It's hard to imagine a game with worse post-release publicity than the first "Kane & Lynch." While it was widely considered mediocre, it wasn't until the controversial dismissal of Gamespot's reviewer, Jeff Gerstmann, that the game became a larger-than-life symbol of The Man. Without the controversy, the game probably would've been forgotten about a week or so after release, but even today the stigma surrounding the franchise remains, which makes the existence of its forthcoming sequel somewhat unexpected
I recently spoke to the game's director, Karsten Lund, regarding the sequel and why he thought it was worth bringing the franchise back. His answer was surprising.
"We don't see it as the failure that the rest of the world saw it as. It sold a lot of copies; actually, it was one of the best-selling new IPs of the year. We're still in love with the characters and the whole gritty tone and the uniqueness of the franchise, so from our perspective it was totally obvious to do a sequel."
Lund admits, though, that the game wasn't perfect. "We agreed that we had some mixed reviews and some of it, to a certain extent, we agreed with. So we needed to do something to it."
What they did was make a list. Five elements that needed to be changed or added to ensure that the second game wouldn't follow in the first's 66%-average-on-GameRankings footsteps. Here's what they focused on:
1) Fix the cover system
2) Overhaul the aiming and shooting mechanics
3) Smarter AI
4) Better-looking graphics
5) Add online co-op
Another shift was the inspiration. When publicizing the first game, the developers repeatedly referenced movies like "Heat" as sources of inspiration. For "Kane & Lynch 2," Lund says they looked more to YouTube than Hollywood, trying to create more realistic, believable environments and situations.
In describing one of the new gameplay elements, though, Lund started mention new tactics like kicking down doors and shooting exploding canisters in mid-air. That didn't sound very realistic to me, so he clarified his statement:
"It's a Kane and Lynch game, it has to go over the top at some point. I think the key word here is not realism, it's more credibility. Once everything clicks together you get a whole suspension of disbelief feeling.
"Once you have a firefight in a garage you're like, ok, this could happen in real life. Then you go to the next part of the level and it's a derelict building that's about to be torn down to make way for a skyscraper and it turns into almost "Gears of War" with futuristic landscapes…but you still believe it."
But even with these changes, Lund acknowledges that there will be those who write off "Kane & Lynch 2" before it even comes out. To those people, he's adamant.
"This game has to be tried. You just have to pick it up and try it. It might look like a bumpy ride from the outside, but once you sit there you get the feeling. I'd say try it. Try it, try it. That's the only way to be sure."
There's passion in his voice. Here's hoping that carries over into making a great game, as well.