Posted by: smirkdirk | August 27, 2009

Some Thoughts on “Kane and Lynch: Dead Men”

3 out of 5 cookies. Rating system courtesy of Odd Todd.

Doing some new stuff with these video game posts. The first thing you will notice is that little cookie rating up above. If you go back to my first “Some Thoughts…” video game post a few months back, I have a whole paragraph explanation about how these things aren’t reviews but just some thoughts about the game having played it and all. I blather on about how I’m not qualified to be critic, how I’m just some guy writing a blog and playing a game.

Who am I kidding? They’re reviews and criticism by some guy writing a blog and playing a game. If some web surfer wants to know what I think about the game he can read the whole thing, but if he doesn’t have the time but still wants to know what I think then, well, there’s some quick cookies up there to tell him what I think real quick-like.

But anyway, on to the business at hand; Kane and Lynch: Dead Men. Back in November of 2007 I spent Thanksgiving with my Dad and family up in Michigan. At one point, all the men spent a couple of hours watching Spike TV and just hanging out doing nothing. This game was either just released or just about to be released and each and every commercial break featured the same loud, bombastic ad for this game. I had just gotten my Xbox 360 two months earlier as a birthday present so I was attentive to the commercials the first couple times they came on, but by the time somebody finally changed the channel to a football game we had all probably seen the commercial 20 times. I was all Kane and Lynched out just from the commercial. By the time I got back to the Carolinas a couple days later I had forgotten that the game had ever existed, as though a mental block went up from being over-exposed to the same 45 seconds again, and again, and again… Until I saw it in a pawnshop for $10 a few weeks ago and bargained the guy down to $8 for it.

Is there such a thing as too much advertising? I think so. That might explain why back in February when I first saw the teaser ad for Bruno, I was pretty excited for it. And, by the time it came out I had watched Cohen do every talk show as the character to the point where it was no longer funny, I’d seen the same clips so many times that I could recite them – I still have yet to see the movie. I felt I’d already seen it. The excitement was killed by too much promo. The same too with the advertising push of this particular game.

In fact, while researching this post, (yes, I actually research my video game reviews to come up with a new angle or interesting tidbit) I came across this video review by video game journalist Jeff Gerstmann for Gamespot wherein he pretty much tears Kane and Lynch to shreds for five minutes and then rates it as “fair”.

What makes this noteworthy, besides the fact that he’s pretty much right-on with most of what he says, is that evidently the game’s publisher, Eidos Interactive, spent a ton of ad money on the Gamespot website to promote the game, going so far as to, according to Wikipedia, transform the entire homepage into a Kane and Lynch theme.

Gerstmann was fired shortly thereafter and although Gamespot denies that there was any connection between his bad review and his termination, the suspicion and controversy remain that Gerstmann was possibly fired for upsetting the advertiser.

It’s like radio-payola except with video games! It’s a sign that the medium is growing up. It’s still a surprise to people who don’t play video games just how much money is in video games. By early January 2008, just 2 months after its release, Kane and Lynch had sold 1,000,000 copies at 59.95 a pop -and another 700,000 brand new copies between that time and now. These figures, of course, don’t include used copies from Gamestop, pawn shops, flea markets, Amazon, Ebay, etc.

As I mentioned, Gerstmann’s review pretty much hits all the right weak spots in the game. The aiming mechanic is a pain in the ass, every single commandment of video games according to the Cracked article is broken somewhere within this game, the script and story are weak, as well as the overuse of the F-word as a crutch to remind of just how bad the script-writing is…

Gerstmann does have good words for the story mode of the game but they are mainly vague, almost back-handed compliments. He says crap like ‘there is good stuff to be found here but you’re going to have to dig deep to find it…’ This is where I split with him and think he did the game an injustice. There was quite a bit about this game that I liked quite a bit, despite its flaws.

In my imagination I picture the brainstorming session for Kane and Lynch going something like this:

‘Okay guys, we gots to make this new videogame about these two completely unlikable, not to mention ugly, assholes Kane and Lynch. What I’m thinking is that we pretty much find movies that nobody’d ever make a game out of because really there’s only one or two sequences you could make a game out of and the rest is a bunch or boring talk and drama. Anybody got any ideas?’

‘Well, boss, I sorta liked that whole club shoot-out sequence in that Tom Cruise movie “Collateral”. Remember that?’

‘You mean this one?’

‘Yeah! That’s it! And we’ll make it look like this!’

‘You know what I think would be great boss?!’

‘What’s that, my little developer compadre’?’

‘That one scene when I woke up at the end of “Heat” and there was, like, this shoot-out going on in the street that went on and on, like, totally awesome, for-like-ever!’

‘You mean this one!?’

‘Totally! But we’ll make it Tokyo, so it’ll be totally different! It’ll look like this!’

‘I’m noticing a pattern here…’

‘Yeah, boss, what pattern would that be?’

‘These are both Michael Mann movies. We’re not making Michael Mann the videogame! Anybody got anything else besides Michael Mann?’

‘Yeah, boss, how ’bout that prison escape sequence from Natural Born Killers. That would be awesome!’

‘You mean this one?’

‘Yup! Except ours will look like this!’

‘Hey boss, how ’bout that sequence from The Little Mermaid where there’ll all like ‘under the sea’ and stuff!?

‘You mean this one!?’

‘Yeah! That’s it!’

‘No. I don’t think that one’s going to work…’

Anyway, you get the idea. There is a lot of fun stuff and great environments in this game. Although, hardly original, it is stuff that in video game form with the current gen systems hasn’t been done yet. The plot, convoluted as it is, serves the game play well. Besides the above listed levels we have a whole level in Japanese garden that’s great to look at and fight in, as well as three levels that take place in downtown Havana, Cuba that are well designed and have a lot of character.

In short, there was a lot of love put into this game it just wasn’t put into the places that a guy like Gerstmann thinks are important.

That being said there were two extremely frustrating sections of the game that I think are worth mentioning as both of them not only were a chore to get through, but almost made me not finish the game.

The first section involved a dump truck in which you have to shoot the driver which, due to the bad controls and aiming mechanic involves much less talent, and much more sheer luck than it should.

The second almost give up section I’d like to whine about involves shooting down a helicopter which also is more luck than skill. You can’t even tell if you’re damaging the thing or not, and after you finally get it, it doesn’t even give you the satisfaction of crashing or blowing up – it just sort of turns around and flies away.

The dump truck is rather early in the game and I wonder how many players just gave up and never saw some of the great things this game has to offer later like the jungle levels in South America.

I ended up checking the internet and watching a couple of walk-through videos to make sure there wasn’t something I was missing with these sequences – but there wasn’t.

In fact, if you google the cheats for this game, shooting that friggin’ dump truck is the number one result – and there’s not even a real cheat for it, it just pretty much says, shoot until you get lucky. Stupid programmers.

Different people play games for different reasons. Some play for the competitiveness wanting to defeat the game at its highest level for geekazoidal bragging rights. Other players just want to relax and have something to do to kill time. I personally play them for the journey they take me on – to admire the storytelling (which in the video games is still in its infancy so sometimes its quite laughable), and to marvel over the pretty pictures. To me, video games are like movies you can play – interactive movies. That’s why I essentially don’t play sports games or don’t do much on-line play. I’m sort of a solitude gamer kind of dude. (The one exception would be music games.)

As a result of what attracts me to games, if given a choice I always play a game on the easiest level available. I’m along for the ride, not to prove something with how many achievements I can get. I have neither the time nor inclination for that sort of thing. A game like Kane and Lynch should never, on the easy level make an along-for-the-ride sort of gamer quit in frustration. There’s a reason why a player chose the ‘easy’ level. Give the gamer what they paid for, since ultimately it is the gamer that’s footing the bill.

(I hear your cat-calls of wuss, for my easy-level confession… You can stop now.)


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