IO Interactive is best known for their hit Hitman franchise, which was starting to feel played out until the latest entry that wound up being the best of the series. What some forget is they also developed the Red Dawn-inspired Freedom Fighters, where the USSR invades New York and it's up to one plumber (no, not Mario), to organize the underground resistance into a force to take back his home, and rescue his brother (not Luigi). It was a solid third person shooter with great firefights and amazingly quick and intuitive squad controls that allowed you to scout out and outflank vodka swilling Ruskies. Sadly, plans for a sequel fell apart, but now the gameplay has returned in a different package, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.
Kane was the leader of a ruthless mercenary group The 7, only to be caught and sent to the slammer as all the cash from their last caper vanished into the ether. His former teammates weren't too happy about that, so they've busted him out of the joint, and handed him a series of jobs to make it up, or his family will suffer in return. To make sure he stays in line, his partner is now a psychopath named Lynch that won't hesitate to gut Kane the moment he tries to stem the flow of brutal bloodshed.
Inspired by the works of Michael Mann, K&L is a pristine world about to get rocked by kidnappings in night clubs and daytime robbery getaways on busy Tokyo streets. Kane will have to slaughter anyone who gets in his way with a selection of high grade hardware and other firepower, commanding his squad under a hail of return fire. Borrowing a little from the better trends in gaming, Kane regenerates damage when not getting shot, but he's no Marcus. He can't take more than a few good bullets before he goes down, though if he's lucky there's a teammate close by to revive him before hitting the white light. To keep from becoming a bloody target dummy, Kane can also take cover behind any reasonably solid object, but he still has to keep his squad in line so they don't get outflanked by an aggressive enemy force.
Kane & Lynch isn't something that needs to be played alone. The main game can be rocked with split screen co-op, where you buddy takes the role of the bloodthirsty Lynch. This sadly can't be played online, but there's a whole other mode for up to eight player action. This unique game mode called Fragile Alliance puts players in the role of robbers in six varied scenarios. The key to victory is escaping with the most cash, and the easy way to increase your share is to put a bullet in the brain of one of your allies. Unfortunately for you, he's going to respawn as a cop, and his first official act will be to hunt you down with extreme prejudice.
With the visuals stark and full of activity, the sound of gunfire sweet, and the music haunting, Kane & Lynch is shaping up to be one of the most memorable gaming experiences in a very crowded holiday season. Let's hope it lives up to the promise of Freedom Fighters when it hits this coming November.