Kane & Lynch 2 ditches GFWL - and it's good


I'm enjoying watching Square Enix hammer another nail into the Games for Windows Live coffin. A week ago, Bethesda announced that Fallout: New Vegas would drop Live integration in favor of Steam for all its achievement and DLC needs. Today, while getting my hands on the surprisingly promising crime shooter Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, it came out that the cops and robbers sequel would also drop Microsoft's reviled copy protection and match-making system.

One of K&L2's best-looking features is a revamped version of the first game's Fragile Alliance multiplayer mode, in which you and your team cooperatively rob a bank, then (optionally) turn on one another during your escape to take the loot for yourself. The mode was the best part of K&L 1, but it was nearly impossible to play online due to GFWL's crappiness. I asked IO Interactive game director Kim Krogh if I'd have the same experience this time around.

“No, for that reason. We're using Steamworks,” he said. Awesome. Music to my ears. Steamworks is Valve's free set of tools for integrating multiplayer and copy protection via Steam - it's a lot more reliable, and a lot less intrusive.

So Kane & Lynch 2 is off to a great start: we'll be able to play it. The original Kane & Lynch: Dead Men wasn't a terrible game, though without the review scandal surrounding it, it might have been forgotten by now. This one, I think, people will remember for its merits as a shooter. The gunplay feels much more kinetic and powerful, the cover system is smooth and easy to use, and cover objects (and many walls) disintegrate under heavy fire. The way you get knocked down when you're hit, but continue to fire from the ground, makes you feel like you've really taken a bullet.

The clever camera effect is still impressive. IO Interactive is going for a found-footage look, as if it were shot through a cheap cell phone camera and uploaded to YouTube. When you're hit, the screen shows distortion and bad compression artefacts; looking at a bright ceiling light sprouts a vertical banding effect. There's no telling if it'll start to grate as the game wears on, but in the short time I played it, I loved it. IO says it takes them around eight hours to get through the campaign, which puts the player in the shiny suit of the unhinged Lynch and the AI (or optional co-op buddy) controlled Kane providing cover.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is out in August.