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Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

Get Agent 47 on the phone - we've two blokes to be put out of their misery...

On paper, this game should be incredible. It's got two uniquely grizzled anti-heroes, an impeccable developer (it's by IO, of Hitman fame) and loads of Michael Mann-inspired set-pieces (more later). The main men are Kane, a death-row inmate who's previously allegedly double-crossed his shady employers, The7, and Lynch, a paranoid schizophrenic who needs to constantly pop medication to keep his anger in check. Kane's been sprung from prison and forced to find The7s stolen booty or they'll kill him, and Lynch is on-hand to make sure his new pal doesn't do a runner. And so the pair go on a crime-filled rampage - robbing banks, shooting it out with cops and generally being a menace to society. But as unravels you soon realise that their partnership is as compelling as Dick and Dom.

We'd like to say that it starts off promising and then peters out, but we'd be lying. Kane & Lynch maintains a relatively low excitement level throughout and, coming from the developers of the atmospheric Hitman and Freedom Fighters, it's hard to swallow the disappointment. One problem is that the two lack any sort of personality. Sure, Lynch flips out now and again early on and wastes innocent hostages during a botched bank job, but later on he becomes little other than a sweary nuisance who bad-mouths Kane rather than following orders. And apart from Kane's odd milky-coloured eye, he's your generic lead man - he may as well be called (Milky) Joe Average. They're total charisma vacuums, and it's hard to feel involved in their murderous plight. But more importantly - Kane & Lynch is not that much fun to play.

BLAST IT ALL

From start to finish, Kane & Lynch sees you indiscriminately blasting your way through crowds, locking against cover to shield yourself from bullets and ordering your buddies - ex-mercenaries who you spring from prison in one mission - around with Freedom Fighters-style commands. You can bark out orders to your criminal mates to either attack a target (Triangle), defend an area Circle) or regroup to your position (Square). Simple. But due to some idiotic AI, your blokes prefer to stand about and get shot to bits like Officer Murphy in Robocop than duck into cover. Here lies another niggle - saving your chums from death with adrenaline needles. Fair enough, you do have a duty to keep them alive - and they will return the favour if you snuff it - but, criminally, they can't help each other, which means you'll be doling out more jabs than a pro boxer while trying to survive yourself. Arrgh. Returning fire helps, but since the aiming is squiffy you'll be left frustrated and dead more often than not. The accuracy of weapons improves when you pick up the assault or sniper rifles, but don't be surprised to see the person standing in your cross-hair (L2 for precision aim) continuing to breath as your bullets inexplicably miss their targets. It's almost as if this was done on purpose to show off the game's destructible environments. Marble pillars smash to bits when pierced with bullets, wooden watch towers crumple under heavy fire and car tyres hiss as you pop them. It's all very pretty, and the pinnacle of this is the showdown inside the evil Retomoto's Tokyo boardroom. You and your boys rappel down the side of the building, plant a mine on the window then burst inside in a hail of bullets swear words as your stray shots rips the interior to pieces. It's just a shame that set-pieces like this aren't a mainstay. Instead, you're usually dropped into a scenario with only a black screen and Kane & Lynch's voices to shuffle the story along, and then expected to shoot your way from A to B without so much as a motive. The narrative should have been much stronger, to give you a reason to crack on, but it's dreadful and leaves you wondering exactly how you've ended up in Japan or in a South American civil war. We won't spoil it, but don't expect any loose ends to be tied up at the conclusion either.

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