Kane & Lynch: How it feels to be critically panned

GR: Do you feel there are any fundamental problems with the way games are reviewed? Is there anything that could be improved on the media side of things to make games reviews fairer?

JPK: I think most reviewers are doing a great job, and there are several who I trust when I buy games.

However there are a few tendencies in most reviews which are problematic. The first is the obvious problem of a grown-up reviewing a game for kids, or a hardcore gamer reviewing a game for the mass market. I think journalists should have the opportunity to see a focus group playing games, especially kids' games. They really do play some games in dramatically different manners than a 25-30 year-old game fanatic.

A second problem can be that just under the journalistic surface, reviews are not only business but also entertainment, and business and entertainment haven’t got a track record of being fair.

I personally like reviews written by (not just approved by) more than one journalist. Not sure it provokes a fairer review, but it’ll carry different opinions at least.

GR: The internet is obviously a powerful tool for building pre-release hype and awareness of a title, but it can also facilitate backlash bandwagons very easily. How positive and negative a factor do you think the internet is overall, and how careful do you feel you have to be about treading a line with it?

JPK: It did feel like K&L received some kind of backlash effect on being hyped a lot before release, but I can’t really judge to be honest.

To me, the positive sides of the 'net far outweigh the problems. It’s an incredibly important factor for us when we produce games since it gives us some bearing as to what catches peoples' imagination in a given concept. Having forums and fansites also accumulates an enormous amount of knowledge.

Above: Whether it's something new, more K&L or the inevitable next Hitman game, IO say their next project will benefit from this experience

GR: How does negative criticism inform your design decisions on subsequent projects?

JPK: A lot. Unfortunately it affects it more than positive feedback I think, but it can be a great productive process.

It’s worth noticing that negative criticism has to be filtered very carefully before you start to act on it. Which parts should we fix to make the game better for the player and which parts should we fix to get better reviews? They’re not always the same, but unfortunately almost as important.

I think you’ll see IO as a very listening developer in the next releases, but keeping an edge to our products too. Because there’s a danger to reacting to negative criticism primarily; if you want to cook something that nobody dislikes, it’s going to be nobody’s favourite. It won’t be a Surf 'N' Turf, it’ll probably be a loaf of white bread. Very sellable, very boring, but I sure don’t dislike it.

We'll be running more developer responses to this issue if and when we recieve them. Stay tuned.

Why did Kane & Lynch hurt so much?
Six reasons why IO's shooter caused so much controversy

The Reviewer's Guide to Crap Games
Three rubbish games that would benefit from the Lair treatment

The Top 7... PR disasters
We chronicle the embarrassments that the industry would rather you forgot

Are developers even listening?
Is your voice being heard by the people that make games? We find out...

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  • Herschal - September 11, 2008 11:09 p.m.

    I hate it when hyped games aren't as awesome as they were built up to be, this is why I never let myself get exited about any hyped game. Except Halo 3, I KNEW that would be awesome.
  • Marioninja1 - September 11, 2008 8:58 p.m.

    I like the Hitman Series and never tried Kane & Lynch and I wont because most of Co-op games usually suck like Army of Two :( That game was frustrating with the A.I. and another player alike
  • Holy Diver - September 11, 2008 12:13 a.m.

    I'll be a little less harsh to the folmks at IO from now on. Good article guys
  • mellowdaddee - September 10, 2008 6:26 p.m.

    I think it's rather funny how they admit being aware of all the issues most gamers had with the game before it was released, and they released it anyhow. I mean come on what do expect? If you knew the problems were there and didn't do anything about it: you got what you deserved. I personally bought the game and thought it totally sucked. And I can definitely say I won't buy into another half-assed Kane and Lynch title....EVER
  • CarlosX360 - September 10, 2008 3:35 a.m.

    I hope they learned their lessons. And the feelings he felt should be a clear reminder of what not to do. Controversy is good. But it can also be bad, it depends on what you do.
  • Amatarasu - September 10, 2008 12:37 a.m.

    i personaly didn't thing the game was that bad
  • londonjack - September 9, 2008 10:16 p.m.

    i was never going to buy this game it looked boring. i was assured that i didnt want to play it when it didnt get good scores, if it had got like 9/10 or something i would've rented it.
  • Jimmyjammy - September 9, 2008 8:09 p.m.

    I played the demo and wasn't overly impressed so I didn't buy it. Really enjoyed this article though. More like this please!
  • ELpork - September 9, 2008 6:57 p.m.

    I still hold them with high regards. I mean how bad could they be if they released Freedom Fighters.
  • Juriasu - September 9, 2008 5:34 p.m.

    I was going to buy this game (mainly because i got trapped in the hype) but After I read the GameSpot review I just didn't want to buy it. The whole thing was a scandal, and I'm sure the game didn't deserve that.
  • SunKing - September 9, 2008 12:04 p.m.

    If you ask me, it's not the average reviews that put me off this game, it's the suits at Cnet who fired Gerstmann OVER the score. It casts an ugly shadow over the game. Bad PR.
  • St-Falco - September 18, 2008 11:17 a.m.

    Great and insightful interview. Thanks for it. This is to Kurup if he is reading the comments on Radar. I had a great time with the characters - even both made me flinch. The beginning escape scene was brutal and not like any game I had experienced. It's weird but I felt 'guilty!' Which was awesome, so I have no problems with unlikable characters. The situations are also quite brutal as well, but then, it is all about the experience. I really didn't like the console like control scheme - I mean it's on a PC, so why not optimize it for KB+MOUSE? I felt that IO Interactive was too lazy. It was an unusual unique experience and I took it as such. It was a great plot that kept me going, wanting to know what happened next. Since I can't html here, I did a review at my blog, and generally thought it was a good game with some flaws and that it has limited appeal. Take the learnings and improve upon the next game. Good to hear the developer side of the story occasionally.
  • EvoAnubis - September 11, 2008 10:49 p.m.

    I liked the game just fine.
  • ultimag17 - September 10, 2008 10:12 p.m.

    I really liked this game and thought it was just as good as Freedom Fighters. I mean, comon, just because ONE site gave your game a 6/10 dosent mean you shouldnt buy it. I admit the controls were kinda bad, but that dosent mean the story and characts were bad.
  • anduin1 - September 10, 2008 7:34 p.m.

    the game was not great, some of the criticism wasnt deserved but it had many things wrong with it. Dude should've stepped his game up but now he got pushed to the back.
  • Smeggs - September 10, 2008 12:44 a.m.

    Screw characters you can relate to. In a game where I run around shooting people, blowing up cars, and using super powers or W/E, I'd rather not relate.
  • Schuultz - September 9, 2008 8:43 p.m.

    I actually bought and enjoyed K&L, I would definitely say it was a AA, though not AAA title. The only thing that ended up putting me off was the lack of A) A mission creator/T-Hunt or something like that ; and B) A lack of a simple multiplayer mode like DM or TDM. What's up with that nowadays? Do developers think people don't want that anymore? Sure, your creative mode is great, and I'm sure it's fun every odd time, but if I just want to play an online match real quick I don't want to go into some great lengths to have this epic online battle (Something that was extremely annoying with Crysis and it's "Either too complex or too simple" mechanics)
  • MW3M - September 9, 2008 8:29 p.m.

    Freedom Fighters was awesome. Kane and Lynch was so disappointing it was almost insulting. That level with the garbage truck where you have to save Kane's daughter highlighted everything wrong with that game. Just BUGGY!
  • kingboruc - September 9, 2008 6:51 p.m.

    I never thought how negative reviews actually affected developers and its good to see there reponse, but no offense to the guy at IO, the only reason people thought the game looked good before it hit shops is because it is hard to judge preview code and most journo's would have expected those bugs to be fixed by the time it hits the shop.
  • airtoast - September 9, 2008 6:22 p.m.

    Couple cheap shots at Gerstmann. Too bad he's legally not allowed to respond to them. Some funny "boo-hoo" lines in this one like "It’s also a bit painful when a review thinks that a bug is a design decision." LOL! It is a design decision. Leaving bugs in a game is a decision made in order to hit release dates and maximize profits. The consumer comes after those two. Bugs in game = Not enough QA testing = Design decision.

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