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aceattorney
9th Nov 2007, 22:54
Eidos opened its doors to the Xbox gaming community for the first time today for an inside look at the soon-to-be-released title, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. The Eidos team could not have been more hospitable and gracious to the 16 podcasters, bloggers, and Xbox MVPs, in stark contrast to the dark and morally objectionable themes and tones that greet you in K&L.

We were treated with introductions of the game by David Bamberger, Senior Product Manager, and Jesper Kyd, critically-acclaimed composer of the incredible K&L score, and then we were thrust into the violent world of two very terrible men.

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Starting the single player campaign felt like being clocked in the jaw with a slab of raw, bloody meat. The game’s sense of morality directly challenges your own – and the result is a jarring first impression. While games have had players commit deadly acts against law enforcement before, in K&L, there is no attempt made to justify killing the police – the cops aren’t zombies, or paid off by the mob, and they aren’t taken over by alien parasites. They’re the good guys, and you are supposed to kill them.

Progressing through the game however, you learn that the stars of the game aren’t really that one-dimensional. These men may have once had a shred of decency in their core beings – but that time has long passed. This doesn’t make it any easier being the antagonist, but it does bring a bit more understanding to these driven characters. Incidentally, even as I type this, I can hear Lynch berating me for being “such a drama queen.”

The dysfunctional dynamic between the deadly duo is one built around ever-present themes of distrust, greed, apathy, and the basic need to survive. The interchanges between Kane and Lynch are fascinating to watch – almost like watching predators in the wild, taunting and stalking each other while hunting prey together. The storyline really is a grisly crime drama that unfolds as you play through each chapter. You simply will not find a crime drama more compelling or well-written in this generation of gaming. And Kyd’s powerful score takes center stage in this title, creating not just atmosphere, but with his pieces, Kyd seems to actually drive the storyline.

So that’s the concept, idea, and premise of the game – but what about the gameplay? We were given a taste of several chapters in the campaign throughout the game, and upon retrospect, I probably could have used a lot more time getting used to the controls and camera controls. Using an angled, over-the-shoulder camera perspective takes a bit of adjustment, and aiming and maneuvering the camera seemed a little bit clunky. In addition, the lack of accuracy and incredible amounts of recoil in the weapons compounded gameplay issues. Moreover, while being able to direct members in your crew is a concept that is tried and true, doing so in K&L was challenging at times.

K&L features a sort of automatic cover system. Walking up to the edge of a wall, or next to a doorway will put Kane/Lynch into cover. Depressing the left trigger button will let you zoom down the sights of your weapon, and slightly exposed to take out your targets. Pressing the right trigger while in cover, without pressing the left button will make Kane/Lynch fire blindly (think Gears of War). Just remember, when the cover is a low wall or boulder, you have to crouch by clicking the left bumper to activate the cover system. Another similarity to Gears of War is that K&L is not a run and gun shooter – the NPCs are pretty darn accurate, and there are usually tons of them around.

Graphically, K&L is one of those games that will impress you sometimes with great textures, lighting, and shading, but at times may also leave you wondering whether you were playing a next gen game with repetitive NPC models and weak animations. The cutscenes are very polished, but in-game graphics are probably not the best you’ve seen on the 360. Even though the graphics engine doesn’t seem top-notch, the art direction of the game is really remarkable. The centerpieces of the title, Kane and Lynch themselves find themselves in different outfits, depending on the setting or chapter in the campaign, not to mention how anti-hero they really do look. Interestingly, Bamberger shared that Kane’s striking resemblance to K&L’s Art Director isn’t coincidental.

Smaller graphical details like realistic bullet wounds in Kane and Lynch whenever an NPC shoots them add to the game’s immersion. In addition, shooting individual tires on cars will deflate them, and of course, shooting cars will cause them to explode. Details such as these help balance the graphical elements that are absent in the game.

At the community event, we were also given some hands-on time with Fragile Alliance, the online multiplayer mode in K&L. There is no other online mode in this game, but Fragile Alliance presents some incredible concepts found in no other game. Imagine robbing a bank with people who have an incentive to kill you for your share of the loot. That is the idea of Fragile Alliance, in a nutshell. If you really start to think about what can happen in a match, it becomes apparent that Fragile Alliance is a battle of not only guns, but of wit and psychology. You’re not just waiting for the right moment to stab another player in the back – you’re waiting for him to shoot YOU in the back of YOUR head. Actually, let me rephrase this – you and up to seven other players are playing this mind game. It’s a chess game with multiple opponents, and rules that are broken as easily as they are uttered by fellow thieves.

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If you are killed by NPCs or by fellow robbers in a match, you will respawn once, but not as a robber – you’re now playing on the other side of the fence, and your goal is to kill the thieves before they escape with any money. But die again, and the round is over for you, without an additional respawn. Incidentally, whether playing as criminal or cop, your gamertag will be floating above your head, clearly visible to both teams from anywhere on the map. Fortunately, crouching will make that gamertag invisible. This gameplay element can be a huge part of strategy.

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I found that the fast pace of the Fragile Alliance matches was perfect – it only added to the adrenaline-pumping nature of the match. Remember, you’re trying to collect as much cash as possible (by simply waiting a few seconds wherever a $ symbol is floating around, like at a cash register), killing armed (or unarmed, I suppose) NPCs, and watching your back in case a fellow robber decides to make his cut just a little bigger. The money you collect can be used in between rounds to purchase upgrade weapon/armor packs, but keep in mind, the more loot you collect, the bigger target you become to your comrades’ eyes.

The maps that we tried were not too huge – getting familiar with the maps did not pose to be a problem whatsoever. There are definite choke-points, and tons of areas to take cover from, but the trick is to be able to find alternate routes to either sneak away to the escape vehicle, or ambush a fellow criminal. K&L will launch with four maps, but Eidos is planning on releasing additional maps in the future as downloadable content.

Fragile Alliance stirs emotions and strategy not found in any other multiplayer game. There is no game that invokes the feeling you get when you and a fellow robber head down a stairwell, and you’ve got your sights aimed at the back of his head – spare him and strengthen your alliance for the next round, or take him out, gloat in your traitorous ways and with his share of the loot? Just facing the dilemma and having the choice is deliciously gratifying.

Speaking with various attendees of the event, I was surprised to hear that some preferred the single player campaign over Fragile alliance, and vice versa. As for me, I’m definitely going to be playing through the campaign – with a friend – and if you couldn’t already tell, I really dig the Fragile Alliance mode. Check out the game, due in stores on November 14th!

Thanks very much to David, Jesper, Jennie, Stanley, the rest of the Eidos team, Nelson, Microsoft, Witchking, and especially Godfree - you guys = :bang:

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See the rest of the photos here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/15946013@N07/sets/72157602822656734/

:360:

The Hessian Horseman
9th Nov 2007, 23:53
Wow, this is a darn nice article you got there! Thanks for sharing your experiences :)

You got me a li'l concerned, describing the spongy aiming and repeating NPC models... but I still think the game's gonna be great and that we'll be able to connive at the li'l drawbacks!

Arsh
10th Nov 2007, 02:04
I don't care if the game has little defects. I'm able to adjust for anything accordingly. I've been looking forward to this game for over a year. I've been trying to spread the word as much as possible. It's gonna rock, period. I've been waiting for a game like this for years.

5 more days.

Bandit
10th Nov 2007, 02:32
WOW. Hell Yeah!

Great pictures and story. Little misunderstood with the spongy aiming and repeating NPC models, but oh well, i'm with the hessian, I just bought Gears of War to tide me over and it has it's BIG Share of Problems, but soon they will have patches (I hope)

Will adjust to anything I like playing or doing though. Well said.

aceattorney
10th Nov 2007, 15:57
Thanks for the great comments guys...

Gamertagradio.com just posted their video coverage of the event - be sure to check it out!

http://www.gamertagradio.com/vbportal/forums/showthread.php?t=5686&goto=newpost