In 2013, IO Interactive laid off half its staff, and cancelled development on anything that wasn’t related to Hitman, the studio’s bread and butter. One of the games heavily rumored to have gotten the axe around this time was Kane & Lynch 3. Cancelling it was a mistake.
Kane & Lynch never really had the appeal that Hitman does. Rather than a stealthy sandbox of players’ own making, both games in the would-be series were straight up third-person shooters. The sales for either couldn’t match Hitman’s, though Kane & Lynch 2 still sold over a million units. (Even so, IO’s 2013 layoffs happened just 2012’s Hitman Absolution failed to hit its sales targets at 3.4 million copies – you do the math).
By those numbers, Kane & Lynch never stood a chance. That’s just not right – if Hitman’s hook is the fun and humor of messing around in an incognito playground, its counterbalance is the utter failure of Agent 47, a character who in 2016 still sports a barcode on the back of neck while trying to keep a low profile.
Kane and Lynch are almost entirely the opposite. As game protagonists are concerned, they’re cold, selfish, cynical bastards. As characters, they’re equally unstable and thoroughly unlikeable, and both games’ use of violence is raw and generally lacking any greater cause.
It makes for a great game (particularly Dog Days, the second and last game in the series, which as a much better exercise in pure nihilism, I highly recommend you play) because you’re not out to win, really. At the end of Dog Days, the duo have murdered their way through half of the Shanghai underworld, and a great deal of the city’s police force, after a misunderstanding blows up in their face. Their last act is to sprint to a plane and make their escape.
There’s no resolution. Lynch’s Chinese live-in girlfriend is a casualty not just of his underworld dealings, but denial in thinking he can escape a life of crime. Kane doesn’t get to reconcile with his daughter, who hates who and what he is. You don’t even get a glimpse of either catching their breath on the plane –you hear a pack of dogs chasing them on the runway, the plane takes off, cut to black. If that’s really how their story ends, it’s certainly fitting for the series’ aesthetic.
Hitman learned its lesson in trying to put narrative on a character that doesn’t fit, after Absolution was heavily criticized for its linearity and story baggage. As a result, the 2016 reboot is much more about its freedom of design rather than focusing on 47 himself. IO is also now reportedly considering a remaster of Blood Money, resources they could put towards a new Kane & Lynch.
The (alleged) fact that IO was in the process of making Kane & Lynch 3 in the past – as well as a few cameos the pair make in Absolution – would seem to indicate that the team developed a bit of a soft spot for the characters since their debut, perhaps to their own surprise. With the financial realities of triple-A development being the most probable reason for Hitman 2016’s episodic structure, you can see why IO or Square Enix would want to stick with what they already know sells. (Not that episodic wouldn’t work for Kane & Lynch as well.)
But casting aside two game characters as unlikely as these Max Payne’s washed up alcoholic in Max Payne 3 is the only other figure that comes close – is a huge waste. It’s time to bring them back.