Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Revisited: Kane & Lynch, the best game that ever sucked

4:00 PM on 12.11.2009 // Jim Sterling

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men will forever go down in history as one of the most controversial games of all time. It was the eye of the notorious "Gerstmanngate" storm, slap-bang in the middle of an event that exposed the problems between game reviewers and marketing departments when GameSpot writer Jeff Gerstmann lost his job following a negative review of Eidos' third-person-shooter. 

There is no doubt that the game will forever be linked with Jeff Gerstmann and his review, and there is also no doubt that opinions of the game itself were tarnished by the controversy. The Xbox 360 version of the game has an unimpressive 65 on Metacritic, and our own Destructoid review sits at the bottom of the pile with a damning score of 3.0. 

Was it fair to rate this game so poorly? Were reviews negatively influenced by Eidos' corrupt actions? Is Kane & Lynch a bad game, a good game, or a good game let down by bad design? Two years after the title's release, I decided to step into the shoes of Adam "Kane" Marcus, and see what is worse -- the game, or the game's reputation.

Kane & Lynch stars Adam Marcus, otherwise known as the murderous mercenary Kane. The game starts with Kane on death row, in transit to his final destination as he attempts to write a letter to his estranged daughter Jenny. The man sitting next to him, however, seems to feel that something big is about to happen. His name is James Seth Lynch, and as soon he tells Kane to put his head down, the prison van upturns and all Hell breaks loose. 

After Kane and Lynch escape with the help of some mysterious mercenaries, Kane finds himself in the presence of The7 -- a group of hard-bitten criminals who Kane allegedly betrayed and left to "burn." The7 want back what Kane is supposed to have stolen from them, and if he refuses, his wife and daughter will be killed. Left with little choice, Kane agrees to recover the mysterious goods he took from The7, with Lynch joining him as a watchdog for the sinister killers. 

The only real problem is that Kane can't find what he stole, and Lynch is a paranoid schizophrenic who is prone to random acts of violence and may have murdered his own wife. 

Kane & Lynch's story is definitely in need of better pacing, since it frequently hops around the world and jumps forward in time with very little warning or build. However, the raw meat of the plot and the characters within it are incredibly memorable. The most commendable part of Kane & Lynch is the fact that it dares to be different -- often. While it looks -- and sometimes acts -- like a generic shooter with nothing to offer, the game provides more unique ideas and narrative elements than a game of its quality ever should. 

First of all, the main characters are truly different from the average videogame protagonist. Videogame heroes nearly always have to be completely redeemable, mostly because if a player is to take control and pretend to be somebody, they're going to need to identify with him in some way. Not so in Kane & Lynch, a game that manages to outshine Grand Theft Auto when it comes to playing somebody completely irreedemable. Even in GTA, characters are often portrayed as having little choice, or some form of charisma to make up for their heinous crimes. 

Kane and Lynch are never redeemable. They are killers. Even Kane, who is relatively sane in comparison to Lynch, is a sociopathic murderer and a selfish coward who uses other people for his own ends and only cares about his family -- if he even truly cares about them more than he cares about his own residual guilt. Kane's only saving grace is that he knows he deserves to die, and has at least come to terms with the fact that he's a worthless and vile piece of shit. Lynch, in several ways, is both better and worse than Kane. Better insofar as he's insane and the majority of his murders are committed due to hallucinations. Worse insofar as even when he is relatively stable and reasonable, he still refuses to accept responsibility for his actions and possibly hides behind his mental illness to escape any sense of remorse. 

Kane and Lynch are evil. They are about as close to evil as a videogame character can get. The only thing keeping them even vaguely noble is the fact that the people they're after are slightly more evil than they are. This is simply something that other videogames don't do, and there is a striking frankness in that. Just look at some examples: In the Uncharted series, Nathan Drake is something of a sociopath himself. He guns down countless human beings in his games, for a cause no more gallant than stealing some treasure for himself. He's pretty villainous when you think about it. In Grand Theft Auto, we play as heartless sadists and selfish murderers who will lie, steal and kill if it means saving their own hides and making some money. But of course, these characters are given charming one-liners and are portrayed as heroes or anti-heroes, so we accept the crimes of Nathan Drake or Niko Bellic and move on. 

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is more honest than this. Neither character is charming and neither of them spout one-liners to keep them likable. They gun down just as many mercs and cops as Nathan or Niko, but they do so with bitter intent and an obvious lack of morality. They don't even look like heroes -- both men are old, scarred, ugly and broken. They're balding, their skin is pallid and pock-marked, Kane's nose is shattered and bloody while Lynch looks like that creepy uncle who's house was burned down by an angry mob of parents. They are not cute like Spyro or sexy like Lara. They look like what they are -- hideous, callous, nasty little men. In any other game, they'd be the villains ... and not even the main villains. They'd be the stooges. Bottom feeders. Scum. 

This, to me, was a refreshing experience. While I can totally understand how it would be hard for some people to get into the role of a heartless and selfish mercenary, I relished the chance to play as somebody as irredeemable and downright grotesque as Kane. Not only is it unique, it's also deeply interesting to play as a man who knows he's dead and understands that he deserves it. It's fascinating to take on the persona of somebody who has no inherently good qualities whatsoever. Ultimately, it's just ... different. Different in a good way, not just different in a different way. 

Those playing the game in co-op mode get an even more interesting experience, as James Seth Lynch is a paranoid schizophrenic prone to hallucinations. If playing in co-op, Lynch will freak out during certain points in the story. While the AI will make Lynch do this automatically in single-player, the game very cleverly forces the second player to act out Lynch's insanity during a co-op game. During these blackout moments, the second player will see everybody -- bystander or enemy -- as a cop, and will have to shoot them. What this means is that the person playing Lynch will be gunning down innocent civilians while the first player watches on helpless. The second player is seeing cops everywhere -- some with animal heads -- while all the first players sees is Lynch wigging out and blasting everybody in the vicinity with his shotgun.

It's simply amazing that a game with Kane & Lynch's reputation would be so poor yet so inventive. We often talk about videogames using their unique traits as an interactive medium to drive forth story, and Kane & Lynch is one of the few games that actually does it. You simply can't convey that kind of brilliance in a book or a movie. It's an awesome idea, unique to videogames, and it's in a game like Kane & Lynch. Astounding. 

The game is full of these outstanding and memorable moments. Almost every level is different in some way, with its own interesting setpieces. Whether you're trying to shoot your way out of a busy nightclub, escaping from a bungled bank robbery, or breaking friends out of prison, each chapter of Dead Men is distinguished and feels like a new experience. The game's ambition cannot be denied -- it attempts to wow the player at every turn, and it sometimes even succeeds in creating a "holy shit" moment or a movie-esque scene. The moment when Kane loses his mind and beats a man to death with a shovel because he wasn't allowed to speak to his wife one last time is a truly standout segment. 

Of course, the problem is that Kane & Lynch is simply incredibly poor as a videogame. I don't think it's half as terrible as some people have claimed, but it's certainly not good. The shooting is twitchy and far too loose, even on a PC. The cover system doesn't work at all. Ally AI is terrible and frequently refuses to help you out. The game is unnecessarily hard, usually because it throws a ton of enemies at you with no real cover and characters that can only take a handful of shots before dying. It's completely imbalanced, and firefights frequently become frustrating affairs. 

Not helping are the game's graphics, which frequently take huge framerate dumps, some of them rendering the game unplayable until they mysteriously fix themselves. The saving grace is that the game is rather short, but that should never be one of the most positive aspects of a game's campaign. All told, the game is depressingly poor, doubly so considering all the good it frequently tries to do. 

However, the game is far from unplayable, and if you can struggle through the frustrations, there are some great things to take away from the experience. It's sad that a game is so bad, yet is clearly capable of so much brilliance. It's easy to write off a game that was lazily made, rushed and thrown out for a quick buck. We expect games like that to be bad. For an ambitious and, in some ways, skillfully crafted experience to be as sub-par as Kane & Lynch? That's somewhat hard to accept. In some ways, it makes the game even less forgivable than a game that was never intended to be good in the first place. A game with wasted potential is worse than a game that never had any potential to begin with. 

Bad games are easy to dismiss as sloppy, hastily developed games that nobody cared enough about to improve. I don't get that impression with Kane & Lynch, however. Instead, I see a game that the developers honestly cared about. A game that earnestly, sincerely attempts to be memorable and different and do interesting things with the medium of videogames. IO Interactive gave this game their best shot, but they just made mistake after mistake after mistake along the way. The game is undeniably poor, absolutely disappointing. But it really does do some truly great things. 

Having played Kane & Lynch: Dead Men to its conclusion, I am genuinely excited for Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. There is every chance that IO could make the same mistakes again, but there is also a chance that they learned from everything they screwed up in the first game. If they have learned, and manage to create gameplay that rivals Kane & Lynch's ambition and inventiveness, then we will truly have a fantastic, artful, and thoroughly unique title on our hands. At the very least, I am glad that IO is getting the chance to make Kane & Lynch into the game it deserves to be. 

For it most certainly deserves to be better. 

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

trkals avatartrkals DIY DIY projects for new hobbies
trkals avatartrkals DIY DIY projects for new hobbies , felt, amigurumi , origami and event platform for sharing the work done at home easily. -Kendin Yap DIY projeleri, yeni hobiler, keçe, amigurumi, origami ve evde kolay yapılan çalışmaların payl
LinkSlayer64 avatarLinkSlayer64
Well, everyone is throwing in their opinion on women and games, and here I am... writing a blog about being aroused by female characters in games as a kid... Perhaps I should hold off, I have a feeling it may just be taken the wrong way.
Agent9 avatarAgent9
Thinking about getting my sister yokai watch or animal crossing Happy Home designer(comes with nfc reader). I already got a copy of Tales of xillia for her ps3, this is just a bonus for when she's on the road or at someones house. any suggestions?
Dalek Sex avatarDalek Sex
Dark Souls 2. Dem builds.
Torchman avatarTorchman
Posted image I promised Flanx, didn't get response from him. Heart forever broken.
Archelon avatarArchelon
Community Question: What game have you played through to completion the most number of times?
Atleastimhousebroken avatarAtleastimhousebroken
ProTip for UK Nintendo gamers: Twilight Princess HD is finally up for pre-order on Amazon. Unfortunately, it won't ship to anywhere outside of the UK. Dammit Amazon Italy! Get on this!!!
extatix avatarextatix
It's the best time of the year again! Finally we get to listen to Wham and Chris Rea over and over again!
MeanderBot avatarMeanderBot
The Unofficial Destructoid Christmas Card has been ordered. If you claimed one, you should probably PM me your address now.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Started playing Wonderful 101 and it's good, but pretty overwhelming. Think I'll put it down for now. Also sad that there is no penis formation. [img][/img]
Terry 309 avatarTerry 309
What the hell happened to Arcade racing games?
EdgyDude avatarEdgyDude
Red from Transistor has joined Indivisible! many thanks to Supergiant Games for their support to this game.
JBroXNari99 avatarJBroXNari99
Does anyone know if Advent of Indies is happening this year? I looked it up today and didn't find any updates on their Twitter since January.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
I brought that cake I made into work and it disappeared fast. Maybe if I lose my job I can just make a living selling cakes on the end of my street.
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
My review-in-progress of Just Cause 3: Explosions - good. Grappling hook - good. Flying - good. Driving - an abomination. 8/10.
SirDavies avatarSirDavies
Well, ugh, this is awkward. A year ago I wrote a cblog about cool indie games coming in 2015, and not a single one of them has been released :/
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
I was happy to have never spoiled myself the final boss of Splatoon's campaign. That was one of the best boss fights ever and I absolutely love the credits track. So relaxing. [youtube][/youtube]
Niero Desu avatarNiero Desu
Today's kids will never know the struggle of putting an encyclopedia on top of an NES Max to auto-buy 99 potions before heading into Terra Cavern
CblogRecaps avatarCblogRecaps
Sometimes, on more dreary days, I make a smiley face with sliced-pickle eyes and bacon grin in my lunch-burger. It fills me up all the same, but I feel a warm sense of accomplishment, achievement and satisfaction on top of it.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -