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Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (PS3)

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (PS3)

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

Kane & Lynch 2 – Dog Days Review

The first Kane and Lynch was a crime game with a difference. Gone were the sanitary and sterilised views of crime that had become popular in the virtual world, that allowed players to chortle their way through mass murder and mayhem. Instead, here was a title that showed the grubby world which low end criminals often inhabit. The first game was met with mixed reviews, some lauding it for its grimy backdrop, others criticising its lack of innovation and flawed co-op system. Changes had to be made before the sequel saw the light of day.

Now it’s here and is all about the former partners coming together for one last arms deal in Shanghai. Add some depth to the characters? Kane is more downbeat than ever before and Lynch’s paranoid psychosis has gone from Jack Nicholson to Jim Carrey. Include more popular culture references? The YouTube style "camera" work throughout the game provides a lot of sly winks to the target audience. Add more shocking plot twists, implausible action sequences and nudity? Check, check and check, even if this last point might not be the kind of nudity people are hoping for.

So have a long shower, don your protective clothing and don’t touch anything without gloves as we trawl through the sewer once more to see whether Kane & Lynch is more dog days than just plain old dog tired.

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It’s got to be said from the start that while a lot of attention has been paid to trying to reinvent the feel and look of this sequel – more on that later – the gameplay doesn’t seem to have been improved or altered that radically from the original. While the storyline and situations might be different, the game generally seems content to serve up large helpings of shoot outs against vast numbers of faceless goons and really there’s little else by way of a sophisticated twist. Sure, many games get by on this alone but those games aren’t highly publicised, expensive sequels to first efforts that had glimpses of real promise. A little more of an evolution in the game mechanic really would have been appreciated.

Had that mechanic been tweaked and polished more then the wave after wave of petty criminal fodder wouldn’t feel so draining as in its current form it is let down by a flawed targeting system. Aiming and spraying bursts of bullets both seem to yield similarly inconsistent results. Given that fact there is little point in electing to do the former and long segments simply become a "spray and pray" exercise that requires little thought or intelligence. It reduces the whole game to one long action sequence with no deviations in tone or style.

The cover system would also have benefited from some extra development time and unwillingly adds a dimension of danger to the proceedings because a player can never be sure if it will work correctly or not. With bullets whizzing about it would be nice to be able to dive into cover. Instead, the perfect angle has to be found before the game will acknowledge the request. Start the move from a fraction too far away and it just won’t work. Frustrating for sure, especially when coupled with the shaky-cam effects when sprinting from hostiles.

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As for single player , well having Kane limp along behind adds little more to the gameplay than if Lynch were to have had a third arm grafted on to his body. The NPC Kane is an extra gun that occasionally will give a coup de grace to a wounded foe, or covers a direction that isn’t in the field of view. Other than that, it adds nothing to the game. Bring a friend to the proceedings and the short campaign gets shorter and a little more fun but not particularly any easier.

At least the storyline and characters elevate the game above these flaws though, right? Perhaps that were true in the first one were Lynch was a hallucinating lunatic and Kane was a begrudgingly loyal friend. Here they’ve been reduced to caricatures of their original incarnations, mumbling, swearing and shouting all the way. In fact everyone is shouting; so much so the plot is reduced to a blur. People are angry, sure, but those who played the first game will long for the cleverer plot devices and scenes they have seen before.

Indeed, if players want anything fresh then they’re going to have to take it online, where in fairness there are a variety of interesting modes of play that deviate nicely from the usual deathmatch staples. Fragile Alliance mode makes a return seeing players start as a team of criminals undertaking a heist. Any player killed respawns as a cop and there’s the option for players to betray their squad and go for the glory themselves. Who players decide to turn on and split the cash with does make for some exciting and tense games. Undercover Cop mode sees one player as an infiltrator, kept secret from the other players, who has to bump off his fake colleagues as slyly as possible and stop the heist from going ahead. It is again a nice innovation. A more standard way of playing is Cops and Robbers where teams of players have to go up directly against each other. This offers more excitement than anything in the single player campaign.

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A lot has to be said about the approach this time around. The action is viewed as if filmed by a low-fi DV camera and the game looks like a YouTube video if that site was the sole preserve of murderers and maniacs. Still, there is some restraint… Gore and nudity are blurred out by those pixelated smears familiar to anyone who has watched COPS. The camera shakes if players sprint somewhere as if there was some huffing and puffing camerman struggling to catch up and when things get really hairy the camera deliberately breaks up, fake tearing appearing on the screen that might prompt a player or two to tap their TVs. Stylistically it’s interesting but in practice it fails to add anything and graphically it could even be argued it’s a backward step for the franchise.

The hired goons barely have facial features at a certain distance and the animations look ropey and unrealistic, not in a way that a DV camera would portray them but in a way that people who haven’t paid enough attention to the animation artwork would portray them. The main characters do a little better but not much, the grainy look making the level of detail seem underwhelming and their animations feeling a little clunky and repetitive.

Having said that, the neon soaked backdrop of a sleazy Shanghai are brilliantly realised. Each seedy den looking like something from a backpacker’s nightmare with black market organ harvesters lurking in every alley and hookers with bad intentions rather than hearts of gold on every street corner. Yet it’s not enough to elevate how the game looks and feels out of the gutter that it mines for storyline inspiration.

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The cut-scenes carried the first game, creating a modern pulp crime thriller with a twist and holding together some fairly thin passages of play. The voice work here sounds as tired as jaded as the titular Kane is supposed to be. The psychotic episodes of Lynch have a cartoon feel to them and really, when people aren’t just cursing and grumbling, the only thing on offer here is melodrama of the worst kind.

Points go out to the score, which manages to blend pulp sensibilities, the Eastern sound of Shanghai and modern music to create a nightmarish and oppressive soundscape that ties to the game effortlessly. Sound effects are less impressive. They are loud and distinguishable from one another but fire-fights become one long drone punctuated by the odd outburst from one of the characters. Using the word atmospheric would be going too far, however effective isn’t too much of a stretch.

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The game has fallen into a trap a lot of sequels do – the belief that the characters can carry the weight of a franchise on their substantial shoulders. Perhaps true in some cases, in this one it’s an error of judgement. Kane and Lynch were never meant to be that likeable in the first place and the fact is here they are little more than simpler versions of their past selves, distilled down to their base components. It’s also true that no matter how good a character is if they are put in mundane situations there is very little they can do to make it seem exciting. As a result all the firefights and murders are so run of the mill that the game rarely feels like it’s the action packed, gritty thriller it purports to be.

If a game takes a backward step graphically, it can be forgiven. Here something new was attempted and it backfired somewhat but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if the story was compelling and the set pieces rewarding. Alas, they are not and as such even fans of the first game will struggle to find something to like. That’s what feels so much of a let-down; that this sequel has taken backward steps in almost every area since the first game.

Overall the one redeeming feature is some online gaming modes that show real innovation, so much so that they are likely to be emulated by other titles. A lot of fun can be had in these modes and they do add some much needed longevity and quality to a game where the single player mode only lasts 6 hours or so.

Gameplay 65/100 Single player is repetitive and simple. Some extra development time and playtesting would really have benefited this area. Only for those who want to have a blast for a few hours without too much thought… online multiplayer is an improvement, offering something different to other titles.
Graphics 62/100

It was a brave stylistic choice but it is one that fails. The lack of attention to detail for a next gen title is disappointing.

Audio 62/100 Voice acting is erratic and inconsistent. The cut scenes seem to make little sense at times. Sound effects are functional but nothing to write home about.
Value 65/100 Not only can the single player campaign be completed by a novice in around six hours but there’s no reason to replay it at all. Multiplayer modes rescue it from being a one play title.
(Not an Average)

A title which in single player mode disappoints because it could have been so much better. Someone should have taken the call to postpone release for added development and polish of the single player campaign. Fans of online gaming who want something a little different to the norm should keep an eye out for this title as its price drops.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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