Name: Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days
Genre: 3rd person shooter
Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
Price: £36.99 (Amazon)
Gaming duos are no rare thing. You’ve got Mario and Luigi and their quietly-bubbling sibling rivalry, the homo-erotic bromance of Dom and Marcus from Gears of War, not to mention the Freudian weirdness going on between the Little Sisters and Big Daddies of Bioshock. Kane and Lynch occupy another space entirely: they’re both utter, utter mentalists. Underworld guns-for-hire, there’s no job too dirty for this pair. In fact, the dirtier the job (and the bloodier) the better, so long as the price is right.
It’s definitely an engaging partnership, and much of the hype surrounding the first Kane and Lynch game courted the controversy of this amoral tag-team. Sadly, the gameplay of the original itself was more than a little prosaic, a disappointing, generic 3rd person shooter that failed to match the psychotic nature of its lead characters. This sequel then, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days, has the tough task of making good on the failed promise of the series so far.
As a statement of intent, the opening moments of Dog Days certainly inspire a stomach-churning confidence in developers IO Interactive and their focus on gritty realism for this sequel. Lynch, who takes the lead role in this outing, is stripped and bound to a chair alongside his buddy Kane, whilst a knife-wielding torturer brutally hacks at our anti-heroes. This, you soon realise, is the sort of title that 18 certificates were made for.
The game then goes on to tell the story of the 48 hours that put Kane and Lynch in this life-threatening predicament. Set on the streets of Shanghai, a routine job gone wrong soon sees the underbelly of Chinese society taking up arms against our protagonists, with the dodgy-duo scrapping through innumerable shoot-outs as they fight their way out of the city.
So far so good, right? Kane and Lynch 2 does indeed make a very good first impression, and that’s in no small part thanks to the visual style employed by IO Interactive. Fusing the shaky-cam movement of the Bourne films with the odd pixelated flourish of a YouTube video, Dog Days has a voyeuristic quality that is totally unique. You’re as much a witness to the horrors surrounding Kane and Lynch as you are a participant, giving the game an unusually conflicted stance on the violence it portrays. Shanghai too makes for quite an engaging setting; lovingly detailed, it’s a pity more variation beyond alleyways and other urban locations wasn’t captured, though there is an undeniable allure to the seedy neon surroundings that feature so prominently.
Things initially seem to pick up in the gameplay department too. Long gone is the troublesome auto-cover system of the first game, replaced with a button activated one that works more like what we’re familiar with from Gears or Uncharted. Environments too offer plenty of opportunities to hide behind cover and avoid shots from trigger-happy gangsters, some of which will break apart if you rely on it too long for protection. Hostages can be used as human sheilds and you can also now hurl explosive items like gas canisters at your foes, triggering massive blasts to take down a handful of baddies at once, as well as picking up the usual arsenal of pistols, machine guns and shotguns along the way.
But while there is no denying the near-constant stream of action is a marked improvement over the previous game, there are too few memorable sequences for Kane and Lynch 2 to truly shine. Shoot-outs rarely consist of more than using cover and flanking tactics, as you make your way from one routine shoot-out to the next. Too many encounters funnel you through narrow alleys and corridors, and while this may be in keeping with the dense Shanghai setting, it quickly becomes repetitive. For a game that wears its Michael Mann influences proudly on its sleeve, it lacks the tense climaxes that his action sequences invariably reach.
Likewise, what initially seems like a blisteringly dark tale quickly plays second fiddle to the onslaught of cookie-cutter shoot-outs. It’s probably my main gripe with the game as a whole. With Lynch, the crazier of the two, now taking centre stage, I was expecting to go a little deeper beneath the surface to find out what makes this clearly-troubled fellow tick. Sadly you get little more than some worrying one-liners and the odd bit of uber-violence without really any explanation as to why Lynch gets a kick out of it. In terms of story-telling, it’s a real missed opportunity, and the infuriatingly open-ended conclusion does little more than leave the door open for a sequel rather than offering any satisfying closure.
If the lack-lustre ending to the main campaign leaves a sour taste in your mouth, at least Dog Days features some fairly satisfying multiplayer modes. As well as full local and online co-operative options for the main storyline, there are a handful of competitive modes that cleverly play on the backstabbing nature of gangster life. Fragile Alliance returns from the original game, with tense players turning against each other just when victory is within grasp. Cops vs Robbers is a fairly straight forward take on capture the flag, with cops defending loot whilst robbers try to make a getaway with it. Best of all though is the undercover cop mode, in which teammates must sniff out the rat among their ranks before he takes them all down, leading to some hilariously paranoid stand-offs.
There’s no denying there’s a lot of good in Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days. Visually it’s one of the most interesting shooters out there, intelligently playing on the modern culture of using video to document all aspects of life via the web, whether or not some things are best left unseen. Gunplay is miles stronger than the pairs first outing too, with a satisfyingly brutal tone maintained throughout. It’s a shame then that IO don’t maintain the momentum of this handful of thrilling ideas, nor ever really get under the skin of their lead character. For a game starring one of the most reckless duos in gaming history, IO have played it disappointingly safe within the confines of the genre.
Buy Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days from Amazon by clicking here.
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