Archive for February 14, 2011

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days Review

The first Kane & Lynch was a victim of advertising. Billed (wrongly) as a triple-A title that would instantly see itself turned into a movie, the game ended up falling foul of its own lofty expectations. It wasn’t fair and it certainly made many view a half-decent game in an incredibly harsh light. Happily, this sequel gives players the chance to enjoy an improved version of that first game, this time without all the hype and noise surrounding it. To be fair, this time around it’s not too shabby.

Kane and Lynch, the titular anti-heroes of the first game, return to team up for a routine weapons deal in Shanghai. Before they can get there, Lynch asks Kane to help him have a ‘chat’ with a problematic man. Unfortunately, during this civilised discussion, a young woman is killed – a young woman who just happens to be the daughter of the biggest crime lord in all of Shanghai. Now the two intrepid killers find themselves the targets for every single gang in the whole of Asia and the only way to escape the wrath of the mobsters is by carving a path straight through them.

As with many of the games of this generation, Dog Days is a generic third person cover-based co-op shooter. You’ll spend much of your time sprinting from low wall to low wall, firing blindly at the multitudes of enemies and being revived by your partner. It’s as standard as they come, but what marks Dog Days out from the rest is its sense of style. Designed to feel like the low-budget Hollywood film the first game thought it was, the game is firmly grounded in reality. There are no tacked-on vehicle sections, no absurd plot twists and no screen-filling explosions to engulf the protagonists. Instead the game presents a bleak view of revenge, throwing hundreds of generic grunts at you in a variety of missions across a well-presented Shanghai.

While all the objectives simply consist of getting to point B, it’s a welcome change that all the maps are at least different. There’s a fish market, a few apartment blocks, a train depot and an airport. Hardly a huge leap forward in terms of design, but it all works well given the incredibly grey vision of the world that developers IO Interactive have created. Even the camera is designed to feel like a handheld device operated by someone who constantly chases after the two villains. It terms of gritty realism, this game hits the nail on the head.

The multiplayer is also quite excellent, despite the limited number of maps to play on. The modes are all the same variant on the ‘Cops and Robbers’ theme, seeing a group of strangers team up to steal a huge amount of money and evading the cops to the escape vehicle. The cop team has to stop the robbers escaping, but the robbers can just as easily turn on each other and attempt to make off with more money. The more a player gets away with, the more they can spend on newer, better weapons between missions. A variant on this simple gameplay idea is the ‘Undercover Cop’ mode, where one randomly assigned robber is given the task of stopping the robbers’ escape. There’s even a single player version of the ‘Cops and Robbers’ mode called Arcade, which proves to be more enjoyable than much of the single player experience.

Sadly, that’s about the limit of the positives for Dog Days. The rest that remains to be said is that the game is seriously generic, offering nothing new save the interesting realism. There is nothing here that you haven’t seen before and done better in other games. It’s a shame, really, because the single player campaign is incredibly short and the Arcade mode has a limited number of maps. The most exciting the story gets is to put Kane and Lynch on a helicopter and arm them with enormous guns. Everything aside from that is really samey and more than a little dull. Even the game’s final level feels like padding, as you wade through swarms of the same guys and simply run away from everyone.

There’s also nothing done to balance the character’s appalling morality. Playing as characters immersed in the seedy world of gangs should be a strange and intoxicating experience no matter how old the idea is, but here it just seems so plain. There’s no morally grey areas here – Kane and Lynch murder an unarmed woman and spend the rest of the game attempting to get away with their crime. There’s not even a penalty for killing civilians in the campaign, although the Arcade mode at least docks you money for doing so.

So that’s Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. It’s trying harder than its predecessor, but it still feels handicapped by what it wants to be. Is it an intense, gritty low-budget film? Is it an enjoyable game that strives to do more than any other third person shooter? The end result is that it’s neither and that makes it hard to justify, especially at full price.

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