Review: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

Intensity is a hard thing to maintain in any entertainment medium for too long. Modern Warfare 2 showed us that a frantic action-movie experience with more than a pinch of influence from Michael blow-everything-up Bay can only last for so long. And while I personally struggle to justify forking out $100+ for a single-player experience that’s less than eight hours in length (unless the game is complemented by some fantastic multiplayer), I’m slowly learning to appreciate that it’s not the size of a game that counts, but how you enjoy it.

LIMBO, for example, is a game that everyone should experience at some time of their gaming life. I wouldn’t recommend that they pay the current price tag for it because it’s simply not long enough for me to tout the all-important value-for-money card… and yet, it should still be played. Both Modern Warfare games, judged purely as single-player experiences, carry the same proviso, and in many ways, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is an occupant on the same small boat that seems to be ever attracting more and more occupants.

Let me flag from the outset that this is a single-player review or, to be more accurate, a campaign review as I’ve played through the entire game cooperatively online, partially by myself as well as a wee bit more in offline split screen. Depending on your skill level, the difficulty and how Nachos-esque (read: aggressive) you are in your approach you will be able to comfortably knock the game over in a five-to-seven hour period of time. And once you’re done, if you’re anything like me, you won’t feel the need to revisit that experience.

That’s not to say that the experience is bad—far from it in fact—it’s just that the frantic pace, raw grittiness and hard hittingness (totally a word) of the game carries a single-serving wow factor only. I’m not the kind of person who believes that a film, book or movie can’t be enjoyed more than once, but there are certain types of entertainment that will only ever carry the same resonance that you are imbued with on the first sitting. For example, I can watch Fight Club again and love it, but the ending will never be as awesomely Keanu Reeves ‘woah’ as the first time I saw it.

Kane & Lynch 2 has you visiting Shanghai, with titular buddies Kane and Lynch reteaming for an easy-money job that goes horribly wrong. Considering I only made it an hour or so into the original game before abandoning that indefinitely I was forced to assume that the bond between the initially strained (to say the least) ‘friends’ of the first game had ended on some sort of bros-for-life result. And while I was happy to accept it, Kane and Lynch are, for all intents and purposes, the same playable character.

Sure, they have different personalities, different appearances and all of those superficial nuances that pass for uniqueness, but there is no gameplay-changing difference in playing as Kane or Lynch. It would have been nice to see some of the personality manifestations of the first game that I read about (for instance, Lynch’s hallucination that innocent folk are in fact cops) implemented into the game. There’s even a point in the game where you switch characters, for a reason that Dave (my co-op bromeo) and I couldn’t make sense of. It only helped to cement the understanding that although the cooperative experience is the highlight of the campaign, it’s simply a protagonist +1 situation, instead of a co-op fight to pick the more beloved character.

The hour or so that I spent with single-player was a frustrating experience, and I’m glad I didn’t persevere. Friendly AI is dumb as dog shit which, when coupled with the lack of a friendly fire mechanic (you can’t shoot if your crosshair is on a friend), often meant the difference between surviving and dying because of a bullet-blocking teammate.

Although much improved on what I recall from the original game, the shooting mechanic is still not all the way there. It’s very close to the Gears of War style (and every third-person shooter should adopt the Gears style because it’s still the best), but it’s the tiny limitations that make the difference between edge-of-your-seat shootout moment and intense frustration. The game is picky with what is and isn’t cover, sliding along a solid cover surface isn’t always possible and cover can often be a lie, leaving you open to incoming lead from foes who shouldn’t be able to hit you.

The shooting mechanic isn’t properly refined either. Most of the guns available in the demo were sufficiently accurate or powerful enough to do some damage, but there are several useless weapons—particularly the submachine guns—that boggle the mind as to why they were even included in the first place. Although a Counter-Strike 100-percent-accuracy-on-your-first-shot logic applies across the board, a lot of weapons lack the stopping power to even take down unarmoured foes. There are times when I wasted whole accurately fired clips with no kill on unarmoured foes and then there were the other times when headshots didn’t kill an enemy. Note to developers, that’s a big no-no in any action game.

So for those who read reviews like me, skipping to the numerical result at the end before determining whether they want to read the rest, they may be a wee bit confused as to how all of this negativity can lead to a respectable mark for the campaign. Simple: it’s ball-loads of fun. If you’d heard the frantic Xbox LIVE chatter between Dave and I when we were playing you would understand. We laughed, cheered, teased, yelled and swore at each other on more than one occasion… and loved every moment of it. This is what co-op gaming is all about, this is what immersion is all about: making the cooperative players push each other harder to get from point A to B.

There are many sections of the game that feel samey, but when ‘samey’ translates to what feels like two men versus all of Shanghai’s cops, mobsters and even the military… this isn’t a bad thing. You’re always outnumbered, usually outgunned and when the enemy AI is working properly—which it did more often than not in my experience—they are cunning, aggressive bastards. Cover can be destroyed and enemies don’t like to stay in one place for too long. They will flank you if you sit in one spot, forcing you to fight a run-and-gun battle, subsequently making you pick your moments to reload, switch weapons on the fly and take cover that may splinter at any moment.

It also forces you to fight together with complementary tactics. Our most successful assaults were when we both did the same thing which, for anyone who ever has the fortune of playing co-op with me, means one pace: Nachos speed. I’m a super-aggressive player who favours shotguns over sniper rifles, which means I like to get up close and personal. When Dave and I went Han Solo crazy and got up in their faces like it was nobody’s business, we were rewarded with the most exciting experiences of the game. Yeah, we died a lot (and by we, I mean me), but the game didn’t actively seek to punish this approach… except when you wanted to grab enemies with the frustrating hit-or-miss mechanic.

What starts off with one intense shootout after another, manages to somehow build up into bigger and better things. You will find yourself storming streets at one moment, ‘accidentally’ popping innocent fools in crossfire. Next you’re experiencing a confronting level where you’ve been tortured and running the streets naked, with an insanely awesome chopper-versus-building showdown towards the later part of the game. I was consistently impressed with how much I wanted to keep playing, how much I didn’t want to stop until I’d hit the finish line and how the adrenaline was being constantly upped. It’s not an easy task, but IO Interactive deserves kudos for pulling it off admirably.

At the end of the day though, it’s still difficult for me to recommend Kane & Lynch 2 as a must-buy campaign experience without throwing in disclaimers. The lack of differences between Kane and Lynch as playable characters, the unrepeatable intense nature of the first-time experience, some rather interesting online co-op bugs (that seemed to be limited to the connecting player) and no real driving reason to go back and do it again make it a once-off experience. But as with LIMBO, it’s an experience that you should definitely give a burl, particularly if you love co-op and like shootouts of the hairy variety.

7/10

SECOND OPINION – ko-zee-ii

Not so much a second opinion, more a reiteration of what Nachos touched on. Kane and Lynch is tailor made for co-op. If you’re considering single-player fuggeddaboutit! Much like one of its namesakes, Lynch, Dog Days is violent, has a distorted view on life, is psychotic, a bi-polar at times affair, though not entirely without its appeal.

Every time it glitched out spectacularly, whether it was switching characters for no reason, taking away my weapons leaving me disarmed, or having my bullets impact with no effect, it would counter with a brutal grab and execution (I had MUCH more success with this than Nachos), or a helicopter shoot-out atop a skyscraper or a gut-retching visceral jaunt through Shanghai butt-naked with centimetre-deep Stanley knife wounds your only dressing.

It more than sated the ‘sick in the head’ action junkie within and I could not put it down. The short campaign does put me off recommending it at full price, as this seems a perfect pick-up when the price drops. That said, if you have a partner in crime and loves you some co-op, you’ll have a blast playing through Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days (and then make use of EB’s 7-day return policy… not that we advocate or recommend such action, but we totes do).

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  • thrillho

    My fav glitches were when the bad guys could run into ur gun fire then reappear behind you!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah… the teleporting enemies were pretty bad.