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Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days Review

21 August 2010

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is an indie flick. It’s a cult film; a gore fest. It’s a reality show from a parallel universe where, instead of a low-budget camera crew following cops through urban jungles, it follows a pair of anti-heroes on a meaningless quest for greed and revenge. Shot with what appears to be a camera from the last generation of iPhones, Kane & Lynch 2 is what just about every film school student dreams of making after graduation.

Dog Days is not actually a low-budget B-movie—it’s a videogame from IO Interactive. From the opening minutes of the game, you get the impression that this was either pitched as a movie, or pitched to a development studio to appear like a movie. This would explain the very quirky, yet stunning presentation, but the apparent afterthought in gameplay and level progression.

A game should not rely too heavily on a gimmick to succeed. Even if Dog Days, a sequel to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, does a terrific job of maintaining that gritty charm, mostly through its shaky third-person camera angle, it ends up lacking in level progression, character development and basic gameplay mechanics. The screen fills with blood droplets as your character takes damage, essentially replacing a health bar, and the frequent lens flares keep reminding players that this is supposed to look fuzzy, low-budget, and gross (in a good way). IO Interactive succeeds in bringing players into this dirty world of Kane and Lynch, a pair of friends who are quick to pull a trigger before asking any questions. 

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Shanghai offers a terrific backdrop for this style of game. The old-meets-new feel of the city, neon lights, bike karts and dirty side streets all bring players into this foreign land. Instead of a long, drawn-out intro that effectively lays the grounds of the plot, players are practically assaulted with action, violence, and what will become the game’s ultimate mentality—duck, shoot, kill, move forward, and repeat. Practically every level follows the same pattern: a load screen involving an emotional phone call, a brief mission intro, then gradually (and we mean it, gradually) push forward by killing an onslaught of gun-happy foes. There is one level that deviates from this pattern, however. Kane and Lynch are on a helicopter, using a machine gun to destroy entire stories of a skyscraper. Later in the game, they must traverse the very same skyscraper, offering a nice break from the standard level breakdown.

The backdrop for the action seems vaguely important or interesting. The pair meets in Shanghai, with Lynch directing Kane into some sort of arms trade. Everything takes a turn for the worse when they kill someone important. The rest of the story revolves on the pair hunting down a mob boss, getting captured and tortured, and then trying to flee the country.

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There is something oddly appealing about the anti-hero pairing. Both are foul-mouthed scoundrels, with Lynch effectively taking charge, typically making rash decisions on the fly. Kane, on the other hand, is a bit more level-headed, and willing to think before he shoots. Since you play as Lynch through the bulk of the game, you are forced to try and like the guy. At the start of the game, we were interested in learning more about the characters of Kane and Lynch. But when the credits rolled, after some five to 10 hours in the single-player mode, we were left with more questions than answers. We wish we had a chance to actually get to know the guys we were playing as. By the end of the game, we found ourselves disinterested in both characters. Good storytelling leaves the audience wanting more, wishing to dive deeper into the characters’ psyche. This is not what we are referring to when we say we wish we knew more about Kane or Lynch. In truth, both characters give us little reason to care about their future or success. Many will say unlikable characters are a draw in a videogame, but we like to think a story, whether told through cinema, a book, or a videogame needs to keep the audience invested, and we were not overly invested in either character.

The gameplay is very much arcade style. If you approach it as a run ‘n gunner, you will quickly find yourself dead. Action comes fast, but it’s designed around the duck and cover system. Other games do a much better job in this department, but Kane & Lynch 2’s cover system is not terrible. In addition, enemy AI seems to find a nice little spot of flesh to pepper you with bullets, even if you think you are behind sizable coverage. Enemies have incredible aim, often capable of hitting you from great distances, even if you are using similar guns. The game as a whole isn't too tough, but its imbalance makes for some very frustrating moments.

Players are given an assortment of guns to blast enemies, and while each has its own characteristics, most of them feel quite weak. As previously mentioned, enemies are tough, thick skinned or covered in armor, while Kane and Lynch spend half of the game bloodied-up or wearing nothing more than street clothes. Needless to say, players are fragile and have a tendency to walk straight into enemy gunfire. This becomes obnoxious to the point of being frustrating as there are virtually no melee combat controls.

Beyond the single-player campaign, Dog Days has three multiplayer modes, in addition to an arcade mode and co-op for the main story. Fragile Alliance returns from Dead Man, forcing players to work together on a timed heist. Players are given four minutes per heist. One interesting caveat is that players can turn on one another, shooting allies to earn more money. Undercover Cop randomly puts a mole in the gang. This player must try and secretly stop the heist. Cops and Robbers is pretty much a death match. The Robbers attempt to make off with the loot while Cops try and stop them. You can play all these modes by yourself by using the Arcade Mode, which fills in the other characters with bots. The new multiplayer modes and decent co-op are a great way to spend time with friends, but sadly they suffer from the same issues associated with the single-player mode, like a mediocre cover system and repetitive gameplay.

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Dog Days is a passable third-person shooter that effectively tells a meaningless story. The game tries very hard to stick to its B-movie shtick, even going as far as blurring out overly gory images, but without solid gameplay, it’s just another game to play for a bit and forget. 

-The Final Word-

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a homage to the YouTube generation, creatively 'shot' like a B-movie. While its presentation is enough to turn some heads, the mediocre gameplay and lack of level diversity keep this game from having any lasting appeal.
  • The interesting and gritty visual presentation
  • The arcade-style intensity
  • The assortment of multiplayer modes
  • Poor and repetitive gameplay
  • Lack of level diversity
  • Relies too heavily on its niche presentation
6.5
Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3
See PSU's reviews scores on Metacritic and Gamerankings

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