04 October, 2010

Design comments on Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, Part 2 of 2

Below is part 2 of 2, covering what I disliked about the game. Click to read Part 1 in a new tab.

What I disliked:
Repetitive combat: 90% of the fights are on flat ground with random bits of cover scattered around. Enemies rarely appear above or below you. You can create makeshift grenades by throwing and then shooting objects such as fire extinguishers or propane tanks, but only when such objects are present (you can’t store them and it takes a sharp eye to spot them.) Doing so often kills the framerate.

The AI behavior is pretty straightforward, mainly: hide behind cover, pop out and shoot, repeat. Perhaps to compensate, the designers throw 10 to 20 enemies at you at a time. The result is that most of the game just feels like a shooting gallery. I was forced to copy the AI: hide behind cover, pop out and shoot, repeat. This got boring pretty quickly and most of my attempts to mix things up resulted in swift death, mainly because of...

Unbalanced combat: I selected the default difficulty, “Medium” (the others are “Easy,” “Hard,” “Extreme”) and found that most combat encounters felt like the minigun scene from Terminator 2 (with me as a cop.) In the hands of your enemies, every weapon is highly accurate at long distances, with enough power to incapacitate after just a few shots. Likewise, enemies are uncannily good shots, even while running and blindfiring. In the player’s hands all but the endgame weapons are frustratingly inaccurate and underpowered.

Headshots are devastating, but landing one with most of the weapons is difficult at best. It takes from 5 to 10 shots anywhere else on the body to take down even unarmored foes. Combined with enemies frequently hitting you with multiple, consecutive shots while blind-firing their weapons around corners, and combat quickly feels like a grind.

The game does let you take any enemy as a human shield, however most enemies won’t hesitate to shoot their friends or simply shoot the player’s exposed face. Perplexingly, taking a hostage puts you in control of their gun hand which will only ever contain a pistol, even for enemies that only carry automatic rifles.

Mismatched realism: As I mentioned, this game is awesomely realistic in terms of visuals. It frustrated me when combat mechanics didn’t account for a similar level of realism. I’ll freely admit this is due greatly to the influence of other modern shooters, but here is a good example from the game itself:

IO went to the trouble of setting up destructible windows and detailed collision geometry on cars, allowing me to blast through cars to hit my targets, as well as propane cylinders that will rupture and explode with a single 9mm bullet. And yet, a .45 slug won’t cut through 1/4 inch of particle board standing between me and an enemy.

Considering 90% of combat happens indoors, I think this feature would go a long way toward unifying the environments with the gameplay, and would alleviate many of the repetition and balance issues. I wouldn’t mind the shooting gallery nearly as much if I could use the high powered rifle I scrounged up to tag a foe through a flimsy aluminum air duct.

Nonsensical characterization: *SPOILERS AHEAD*--------- I grew tired of the plot turns created by characters saying one thing and then violently doing the opposite, thereby screwing over their companion. Some major examples:

-Kane (who is supposed to be the calmer, more rational of the two characters) agrees to let Brady’s girl go, then shoots her squarely in the chest.
-Kane and Lynch have agreed to go after Hsing, but Lynch hits Kane in the face instead of letting him shoot Hsing.
-Lynch shoots Shang-Si after promising Kane he wouldn’t.

It’s like watching a bad movie. Plot twists can be great narrative tools, but repeatedly uncharacteristic behavior makes me dislike the protagonists. I can no longer relate to them or respect their decisions (i.e. suspend my disbelief,) because I can’t understand why they are acting as they are.

As a player, this created a rift between me and the game. If Kane, the guy I’m playing as, really is a hardboiled mercenary then why would he make such a poor tactical decision by shooting Brady’s girl? He spends the whole game firmly reminding Lynch, and the player, that he is there purely there for the job. Why would he stick around to kill Glazer once the job was clearly off? Kane hates Lynch bitterly, but despite being constantly jeopardized by his companion, he stays with him and even helps try and rescue the man’s girlfriend. Why stay to go after Shang-Si? From what the designers showed me of Kane, I didn’t accept that revenge was more important to him than escaping with his life.

(Previous commentary: Mass Effect 2)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment. I'd love to hear from you, whether you are a player or creator of games!