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One of the many good things about Kane & Lynch is that it doesn't waste too much time with endless cut-scenes, preferring to throw you straight into the action and let you work out the storyline from there. It's clearly intended as a very subjective, visceral experience - from the moment Kane is pulled groggy from the wreckage of a prison transport, the screen blurred and the sound dampened, it's clear that Io wants you right in Kane's shoes, wincing every time a bullet hits and really feeling the tension of combat. Oddly, the decision to go third-person actually works in its favour.
And there are periods where the game succeeds brilliantly. Someone has clearly been watching their Michael Mann movies, because a taut action sequence in a smoke and laser-filled nightclub brings to mind a similar scene in Collateral, while several shoot-outs are hugely reminiscent of Heat. There's something about the rather dry and noisy clutter of the weapons and the masonry exploding all around that makes Kane & Lynch feel much closer to the bone than your average shoot-em-up.
Kane can take a few shots before he goes down, and even after that he can be resuscitated by Lynch or another compadre with a shot of adrenaline, but as in the Call of Duty games being caught out in the open under heavy fire is a surefire way to find yourself back at the last checkpoint. When its running on full power - in an escape from a Japanese skyscraper and the ensuing battle with the authorities - there's no denying that Kane & Lynch is an explosive action thriller that merits all the pre-release hype. The problem is that it only occasionally reaches that sort of level.
Why? Mostly it comes down to combat and AI. The gunplay itself is full of problems, most notably slow movement, a context-sensitive cover system that doesn't quite work as it should, and some odd collision detection issues where enemies that should be in your sights seem to have developed a strange bullet-proof shield in front of their clearly exposed faces. The AI, meanwhile, is woefully inconsistent. At times the game manages to synchronise the actions of Lynch, any other comrades, cops or SWAT troops and a sizable crowd of screaming bystanders with clinical precision. At other times, you'll find that your guys are running out into gunfire or blissfully ignoring the guy shooting at them from the side, while your foes are either glued to the spot or racing to a single position so that you don't even need to move your sights to gun them down. Less the blind leading the blind than the stupid shooting the stupid.