Dead Men wasn’t the most innovative shooter even for its time (2007). It stuck to the standard third-person shooter formula, and it was quite unpolished in the gameplay department, with clunky shooting mechanics, an unintuitive cover system, and poor hit detection. So why make another one? Besides righting all those wrongs, there are things that made Kane & Lynch special and worthy of a sequel. First and foremost, it was an unapologetically violent game with some superb set pieces. Secondly, and rather refreshingly, the game had no good guys; not even the lead characters. Everyone was bad, and the only thing differentiating Kane and Lynch from the rest was that they were the ones who made it out alive.
In Dog Days, Kane and Lynch reunite for the first time since the events of Dead Men. While the first game took place across several locations, this one is set entirely in Shanghai. And while the first game revolved around Kane, this time, Lynch is at the center of things, with Kane joining him to carry out a seemingly routine arms deal. As you would no doubt have predicted, things don’t go as smoothly as expected, and the unlikely duo quickly finds itself in the crosshairs of what seems like the entire Shanghai underworld. That sets the tone for lots of cover-based corridor shooting, and eventually, that’s what Kane & Lynch 2 boils down to. It’s a corridor shooter, where most of the time, your objective will be to get from point A to B on linear maps, taking cover when necessary, and dropping as many bodies as possible on the way.
There are a couple of missions that stray from the monotonous cover-based killing sprees, and those missions are a lot of fun, but there aren’t enough of them, and that’s especially disappointing considering some of the memorable set pieces that the first game had. Since there’s so much of blood spilling and cover-taking involved, it’s a good thing that the developers have vastly improved everything from the shooting mechanics to the cover system. Weapons feel more powerful and gun shots sound appropriately punchy this time around. Aiming and hit detection are also vastly improved and there’s a hint of an aim assist on Medium difficulty. However, enemies do take an unrealistically high number of bullets to die, especially on the higher difficulties, and since the enemy AI isn’t the brightest, the game compensates for it by throwing them at you by the dozen.
So the shooting segments aren’t as much about skill as they are a test of patience, but there are a few gameplay variations thrown in to let you improvise. Every now and then, Kane and Lynch will split up and you’ll be left without back up for those segments. You’ll also be able to use combustible items like gas canisters and fire extinguishers to toss at groups of enemies to get easy kills. And if you happen to sneak up on a group of enemies unsuspected, you can take one of them hostage to gain an advantage in the ensuing gun battle. But for all of these little features, Kane & Lynch 2 does nothing to set it apart from the sea of third-person shooters already out there.
One of the things that do set it apart though is the setting. Shanghai is brilliantly designed and its many contrasting locations add a fair amount of variety to the levels. You’ll find yourself playing through everything from sweat shops and fish markets to office sky scrapers and air fields. But there’s one differentiating factor that makes Dog Days unlike any other game out there, and that’s its unmistakable visual style. The entire game looks like it was filmed through a cheap camcorder.
Gun shots and explosions cause the screen to get pixilated and bright lights show up as colored vertical bands on screen. Headshots are covered up with mosaic censoring similar to what you would find in news broadcasts and the loading screens look like a buffering video stream. And all of this is made to look grittier with a very convincing shaky-cam effect that almost feels like someone is following Lynch around with a camcorder. There may be some who find these effects distracting and even annoying, but we thought they were absolutely brilliant. They make the game a lot more immersive and they also do a great job of hiding the game’s otherwise bland graphics.
This unique visual effects and some really well designed environments help Kane & Lynch 2 rise above the mediocrity of its gameplay and mission structure, and together, they make for quite an enjoyable single-player campaign. But the unconventional characters of Kane and Lynch, who were part of what made Dead Men so memorable, seem to be underplayed this time around. Though there is a fair amount of banter between them, they both seem extremely subdued this time around. You could justify that by the changes both have made in their lives since the first game (which I’ll leave you to discover for yourself), but when the main characters are an escaped deathrow convict and a semi-psychotic murderer, you expect some irrational and unpredictable behavior. The first game had that. This one sadly doesn’t.
You can also play the campaign co-operatively. The game supports two-player co-op, where one player controls Kane, and other Lynch. Strangely, although the campaign is the same, the singe-player and co-op campaigns are represented as different game modes. So you can’t play through part of the game in co-op and then continue the rest solo. The game is certainly more fun in co-op as it eliminates the dimwitted friendly AI from the equation, and it gives you another way to play through the campaign. But here’s the biggest drawback of the game and a possible deal-breaker for most interested buyers – the campaign lasts just four hours. If you play it in co-op, you can probably complete it in even less. No matter what additional features or game modes the game comes with, a campaign this short is absolutely inexcusable. And though the campaign is entertaining, it isn’t nearly good enough to make up for the fact that you can comfortably finish it in one sitting.
If you haven’t been turned off by the bizarrely short campaign, there’s some good news in the form of online multi-player. Kane & Lynch features a very unique take on competitive multi-player. Two of the three multi-player modes start out as co-op and somewhere in between turn into competitive multi-player by turning players against each other. In the Fragile Alliance mode, you and a group of buddies are tasked with stealing cash and escaping in a getaway van, while AI cops try to stop you. The one with the most cash wins the round, so a way to get more cash is to kill one of your friends and steal his cash. The twist here though is that the player you just killed now respawns as a cop and tries to stop you. The more you kill, the more human enemies you create. Equally fun is Undercover Cop, where the mission is the same, but here, one of the players is an undercover cop tasked with stopping the heist. And the only person who knows the cop’s identity is the cop himself. The third mode is Cops and Robbers, which is a more traditional versus mode.
The multi-player, while a lot of fun when played with friends, is limited to just three modes and those will only hold your attention for so long. If you enjoy multi-player, then the multi-player modes, co-op and the short but fun single-player mode do make this a worthwhile purchase. For those without good internet connections though, the campaign (and the ability to play Fragile Alliance against bots) is all there is to the game and with the campaign just lasting four hours, there really is no reason for you to pick this up. But it’s not the short campaign or all the things that have improved over the original that define this game, but it’s instead the things that were great about the first game that haven’t made it over to the sequel that make it a disappointment. The characters of Kane and Lynch have been watered down, turning them from unpredictable mad men into your generic bad-asses with guns. That, more than anywhere else, is where Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days fails.
Genre: Third-person Shooter
Title: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
Price: Rs 2,499 (Xbox 360, PS3), Rs 999 (PC)
Publisher: Eidos Interactive/Square-Enix
Developer: IO Interactive
Distributor: E-Xpress Interactive
Phone: 022 29661017
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
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