynch 2This is a good thing. I’ve not even started the game and I’m feeling the atmosphere.

I jump straight into Arcade Mode and ignore all of the tutorials. I want to go in at the deep end. Whilst the game “buffers”, the scene is set by a conversation between two goons, something I appreciated in the first game. Dialogue always helps ease the annoyance of loading screens (see Modern Warfare 2 for another example of this).

The game begins. I’m part of a crew of 8 thieves and we’re going to do over a warehouse delivery. The action unfolds around me whilst I just sit and look at the game’s interesting visuals. I’m stationary but the camera is constantly on the move, shaking around the me as if being filmed by a handycam. It’s a nice touch and the tension builds as soon as I start to move. The camera bobs and tracks me like a war correspondent on a battlefield and it’s just plain exciting when I break into a run. It’s all very convincing.

Kane and Lynch 2As I manoeuvre around the environment I realise just how smooth and responsive the game feels. The camera rotates looks where I want it to look and all of the controls are where I would expect them. This is a huge improvement. The previous game was condemned for it’s clunky controls and often odd automatic cover system. Sure there are a few pops in animation when switching to different player actions/states, but this time responsiveness takes priority, and that’s more important.

I slam my back against a shipping container and start taking shots at the police across the warehouse. Whilst against cover I check myself out. I’m one ugly son of a bitch, but ugly in the best possible way - if I am playing as a money grabbing ass hole, I want to look like one.

Kane and Lynch 2I clip a couple of cops in the distance and take down an attack dog with a spray of machine gun fire. Satisfying. The weapon accuracy isn’t a problem. The weapons respond just right. I feel taking my time with shots makes all the difference in popping heads at a distance. I’ve let my crew do the dirty work so far so I need to catch up – it’s not long until the next pick up. I don’t want to be left behind.

Kane and Lynch 2I sprint ahead taking the odd stray shot from the remaining cops. I’m hit in the leg, and artifacts are thrown across the screen. I’m shot in the shoulder and blood spatters across the camera lens. This is intense. I slam back into cover and pop the remaining cops in the head before escaping in the getaway car. It’s like I’m in a fucking Michael Mann film. My dick is officially hard.

It’s time to go online.

I have a similar if more random experience playing with and against real people. I start seeing fire extinguishers being tossed as make shift grenades, people using each other as human shields, and an increase in tactical play. This game’s multiplayer deserves legs as did it’s predecessor. This is what APB should have been. Cops and robbers done right.

Kane and Lynch 2I am aware I have only touched upon the multiplayer portion of the game; I’ll leave the single player for when the demo goes public (hint: it’s really good).

Overall, really good fun. Definitely looking like a contender for my personal game of the year, based on one night with the demo. Good job IO Interactive, you’ve made the game I’ve always wanted to play.

IO Interactive are good guys, give them a follow on twitter.