The original Kane & Lynch game, released by IO Interactive in 2008 was met with a mixed reception from critics and gamers alike. Despite the pair of lovable-yet-ruthless characters and a well-crafted storyline, the game was ultimately let down by a plethora of bugs and clunky controls. But overall, Kane & Lynch showed a lot of promise in the third-person shooter genre, and it seemed that with a bit of tender loving care, it could blossom into a triple A title.
Since then, big things have been happening for the Kane & Lynch franchise including that ever elusive “video game to movie” Box Office smash hit. Bruce Willis and Jamie Foxx have been linked to Kane & Lynch respectively, with a Blockbuster movie set for release next year.
But first things first, does this sequel set out to fix all the things that were seriously broken in the original Kane & Lynch? Sadly, no. In fact it’s actually managed to introduce some new ones.
As you would expect, Dog Days still revolves around Kane and Lynch as they plough from one sh*tstorm to another. Except this time around the sequel switches the focus of the story to Lynch’s saga as opposed to the first game, in which Kane took centre stage. While Kane is a scoundrel with a heart of abalone, Lynch can only be described as a psychotic, drug-addicted mental case who wouldn’t think twice about robbing a pensioner nun. Although with Lynch’s beer gut, he’d probably have a hard time keeping up with her.
Adding to Lynch’s fatness, baldness and chronic paranoia, Dog Days also sets up a story where he has girl problems and is stuck in the middle of a Black Market arms deal gone wrong. This is where Kane comes in, as he attempts to help out his erstwhile partner in Shanghai, China
Hopefully enough time has passed for those who played EA’s Army of Two: The 40th Day to forget what happened in it. The similarities between these two games are a few too many to ignore. They’re both sequels, both third-person co-op shooters that use a cover system and are both set in Shanghai following a job that goes horribly wrong. They’re also both R18 games with two “anti-heroes” who enjoy saying words that rhyme with ‘mutha trucker’ a lot.
But despite this sense of déjà-vu, Dog Days does step out into the limelight with its visual aesthetics in the opening sequences. The game uses a grainy, flickering “poorly filmed” technique that can be distracting at times, but lends a sense of urgency and grittiness that suits the atmosphere nicely. At least at first. When this same style is used across the entire of the game, the shaky and blurry jerky-cam visuals can start to border on nauseating. Sprinting from A to B sends the camera lurching and juddering like a schizophrenic monkey. After some prolonged eye-torture, I found out you can turn this “action cam” off, which was a relief. But this only revealed that the blur effect was there to try and hide how bad the graphics were.
The models and textures in Kane & Lynch seem to have taken a step backwards. Just about every character in the game lacks any detail and often have faces that resemble a water-painting out in the rain. The animations for all of the background characters are poorly executed as well and you’ll be left wondering how a next-gen sequel could feature such dodgy modelling. Thankfully the two main protagonists have a bit more polish on them, but still fall victim to a shoddy lighting engine and glitches in rendering hair. And considering Lynch has a full-on beard, this is a serious problem.
The control bugs from the first game haven’t been remedied either. The game’s main staple of ‘shoot and cover’ is jeopardised by a flaky cover system that often lets you flap around like an idiot instead of shielding your vital organs behind a handy pillar. Sometimes you’re slightly on the wrong angle and other times the game basically just gives you the finger and won’t let you use a perfectly good object as cover.
The shooting and combat aspects of Dog Days are probably the game’s saving grace. With enough practice, pulling off head-shots and firing from cover (when it lets you) is good fun thanks to the manic camera work. However, most of the time you’ll be running around shooting wildly in a state of shear panic. A lot of veteran gamers with a love of precision in their shooters will hate this form of gameplay and most likely find it frustrating. However it does fit the overall theme of Kane & Lynch nicely.
Story-wise, players will get a fairly decent singleplayer campaign with plenty of action and a fast pace to the gameplay. But sadly Dog Days seems to seriously lack the hard-hitting and nail-biting tension of the first game. Even Kane and Lynch seem to be minus the humourous and volatile personalities that made the original enjoyable. Lynch’s potential “loose cannon” mentality quickly gets watered down until he’s just a big lumbering guy with a temper and a shotgun. No more hallucinations and complete nervous breakdowns this time around, which is a shame as these were probably the most memorable device from the original game.
The game isn’t without some improvements, however. IO have spent a fair bit of time on the multiplayer side of things and tweaked and added a couple of features here and there. Fragile Alliance, a clever mode introduced in the first game that had players backstabbing and outwitting one another has been kept. It follows an almost identical formula where one side attempts to rob a location and get away with the booty and evade the cops. Any gang members killed get re-spawned as a cop to try and take down their former operation. Quite often gang members would turn on one another in order to take the stash for themselves, but would then have to suffer the wrath of their betrayed teammates exacting revenge in the name of the law.
Undercover Cop is another multiplayer mode which plays in a similar fashion, except one of the gang-members is randomly selected to be an infiltrator or mole. As you can imagine, chaos usually ensues when paranoia gets the better of people as the heist gets sabotaged. However, both of these modes call on an enemy AI which is often brainless and for serious online gamers the computer controlled players won’t be up to the challenge. In this case, Cops and Robbers pits two teams of human players against each other in a similar heist situation.
Without a doubt, the multiplayer is fun and does a better job of capturing the crazy dog-eat-dog world that Kane & Lynch live in. But this won’t be enough to entice most gamers and even fans of the original are likely to be disappointed. Granted, there is plenty of action, a LOT of shooting things and a stylish flair to the presentation of the game. But with the dodgy controls and often distracting visuals most people would be happy with a rental over a weekend for this one. A disappointing follow up to a franchise that had the potential to bury the Army of Two titles. Hopefully the 2011 movie will prove to be a lot better.