As a companion piece to my post "Dead Men" below, my friend Chris published a different article of mine singing the praises of Kane & Lynch over on the Shacknews blog. My post "Noir"was also graciously linked by Simon Carless on Gamasutra's blog, GameSetWatch. I'd like to extend my gratitude to them both for spreading my words around.

I think that my heavy evangelism of Kane & Lynch, along with my posting of "Dead Men" immediately after "Noir," and finally relating that game to the "noir mindset," may have given off a bit of a false impression, though. While I do think that K&L is admirable for affecting some of noir's most compelling narrative approaches, it's not "THE GAME" that epitomizes that theoretical overall production I outlined in "Noir." "Noir" described a game that, to my knowledge, does not exactly exist at present. There are a few reasons that Kane & Lynch isn't that game.

1) Scale of production: Kane & Lynch is a full-scale commercial production that aims for "triple A" status. It includes a full singleplayer/co-op campaign as well as a separate, full-featured competitive multiplayer game mode. It uses a graphics engine that has been updated to current-gen standards which, while not on par with the cutting edge of Unreal 3 tech, attempts to wield all the visual bells and whistles of its contemporaries. It was released across three current-gen platforms, and boasted a fairly massive intercontinental advertising campaign. Perhaps to its detriment, Kane & Lynch was a "big game" in every applicable respect. Conversely, a noir game will fully embrace a narrower production scope, intentionally modest level of graphical fidelity, and low-intensity approach to marketing/distribution.

2) Scale of Conflict: While the personal conflicts that drive Kane's character arc are compelling, and the narrative itself largely maintains a direct, visceral and human scale, the physical conflict acted out by the player is a different thing entirely, maintaining the status quo of mowing down hundreds of faceless enemies over the course of a video game. The noir approach does not embrace the flood of cannon fodder common to contemporary action titles, but instead promises an experience buoyed by its characters' internal conflicts, and only punctuated by sudden outbursts of violence that are meaningful to the player's understanding of the gameworld. Noir and Rambo do not mix; the handful of deaths in Kane & Lynch that do truly matter are diluted by the dozens upon dozens in between that are completely meaningless. Interestingly enough, the one of the only action games that makes a genuinely compelling experience out of killing as few people as possible also comes from Io Interactive: the Hitman series.

So, I'll apologize if my message with "Noir" and "Dead Men" seemed to be, "here is a description of the noir approach, and here is a perfect example of that approach made reality." Not quite: as a story and character study, Kane & Lynch is as successful an attempt as almost any action game you might compare it to, and owes much to the noir mindset; as a game however, while executed well for what it is, doesn't attempt to alter the paradigm of the traditional big budget, wide-release, AAA shooter production.

But halfway there is a good start.

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