Want realism from your entertainment? Great graphics aren’t the answer. Neither is pixel-perfect framing, nor capturing the perfect shot on screen. In IO’s eyes, true realism isn’t what you’d imagine. There are plenty of reasons why Kane & Lynch 2 exists, but the main one is Youtube. User generated content is far and away IO’s biggest influence: gritty films snapped on camera phone and uploaded onto websites; wobbly cameras, pixelated details and occasional compression issues.
Ever since Youtube exploded onto the web in 2005 the world has been watching itself on computer screens through footage recorded by people with no experience of movie-making. It, IO claims, is the new standard of realism, and by using this visual style the Hitman developer is attempting to make Kane & Lynch 2 their most unflinching title yet.
Our first hands-on session with the title began with a demonstration of the game’s second level: The Highway. Lynch and Kane are in a car with Ray Winstone sound-a-like Glazer – one of Shanghai’s big criminal players – owing to an imminent weapons deal. Suddenly the vehicle is smashed off the road and peppered with bullets, forcing the duo out onto the highway with their uzis. The highway is a mess. Everyday Joes and Janes are crawling out from their overturned vehicles and limping away from the onrushing bruisers blasting weapons in our direction. Lynch takes cover behind a wreck and starts firing.
The transition from car to road to cover lives up to the Youtube vibe. The camera is buffeted by each movement, and almost cuts out completely when the car is smashed into the central reservation. When Lynch snaps to cover it wobbles again, and when bullets start flying towards the lens the picture begins to churn up, compressing the feed like a low-res movie.
And the smoggy city certainly feels even more oppressive through the lens of a Handycam. This world is one of monochromatic misery, drained of all colour and warmth. The fact that you’re trudging round it in the body of Rab C Nesbitt doesn’t help, of course. Let’s be honest here: even Paradise would feel a little dirtier if Lynch was stomping through the meadows in his soiled vest, gripping his oily shotgun and grinning like a deviant Cheshire Cat.
Lynch and Kane surge forward, shooting their would-be executioners without mercy. One bullet catches a nearby stooge in the head, sending him crumpling to the floor like a sack of toasters. There’s no chance to admire the shot though, as anybody with brains leaking out of their head will have a pixelated face. Some things are too disturbing to capture on camera, we’re told, hence the extra layer of blur.