The original Kane and Lynch was a perfect example of a game that rode in on a wave of hype, only to be met by apathy when it reached the shore. With Kane and Lynch: Dog Days, IO Interactive have returned to bring a game that strips away many of the cumbersome mechanics and revamps the presentation and visual style of the original. Set over the course of 48 hours, Dog Days follows the pair as they attempt to escape Shanghai after a job goes horribly wrong. The ‘Fragile Alliance’ multiplayer mode also makes a welcome return, with several variants to shake up the mix.
The first thing people will notice about Kane and Lynch: Dog Days, is it’s grainy, handheld recorder quality visuals. That’s not to say the game looks bad, quite the opposite in fact. Artifacting, colour bleed, unsteady framing; all of the elements you expect to see in a video on Youtube combine here to create a Shanghai that feels lived in. Too grim to be called beautiful, the environments do an admirable job in setting the tone the rest of the game follows. It’s not a style everyone will appreciate; some may find it too difficult to pick out specific points or enemies on screen for example, but for those it clicks with, the presentation will be one of the high points of Dog Days.
The realistic, grounded feel of the game carries over to the weapons. However, in contrast most games, which allow you to headshot enemies with a pistol from hundreds of feet away, the majority of the guns in Dog Days have the accuracy equivalent of blind firing in most other games. This didn’t bother me so much as the game is supposed to be played quick and dirty, dropping and picking up weapons every minute or so, but the lack of punch from the guns at a distance compounded the problem significantly. At times I could empty an entire clip and the target would still be standing at the end of it. In contrast, the shotguns are viciously lethal from a distance, unbalancing the game somewhat. The solution is to get in tight and attack up close. However, get to close to an enemy and they will headshot you for a one hit kill. What this adds up to is a game that should be played in close quarters, but keeps you at arm’s length. This is particularly a problem because with one exception, the entirety of the game is running and gunning. The running works fine, and the cover system has no issues, but the gunplay can let Dog Days down at times.
Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is short. I beat it in about 5 or 6 hours, but I could have gone through it even quicker and even at that I was playing the campaign solo. It’s not inconceivable that in 2 player co op, the story could be beaten in 4 or 5 hours. There are downloadable titles that have longer campaigns for a fraction of the price of a retail release. However, lengthening out the package are the multiplayer modes. Rather than the titular anti-heroes, you play as unnamed criminals as they take on various heists across Shanghai. After the cash has been grabbed, the race is on to get to the getaway vehicle. The twist is that, from that point on, anyone can turn traitor and try take the entire score for yourself. Trying to take on the AI and the other players is a daunting task and many a heist will fail because you simply get too greedy. If you want to avoid confrontation, you can also pay the wheelman to leave the others behind, but this requires you to get there first, and half of the kitty. It’s only a viable option if you have the vast majority of the cash, but it means that if you’ll always be racing to get to the van first and adds a good bit of haste to the proceedings. ’Undercover Cop’ has the same setup, but one player is chosen at random to foil the robbery. Without raising the suspicions of the others, the undercover cop must take them down, whilst avoiding killing other police. It’s fraught, tense and most often ends in a bloodbath. Multiplayer is the highlight of Kane and Lynch 2, but it still relies on the same shooting that will turn many off the single player. It’s a pity that the guns can feel so off, because there’s really nothing quite like the game types on offer.
Kane and Lynch 2 is a far better game than the original. However it still has a long way to go before it can be recommended against Gears of War and Resident Evil 5. The story needed not just to be longer, but to have more. It’s a relief that the broken squad commands and awkward scenarios are absent, but there’s nothing to replace them and what’s on offer ultimately boils down to a rudimentary, though eye-catching cover shooter.