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Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

In the careers of every fictitious professional criminal it seemingly always comes down to one final job. And it’s always the same air tight plan: we go in, we get the money, we split our take, we disappear. Perhaps these plans rarely go off without a hitch to teach us a life of crime doesn’t pay, or more likely, because it isn’t an interesting premise. In the case of the perpetually foul mouthed duo of Kane and Lynch, no amount of narrative construct can save these Dog Days.

To get straight to the heart of the matter, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is an average third-person shooter made worse by a total lack of ambition. Usually games are bad because they set out to do certain things and end up failing, where as Kane & Lynch 2 sets out to do nothing and succeeds. The entire campaign’s essence can be summed up in the following: take cover, kill a group of cops, move to new cover, and kill a group of gangsters. Occasionally, in between the oppressive number of tedious gunfights, you’ll have to run down an alley, kick down a door or even lift open a garage door, the same cliché one found in every co-op shooter.

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To be fair there are a few attempts over the course of Dog Days’ brief campaign to create some sense of variety, but it fails to ever alter the game flow or force you to think differently. In one mission you’re chasing a man – and his naked girlfriend – on-foot across a series of rooftops, which should be a perfectly exhilarating proposition. The problem is it makes no difference how quickly you follow, you can take as much time as you like and you’ll never lose his tail; hell, you can even catch up well before the stage ends and take shots at the fleet footed couple to no avail. In the following mission you’re ambushed and have to escort your boss to safety, which is usually the type of mission everyone hates, but there’s no reason to worry here as your buddies will never die. They’ll take damage, but you’d have to play atrociously to ever put their lives in any real danger. The underlying issue with both of these stages is that nothing in Kane & Lynch 2 is ever really at stake; you move from point A to point B cleaning out arenas of thugs and it never matters who you’re killing or why.

You might think the gameplay would differ from playing with a friend, but you’d be wrong. Unless you and your partner are trying to systematically move through each level there is no reason to actually cooperate. What’s likely to happen is the two of you will plow through a level with no trouble at all, running from one area to the next forgetting you even have a wingman – that is until the dreaded co-op door. The level design in Kane & Lynch 2 just doesn’t lend itself too often to different tactics, once in a blue moon you’ll be forced to separate from one another but you’ll remain in close proximity and reunite in no time. Other instances when there are actually multiple routes to the same conflict, the games lack of difficulty provides no reason to exploit them.

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The most striking aspect of Dog Days would have to be its visual representation. Following its pair of low lives in their flight from the Chinese underworld, Kane & Lynch 2 is rendered in a fittingly gritty, edgy manner. Filters are thrown over graphics to create artifacting, film grain and other noise to dirty up the picture, while the default camera isn’t steady, creating the illusion of a trailing camera in hand. While it captures the immediacy and visceral nature of the action it also makes the game a hell of a lot more difficult to digest, and disorienting. Enemies already tend to blend too easily into the environments, add-on the shaky cam, the filters and the on-screen damage you register and it’s near impossible to identify targets. That isn’t to say the visual style is all bad, as the neon found throughout the game adds some much needed color to the shady streets of Shanghai, while the artifacting is used to cleverly hide headshots and the crotches of our anti-heroes.

Considering the gritty, realistic depiction of their story it’s surprising just how light the game feels. When played alone players are dropped in the shoes of the burly mad man, Lynch, a character you’d expect to feel quite weighty. While neither Kane nor Lynch quite feel like athletes, they both feel unsubstantial to maneuver, which carries over to the mediocre gunplay. Weapons themselves feel quite varied but don’t feel especially punchy; shotguns specifically feel rather insignificant to fire, even though they remain extremely effective in-game. The real issue likely stems from the lack of feeling when your hits are registering – especially in multiplayer – on enemies. You’ll know for sure your shots are landing as little (X)s mark the points of entry into each adversary, but it seems like more of a quick fix than a proper solution. The most effective feeling the game delivers is the force of impact when you’re knocked from your feet with a steady dose of gunfire. While grounded you can crawl, fire and actually recover directly into a cover state, which creates a subtle feeling of desperation as you struggle to regain your footing.

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As was the case with the duos freshman outing, Dead Men, multiplayer is where the game shines – relatively speaking. Returning from the original is the interesting Fragile Alliance that groups up to eight players together into a criminal band and drops them into a heist. The catch is at any point during the job players can turn on one another and steal whatever loot the other has accumulated. This element of distrust and potential spontanaiety makes each round of Fragile Alliance potentially quite different, as players look for easy opportunities to screw over vulnerable teammates. The problem is each round still plays out in mostly the same fashion as the computer controlled cops have the exact same routine. To combat this dead players respawn as cops, but the fact remains it’s usually a long time into a round before players start dying and turning on one another. And there isn’t a large enough incentive to turncoat earlier in a round as you’re quickly labeled a traitor in-game, which puts you in the sites of everyone else in the crew.

Dog Days also sports an Undercover Cop game type that works in a similar manner to Fragile Alliance. The key difference is everyone in the group knows there is someone among them that will eventually turn sides, but what makes it interesting is the cop has to play along with the heist to a point; if he or she shoots a computer controlled lawman they fail, but if they don’t shoot at all the other players know they’re undercover. Ultimately though, each well intentioned multiplayer mode is soured by the lackluster gunplay; all the trust and betrayal in the world can’t make the game a better shooter.

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Despite its intriguing but flawed multiplayer suite, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is one of the most underwhelming shooters of recent memory. It doesn’t set out to do a whole lot and what it does do is mostly average: its visual motif is slick but distracting, its gunplay adequate but unsubstantial and its co-op present but unnecessary. The best thing I can say is it’s the closest you’ll ever get to streaking through the streets of Shanghai with an automatic weapon.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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