The AMD Contest
If you haven’t yet noticed, we have been running a game review writing contest over at our AMD Contest Group
. We’ve had some great entries in several categories, such as writing a negative review, in the last few months, and it has been difficult to choose the winners. In the end, we came up with two finalists and they have been tasked with writing a game review complete with screenshots and video (if possible) for the grand prize: AMD’s hottest and most anticipated new product: their soon-to-be-announced, next-generation graphics card!
The first review is by jacobvandy
and if you would like to see the media blog and vote for his entry, click here
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men Review
From the creators of Hitman comes a gritty third-person shooter that tells a tale of greed, regret, and questionable ethics: Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. You play as Kane, a weathered ex-mercenary on death row. You find yourself in the back of a police transport, presumably en route to your demise. All of a sudden, the fellow next to you warns you to get down and the truck is attacked. That fellow turns out to be Lynch, a volatile schizophrenic who pops his prescription medication like they were Tic Tacs, and it soon becomes apparent that you’ve been caught in the middle of an elaborate jailbreak. Told to grab a piece and follow close, you are swept up in a frenzy of assault rifles and smoke grenades. Dead cops litter the streets as you make your daring escape, but much to your chagrin, it is soon revealed that it wasn’t a prison break at all. You’ve been kidnapped by your former employers, whom, incidentally, are not yet done with you. Lynch is tasked with supervising you carry out orders, and you become a veritable dysfunctional duo in no time. This is only the beginning of a twisted journey that takes you across the globe as you seek revenge on the people that made you a Dead Man.
Lynch acts as a full-fledged companion-in-crime, accompanying you throughout the game and watching your back. Squad-based combat strategies come into play, as you can order him to follow, attack, and move/defend. He will also exchange inventory items – such as guns and grenades – with you, offer a limited supply of ammo, and revive you if you are downed. The latter is a rather remarkable aspect of the game because instead of outright dying after taking a few too many hits, you will fall to the ground and experience a flashback of sorts, consisting of impactful audio clips from previous scenes in the game. If Lynch or another AI team member can reach you before you bleed out, you will be injected with adrenaline and put back into the fight. This can only happen up to a few times; any attempt to revive you after that limit will result in a deadly overdose. You must be mindful of this in the later levels when reviving squad members quite often, as they are susceptible to the same fate.
One particularly interesting feature is the ability to play through the campaign in a two-player cooperative mode where a friend takes control of Lynch. Originally intended to be played over the internet, it ended up being made into an offline, split-screen game type. While this style of multiplayer sounds like great fun for a console, I imagine it’s not as enjoyable on PC unless you have a significantly larger-than-normal monitor and a gamepad or two. While I have not tried this, I wonder about the implications it would have on Lynch's character development, a major part of the above-average storyline. This is one of those games that genuinely deserves its 'M' rating; dark themes, wanton violence, and enough profanity to make virgin ears bleed combine to solidify its position as a game that ain't for the kiddies. As outrageous and controversial as some may find such content, it soothes my soul to see that some developers are not afraid to cater to mature tastes.
Kane & Lynch makes use of a cover system that adds an interesting dynamic to the Max Payne-style shootouts, giving you the ability to blind-fire and see around corners more easily. Precision aiming from behind cover is the premiere tactic of the game, which isn’t surprising, considering your survival often depends upon its extensive use. This makes it all the more frustrating when you discover how clumsy the implementation is. There is no key to activate the usage of a cover object; instead, you merely move close to one and you “take cover” automatically. While I am certain it was planned with convenience in mind, this sticky cover system is unreliable. There were times when I was under the impression that I was “taking cover” and attempted to move to the other side of an object, only to run full-speed into a slew of bullets. Even when I was properly covered, using the aim button to peek around the corner often resulted in shooting the object I was “taking cover” behind. At that point, you’ve exposed yourself to fire without the benefit of being able to return it efficiently.
Visually, Kane & Lynch is no slouch. Environments range from urban Tokyo to the jungles of Havana, and they don’t look half bad. Interiors are very detailed and it doesn’t really matter what the exteriors look like when the overactive depth of field effect blurs just about everything anyway. Character models and textures are very crisp, however, which are probably the most important in a fast-action game where you aren’t particularly interested in immersive surroundings. Destructible environments are loads of fun and the dynamic decals, namely bullet wounds, look especially good, even though they show up in funny places like a sweater hood or duffel bag. The minimalist HUD is refreshing, though I wish you could bring up the radar while moving or pin it to the top corner of the screen. Overall, the graphics are not spectacular, but on the bright side, all high settings with some AA and AF is very playable on an X1900XT.
Something that I really enjoyed was the pure volume of neutral NPCs in each level. An early sequence in a night club touted literally hundreds of patrons on the dance floors, all ready to panic at the first gunshot. It is entirely possible to creep stealthily through the dark crowd, avoiding the flashlight-carrying guards, as you make your way to the back office. Innocent bodies inevitably drop when the firefights break out... You can choose to be careful if you were so inclined. On the topic of stealth, melee kills are achieved with Kane's signature knuckle-mounted blade. I was disappointed that you are not able to finish off wounded enemies, writhing and moaning on the ground, in this manner.
: engrossing storyline, rather enjoyable gunplay, squad commands, destructible environments, Lynch's retorts
: online co-op fell through, average graphics, flawed cover system, overzealous use of depth of field
The Verdict: 78%