Often times, a game comes along seemingly out of nowhere, carrying huge hype, lots of press coverage and buildup that promises it’ll be a major hit. The game that has everything. The game to end all games, at least, in the third-person shooter genre. This time, that game is Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days.
Developed by IO Interactive (and Nixxes Software on the PC version), published by Eidos Interactive and distributed by Square Enix, the sequel was announced in November 2009 and released in late August, 2010 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows-based PCs. Sporting an M rating with the ESRB and an 18 with the BBFC, the documentary-styled third-person shooter comes packed with all kinds of potentially offensive material, from intense violence, strong language and even a little nudity. This game may not be for everyone, but for those who don’t mind, it won’t disappoint in that regard. It may disappoint in every other regard, however.
Before I get into it, I’ll preface this with one thing – I had heard of the first game in the series – Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, but I’ll admit, I haven’t played it. If there’s something in the original game that gives the characters an iota of charm, please chime in, as I’d truly like to understand them better, and frankly, Dog Days does absolutely nothing to illustrate the relationship between the two protagonists apart from a few snippets of banter scattered throughout the game.
In the beginning of the game, we find our ‘heroes’ in the heart of a crime-ridden Shanghai, trying to finish a deal with a local, small-time gangster, which, after things turn sour almost instantly, leads to a gunfight chase through some back streets. Long story short, several bullets fly, eventually hitting the wrong person, and suddenly Kane & Lynch have severely ticked off a major government official, who happens to be incredibly corrupt and has control of just about all of China. Seriously – it’s Kane & Lynch versus several Shanghai gangs, the police force, SWAT, military, just about anybody you can drum up.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking into Dog Days purely for the story, you will likely be sold short. The entire story campaign can easily be played in one sitting of a few hours, and sad to say, the writing is less-than-stellar, at least in my opinion. The player runs, hides, and shoots for almost the entirety of the game, apart from some vehicular tasks, much of the story progression happens through phone calls on loading screens instead of cutscenes, and in the end, our two protagonists come out learning absolutely nothing, and are just as unlikeable as when the story began. Upon watching trailers and checking out screenshots of the game, I thought perhaps Lynch (the bald, rough-and-tumble bearded one) might have a certain charm, much like we see in Francis, from Valve’s Left 4 Dead. I can like ‘bad guys’ in video games, so long as they show a shred of character worth liking, even if they’re completely evil. But Kane & Lynch? There wasn’t a single moment throughout the campaign where I found them to be nothing more than worthless husks of human flesh. There were even points where I wanted them to fail; I wanted to see them get blown away violently, because they were that obnoxious, to me. Thankfully, with the game’s shabby mechanics, I was able to witness the brutal, untimely deaths of Kane & Lynch plenty.
In the single-player campaign, we play as Lynch with Kane backing us up. There’s also an online co-op mode, where a friend can play as Kane. I was admittedly intrigued by this game mode, but the thought of playing through the game any more after finishing it once was dreadful enough that I decided against it. The multiplayer modes are also very promising – Fragile Alliance involves a group of players trying to steal as much money as they can while escaping authorities and enemies; Undercover Cop is the same as Fragile Alliance except that one random player will secretly prevent the team from escaping, and Cops & Robbers is essentially just that: a team of player-controlled police officers versus the escaping criminals. The different multiplayer modes sounded rather interesting to me upon researching the game initially, and could totally work in the right game. I will credit the developers for coming up with awesome ideas for multiplay, and hopefully someday we’ll see modes like this in games that aren’t tragically disappointing.
The controls are fairly easy to manage, having room for only two guns to carry, and spending a good part of the action behind cover. Unfortunately, the cover and flanking system is rather unforgiving, and I still wound up getting gunned down despite being completely hidden behind large objects like cars, pillars, concrete walls, and so on.
Audio & Visuals
The first thing I noticed when I began playing Dog Days was its unique, documentary-style visuals, including a very shaky camera (that must be held by an invisible person, I suppose, or perhaps the camera has gained sentience and controls itself, I don’t know…), film grain effects, color distortion, lens flares and other blurred lighting, despite having impeccable sound quality. These effects look gorgeous in still imagery, and were part of what initially sold me on the game, but in motion, not only do they make the game ugly, they’re blatantly nauseating. I had to limit the shaky camera effects to cutscenes only with the option to turn “SteadyCam” on during gameplay, or I don’t think I could’ve played the game at all. The ‘intense realism’ documentary-style idea likely sounded great on paper, but is absolutely horrible in execution.
The sound engineering and voice talent in Dog Days is surprisingly well done, despite the game’s other failures. I could easily say the audio was excellent, and have no complaints about it, whatsoever. The characters are believable, and the ambient sound brings enough immersion to the table.
The final tragedy in the AV department is the interface design, not for being bad, but for being fantastic. The typography, logo design and general look-and-feel of the UI is very appealing to me, and the contrast between radiant colours in a fairly dreary setting works rather well, but regrettably, the game is not played in the main menu or box art.
If you enjoy shooting, nauseatingly shaky cameras, shooting, amateur film effects, shooting, miserable, unlikeable characters and more shooting, this game is probably for you. Did I mention there was shooting?
There’s a myriad of replayability offered with several different multiplayer modes, not to mention three new DLCs that were released just two weeks after the game’s initial launch (but for some unknown reason could not be included in the release itself). For all of the above reasons, I’d recommend being cautious before throwing $50USD and a possible $11 in DLCs at this title, and at the very least, try the demo before you do.