• Review: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

    Posted by Sean Taylor on August 18th, 2010 View Comments

    Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a good sequel for those who enjoyed the first game in the series (those gamers are in short supply to be sure) with its over-the-top violence and gritty portrayal of anti-heroes Kane & Lynch. For everyone else starting with Dog Days though, the overall package will seem a bit slim and repetitive with some confusing control choices. That only means that this newest entry is better than the first one to be sure, but still lands on the mediocre side of the fence.

    The Story

    Adam ‘Kane’ Marcus and James Seth Lynch: a duo of badasses forever on the run and looking for payback. In this installment, you play as Lynch, the medicating psychopath who’s trying to keep it all in check. Obviously Kane, the more level-headed one, is still here, but his story takes a back seat this time around. Lynch and Kane meet up in Shanghai to do more wheeling and dealing, everything goes sour… And that’s pretty much all you need to know about the story. The premise takes a backseat to the action and only serves to set the stage and give you a razor-thin reason to keep slugging it out against waves and waves of enemies out to stop you. But for a game that at least pretends to be trying to be about story, we need a little more exposition please.

    Aaaaand… the single player mode last roughly five hours. ‘Nuff said.

    The Gameplay

    Developer Io Interactive is best known for the Hitman franchise, where multiple routes, methods and stealth are the tools for success. Kane & Lynch 2 (and the first game) is the polar opposite of this philosophy, where blasting the living crap out everyone and everything is the only key to your survival. Each level is packed to the brim with Asian gangsters, local police and tactical teams out to get you and your partner.

    Meet some new friends as you explore Shanghai

    Dog Days eschews the complicated squad tactics involved in the first game, instead focusing on the protagonists and the benefits of not having to manage of bunch of half-witted AI teammates.  It’s all your fault (and your buddy’s too if you like split-screen or online co-op) if you manage to wade hip-deep into a gang of baddies (or goodies if you prefer). Actually, that’s a good point to make as well. All enemy rushes are set up as if you hit a tripwire when you enter a room; there’s no way to creatively eliminate enemies as they patrol or hunt for you. Once you see them, the only way to make progress is to put ‘em all down.

    Weapons handle fairly well for the most part and actually feel like they’re blasting holes in the guys you’re shooting at. You have to temper that with the fact that you could put a couple of point-blank shotgun blasts into an enemy and he’ll still be right up in your face, blasting right back at you with the same weapon. And you will get shot A LOT in this game. Lynch must have had a bowlful of PCP for breakfast because he takes a ton of damage before going down.

    After that happens, you have the choice of continuing to fire back or crawling to cover to get up like nothing happened at all. This mechanic is much better than the last game’s “Your buddy revives you or you’re dead” scenario. The enemy AI gets to use this tactic as well, so sometimes it’s a “good idea” to make sure that last guy you downed isn’t getting back up anytime soon. The two-gun inventory rule is in order here, but doesn’t limit which two weapons you can carry at once.  No grenades in Kane & Lynch 2, but there are enough room-clearing gas canisters and fire extinguishers littered throughout the maps to make up for it.

    The use of cover is a huge part of the game, effectively teaching you how to “slice the pie” around every corner and making use of every last piece of destructible cover in the game. It’s not as good as the Gears Of War cover system for quickly getting your character away from enemy fire as you have to be looking directly at the cover you’re trying to grab, but some people can’t stand the Gears cover system either. Blind firing is always an option, but not such a good one as your bullets tend to fly everywhere when not focusing on a specific enemy. Another word about the weapons:  any automatic weapons like Uzis and submachine guns will burn through a full clip in about 3 seconds, so you’ll quickly learn that the manual 3-round burst is the best way to conserve ammo and actually hit the target.

    Grab cover or get capped... Your choice

    The enemy AI will test lazy players with flanking maneuvers, use of cover, advancing tactics and even going as far as not popping their head up in the exact place they were last time. You know, that place that you’re resting your reticule. This can get kind of tricky when you’re faced with 10 guys or more out for blood. Thankfully your AI counterpart isn’t a complete shmoe, but there was still the occasional glitch where Kane would run between the guy shooting me, legs facing front, torso completely backwards and shoot in my direction. On a side note: when playing splitscreen co-op, all the fast progress I was making ground to a halt with a second person playing. Maybe it was a tougher level (it was), but it seems like the AI skews to your play.

    Besides the single player story mode, there is the all-new arcade mode which gives you the feel of multiplayer without the extra players. The objective is to complete short levels with a budget for new weapons between each level.

    On the multiplayer front, you’ll find Fragile Alliance, an eight-man heist job that allows you to betray your teammates for money.  There is also Undercover Cop which is like Fragile Alliance, except that someone on your team is already on the side of Johnny Law. Lastly, is Cops and Robbers, a 12-person game in the same vein. Unfortunately, K&L2 is hamstringed out of the gate with only 6 levels available for multiplayer. There is some new DLC coming in the next few weeks, but that won’t satisfy anyone who just shelled out full-price for a title that feels like they held some content back.

    The Graphics & Audio

    Whew. Thanks the Lord that you can turn off the YouTube-inspired handheld camera look of K&L2. Put a drunk on roller-skates and hand him a Mini DV camera, and you have a good idea of what the game looks like on the default over-the-shoulder setting. In fact, the entire game runs in a down-rezzed, grainy, sometimes pixilated look with lens flares popping off every light source in Shanghai, and that’s a lot. In fact, there are plenty of chances to check out the pixilated “news-filter” anytime you nail someone right in the head. Not found just in cutscenes (the boxcutter’ed and naked Kane & Lynch level is particularly graphic), you could be running through the streets after finishing off the latest wave and notice more than one guy with massive brain trauma. I’m not sure if it’s needed (the game is rated Mature) but lends an interesting aspect to the visuals.

    If there’s one thing that the developers didn’t skimp on, it was the banter between the two as they progress through the game. Cutscenes are fairly short, but the dialogue between K&L runs at a steady clip in almost every new location. Good voice work draws you in as far as you’re allowed to go.

    These two are chatty Cathys which sorta makes up for lack of a plot

    The Downsides

    No melee button! WTF? Close quarters fighting can get a bit dicey as your only option is to take your enemy hostage. From there you have the option of throwing him at the other enemies–which is confusing, using him as a meatshield for as long as you can, or just putting a slug in the back of his head. This is weird for me.

    Shortest single player mode ever? Four to five hours of single player action can’t possibly justify a full-price game, especially for people not looking to get into the online modes.

    Get up close and personal if you have to... but don't think you're on his Christmas card list anymore

    The Bottom Line

    Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days significantly one-ups the previous entry in the series, but still has a ways to go. The visuals are a bit of fresh air, even though some HD TV owners might question the downgraded-looking graphics. Some clumsy controls mar the experience slightly, and the gutted single player experience will be a tough sell to a lot of people. But the “backstab and run” aspect of the multiplayer can be fun to play even with those griefers you don’t usually play with. Overall, it’s a mediocre experience on platforms overflowing with third-person shooters. It’s the “dog days” of summer and new titles are rare this month. This is a rental for gamers who can’t wait until fall comes along.

    The Good

    Interesting visuals
    Definitely rated M
    Decent AI keeps you on your toes

    The Bad

    Criminally short single-player/co-op experience
    Multiplayer can get repetitive fast
    Fans of the genre won’t see much they haven’t before

    blog comments powered by Disqus