The multiplayer side of Kane and Lynch
can be split into two parts – the standard offline only co-op side and the online-only but incredibly complex multiplayer side. Each one is a different beast entirely.
The co-op side is entirely indifferent to expectations and the only really remarkable thing about it is that the game doesn’t have any online co-op option, so you have to be sat next to the person you’re playing with. In the actual co-op campaign one person will play as Kane and one as Lynch.
The players are pretty much identical – right down to the cool little sniper scope which appears, tracking the player in the bottom left if a sharpshooter spots you. I love that little touch, it makes the next few seconds a mad dash to find cover.
The one area that the players differ is in Lynch’s mental condition, which means he can occasionally slip into a rage which gives him certain bonuses and weaknesses. Basically, he can shoot faster than normal but he sees team mates and civilians as enemies and may end up gunning for them. It’s the only real distinction between the two characters.
The other, ‘true’ multiplayer mode is online only and is called Fragile Alliance. It’s also a little bit complex and not at all like the re-badged deathmatch clone you might expect. Let me explain it as best I can.
Click to enlarge
Fragile Alliance is a team game set around a heist. At the start of the game all players are on the same team, the robbers, and the other team, the cops, are all A.I. driven. The idea is simple – the robbers have to get in, get the swag and get out while avoiding the cops. If a robber dies then he comes back to life as an enhanced cop, a SWAT agent with better weapons and armour.
Now, this is where things get complex. The robbers can double cross each other. Any robbers who manage to survive a level will all take an equal share of the loot, so in order to be the one with the most money, players are encouraged to betray and kill one another. However, there are some things to bear in mind before you just off your allies.
The first thing is that anyone you kill obviously becomes a cop. The cops win if they prevent the heist from taking place by killing all the robbers and cops can earn points if they manage to kill anyone who is classed as a traitor on the robber's team. By killing your friends, you only make your job more difficult so the game becomes a balancing act. Who do you need to survive and when do you thin the crowd? Do it too early and you’ll never get inside the vault. Too late and you’ll never get out to the van.
The second thing to think about is that anyone who betrays his team is marked in the next rounds – the colour of your shirt and balaclava changing to reflect your position and score. That way, other robbers can spot you and kill you early on if they don’t want to risk a backstab.
Click to enlarge
On top of this, there’s a whole load of other smaller tactical choices to be made. Such as how to use the loot and which of the four weapon sets do you buy before a round starts. Each robber can only carry so much swag too, though it can act as a Money Shield when he does carry it and he’ll drop cash which other players can grab instead of taking damage. The result of all these tactical choices is a game mode which feels very much like playing through a high-speed heist movie. You have to keep your eyes open at all times and your sidearm handy.
However, the multiplayer does have problems. Quite a few actually. First, the brevity and lack of levels. There’s only four levels available in the game and, although they cover a range of environments such as bank vaults and Japanese mob mansions, they are all actually quite small and clearly ripped from the singleplayer game.
The rounds are time limited too, which poses a problem. There are multiple rounds to a match, but each round can only be 200 seconds long or the robbers lose. It is nicely balanced so that each level feels very fast paced, but a small number of small levels combined with a short time limit and a complex gameplay mechanic isn’t really a winning combination, no matter how finely tuned it is.
It’s like mixing together almonds, curry powder and custard. You can make that combination taste better, but it’ll never taste good. The result here is that levels get old quickly when you have to restart them every minute or so, restarting again if you die as a robber and come back as a cop.
The control system was also a point of contention for me. There were many times when I was running along with my team and I was shot in the back only to find that, because of the Xbox controller being what it is and the weapons being as powerful as they are, even if I did live long enough to turn around then I’d still never be able to do it fast enough.
Ultimately, I think Fragile Alliance is a good game mode provided you know who you’re playing and everybody has a headset to hand – then it’s possible to form alliances and co-ordinate movements. In most other situations, players just rush the objective, shooting each other as they go. Nine times out of ten, the cops will win. One time out of ten is luck.