Some developers want to write books, some to be in rock bands. IO Interactive is amongst the large number who want to make movies. Kane & Lynch sees them take the assassin's gloves off and cocking an AK47 in the direction of Hollywood's summer blockbusters. It runs a gauntlet of jaw-dropping set pieces and explosive shoot outs across a global stage, offering similar visceral thrills to Stranglehold, but filtering the gunplay through the precision of Rainbow Six. Yet Rambo it ain't.
This shift of pace is completely at odds with the developer's previous outing, the slow-burn of last year's excellent Hitman: Bloody Money. You have the impression that it's catering to those gamers pushed past the point of frustration at Codename 47's Zen-like focus of careful observation and forward planning. This is for those that snapped, threw caution to the wind, to those that pulled out a berretta and stormed towards their target...only to die in a hail of bullets. While consistently inventive, the Hitman franchise never rewarded trigger-happy players and this does.
So while surprising, the change to lightning-fast gunplay is welcome and it's hard to put the pad down until the credits start. Make no mistake; this is from IO Interactive. There are distinct noir overtones pumping through the game's black-veined heart. But the script and gunplay offers no surprises, the former following rod-straight plot devices, while the latter follows a structure that never deviates from the formula. If this hadn't come in the wake of The Darkness, BioShock and Half-Life 2, we'd have been more enraptured with the revenge-thriller angle or the run-and-gun gameplay.
Because despite the title, this is really Kane's story. While a cooperative run through the story gives control to both characters, flying solo will place you in Kane's shoes. His and Lynch's escape from a prison truck a ruse to put him in the hands of those he needs to repay... or face fatal consequences. Thus the game's structure, a body-filled worldwide trip, comes to the fore as Kane and his 'carer' Lynch (who is sent by a criminal organisation called the7 to make sure Kane completes his mission) set out to retrieve some metaphorical buried treasure (obviously things go terribly, terribly wrong).
Kane's a man that finds the most straightforward solution is the best. He's the Jack Bauer of the videogame world - doing things that seem crazy to his colleagues...but allows IO Interactive to let loose with impressive set pieces and give you some amazing scenarios to play through. Need to rescue your ex-members from jail? Screw the slow burn of the Great Escape - you'll storm the prison and stage a detention-wide riot to cover your escape. Need to gain access to a secure building? Forget stealth - you lead an army of guerrillas to flood the surrounding streets and distract an army...and then smash through the building's defences with a tank. By the game's ending credits, the body count has way surpassed Stallone's Rambo franchise, or even Hot Shots Part Deux.
Beyond Stallone, the hallmarks of some of the Hollywood greats are obvious throughout the game's ten hour play time. The most immediately apparent of those are Heat and Stallone's classic rumble in the jungle, but any film buff will have fun spotting exactly what Kane & Lynch are plagiarising or tributing at any one point. That's not to do the game a disservice - it manages to capture that essence of the blockbuster to hammer out more high-adrenaline moments than this summer's collection combined.