Coming off a succesful string of Hitman games and a notch-better-than-its-reputation Hollywood adaptation, the announcement for an all-new IO Interactive IP seemed to make perfect sense; after all, it’s not difficult to imagine the whole of IO staff trying to think-tank up something (anything!!) different after having stared at virtually nothing but the back of Agent 47’s bald head for six years (from 2000 to 2006) straight…
Enter Kane & Lynch, perhaps the most controversial game release of 2007. The game’s launch was mired in a string of negative, integrity-shattering publicity: The Gerstmanngate, falsified review scores, and ultimately one middle-of-the-road game. Kane & Lynch seemed a little like a fish out of water in a post-Max Payne -world.
Then again, our collective gamer memory is very short indeed, and everything simmers down after a while. That is, until GamesRadar butts in with an attempt at handing down the microphone over to IO, in the form of a confessional interview with Game Director Jens Peter Kurup, who gets to express his feelings over the public reception of the game.
The first thing of note in the interview is the exaggerated role that GameSpot played in Kurup’s mindset:
“I know this might sound like a sissy song of “Boo-hoo! This isn’t fair” and other unproductive thoughts, but you asked me how I felt and I did feel like that for a couple of weeks after the GameSpot1 review.”
A convenient omission indeed - it’s not as though Kane & Lynch was reviewed by GameSpot alone: The game’s Metacritic score is sitting comfortably around the mediocre 67 mark. Here’s what Russ Pitts of The Escapist had to say, for example:
“Kane & Lynch has last-generation graphics, miserable gameplay mechanics, dunderheaded writing and a voice cast that sounds like it’s trying harder to sound like Bruce Willis than acting.”2
With this in mind, it seems just a little convoluted reading Kurup trying to hammer home the key marketing point that “Sales have been okay, the movie deal is moving along nicely, and most importantly we’ve learned a lot from K&L”.
Not to take away too much from Kurup’s best points, however, as he is correct in pointing out the obvious dilemma of “a grown-up reviewing a game for kids, or a hardcore gamer reviewing a game for the mass market”, but then again, is any of this truly relevant with a game so strictly aimed for adults? Even AAA titles must have target audiences, right? Even Kurup himself thinks that “if you want to cook something that nobody dislikes, it’s going to be nobody’s favourite”.
Kurup ultimately downplays the effects of the hazardous press; It’s always incredibly enthralling to hear more about what went into projects that failed to meet their expectations for one reason or another, and sadly the interview fails to really touch upon the real topic at hand: What is the role of investing emotionally into the development of a controversial title? How much can the media affect our perception of the merits of a game?
What if you simply create crap for a living? Burning questions, none answered!