I really wanted to like Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. The first game was not in any way great, but it very well could have been with better design and more polish. Developed by IO Interactive - the Danish developers responsible for the amazing Hitman series and the chronically under-appreciated Freedom Fighters, Kane & Lynch: Dead
Men attempted to make itís mark on the co-op third-person shooter genre - putting you in the shoes of professional bad guy Kane and his psychotic pal Lynch.
Dead Men wasnít successful - you can pick up second hand copies for less than $15 in some retail outfits, so I assumed IO Interactive had something pretty impressive up their sleeves for Eidos to back a sequel. More than that, I wanted IO Interactive to have something impressive up their sleeves, because I prefer co-operative multiplayer to competitive multiplayer and any game which successfully furthers my friendly gaming agenda is a good game in my books.
When you want something to succeed you make excuses for it - background textures are bad because they want you to focus on the action, it doesnít matter if there isnít any real difference between the majority of the guns and so on. Itís especially easy to do these days, when developers are trying different artistic approaches to their games for various reasons. It takes a lot of mistakes before someone gives up their delusions and admits they were wrong - and I admitted I was wrong about Dog Days less than halfway through.
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days follows our dynamic duo as they shoot and swear their way through Shanghai, this time with the focus on Lynchís life. This was mistake number one, although you donít realise itís a mistake until 5 hours after youíve started - when you have finished and not once has Lynch lost his mind and thought everyone around was an animal headed police officer. Instead, Lynch is now just an angsty, swearing jerk who occasionally growls and mutters to himself when the going gets tough.
Lynch has calmed down since moving to Shanghai - he now has a girlfriend and a steady job as a hired thug of some sort and itís easy to understand why he might not flip out at the start of the game. Things turn to hell for both him and Kane before long however, so itís not unreasonable to think IO Interactive might have had some interesting mechanics in place to showcase his unravelling mental health.
At first you might think insanity is the reason for the bizarre camera work, but unless Lynchís psychosis now takes the form of a drunk camera-man following him around with a bad quality camera, it doesnít make sense. The mysterious camera man falls down repeatedly and shakes like he has a bad case of the DTs and his camera seems to be partially broken - glitching and artefacting in the now popular 'grindhouse' fashion.
If it isn't some sort of satirical comment on the glamorisation of violence in the media, it will be considered one by those pseudo-intellectuals who still appreciate that cliched 'talking point.' The pixelated faces of those you've killed in a particularly grisly fashion certainly aren't an attempt to avoid censorship - there isn't an English-speaking member of the cast who can go three words without swearing.
There is another reason for thinking the game is some sort of ham-fisted social commentary - if it isnít there is absolutely no point to the idiotic dialogue and cut-scenes throughout the single player/co-op game. As the Gears of War series proves, a good story isnít particularly necessary in a third person cover shooter - but coupling a pointless story with gameplay flipping between generic and poor gives you no reason to play the story mode at all.
Press A to attach yourself to cover, pull the left trigger to aim and the right trigger to fire or just pull the right trigger to blind fire. Itís an accurate description for almost any cover shooter, but most games of the genre have nuances making them something different. Dead Men had Lynchís failing grip on reality and the ability to switch weapons with your partner. Dog Days has... a chance to fire when youíre down and some walls you can shoot through.
Damage darkens your screen with various blood and injury associated effects in the now common fashion, slowly fading back to normal after time. Generally before you take enough damage to kill you however, you will drop to the ground, injured but not yet dead. From that position you can fire on enemies, crawl around and attempt to get up, either in or out of cover.
Itís a decent concept, but it starts becoming more of a liability than any kind of second chance when you hit the later levels. Pressing A when down and in range of cover gives you a chance to get up in cover, but what qualifies as cover seems to be up to chance. Your character might decide to hide behind the wall facing the enemy, but he might very well decide to hide behind the pylon facing to the right of the enemy - leaving you completely exposed for the rain of gunfire incoming. By the end of the game if I went down I would usually stay down until every enemy was dead - although admittedly it wasnít just because I didnít trust Lynchís choice of cover, I was also attempting to find any way at all to make the game stop feeling so hollow.
The multiplayer is the gameís only saving grace - and by that I mean competitive multiplayer, not co-op. The only difference between playing the story mode alone or with a partner is the game is even easier - your partner will actually shoot enemies instead of waiting for you to. There is no concept of co-operation in co-op - even Dead Menís ability to hand weapons to your partner has been removed.
Competitive multiplayer brings more to the table however, bringing back the Fragile Alliance mode of the original game and adding some interesting twists. Fragile Alliance sets you and your multiplayer companions (or AI companions in Arcade mode) as a team of criminals tasked with retrieving loot and shooting your way to freedom. The goal is to make as much money as possible and get away alive - making co-operation a must as you attempt to shoot through the heavily armoured police between you and the getaway car. Before long however, you realise the importance of betrayal as well - taking out your compatriots means you get to keep all of their money for yourself.
Undercover Cop mode adds more tension again, making one member of the team a police officer tasked with secretly killing everyone else in the group. If you play with a group of intelligent people, matches can quickly become very tense, as everyone attempts to kill the SWAT teams while also trying to get everyone else killed without looking like youíve done anything wrong. Unfortunately of course, a group of intelligent people is almost impossible to find on Xbox Live - most matches degenerate into Ďwho can kill the most people at the very start of the round.í
As the multiplayer is the only reason to play Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days and as the multiplayer is almost pointless without a group of people you know arenít idiotic yelping pre-teens, there is no point in purchasing the game - unless you can convince your friends to purchase it as well. This is when the dance begins again, as you attempt to convince your friends to spend money on such a poor game, while also trying to pin the blame on someone else so your friends donít realise you are a traitorous jerk.
It might not seem it, but in the end you will realise you should all team up and not purchase Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days - then you will all make it, with your money and friendship intact.