A few years after the events in the first game, we find Lynch living in Shanghai with his girlfriend Xiu, who he actually has feelings for. Getting by doing small jobs for a gangster known as Mr. Glazer, Lynch jumps at an arms deal that becomes available and calls in his old “friend” Kane to help out and make a few bucks. As expected things get completely fucked up and we once again find Lynch (and Kane) as the prime targets for rival gangs, police and anyone in between.
I had high hopes for this game and am happy to report I wasn’t let down… completely anyways. Playing through Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, one of the few things I was hoping that would be carried over if they made a sequel was the crazy set pieces that turned a rather bland third-person shooter into a crazy crime-based action movie and while this was kind of accomplished (largely due to the visual style) I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was getting a watered-down version of what should have been a sequel. I can count on one hand the number of parts I truly felt were pushed to a somewhat exciting limit with every other time stuck somewhere between “meh” and mediocrity, which for a game half as long as what is considered short by today’s standards is a death sentence. No word of a lie, in the time it takes someone to go to work and come home, I could have finished this game twice in a row on a medium-hard difficulty with maybe two parts (if any) that would take over 30 minutes. In an age where video games are a generally a minimum of $60.00 new, being able to complete a game in a day or weekend is inexcusable.
Although we played through Kane’s story in the first game, I had always liked Lynch more as a character. Both are gritty, disgusting and all around terrible humans but where Kane felt more sympathetic and cliché as an anti-hero Lynch was just a psychotic asshole who heard voices and needed medication to stay somewhat normal. Now tell me, which of those you would rather play as? I was more than happy to take the reigns as Lynch and was somewhat surprised to see how much he had changed. His girlfriend seems to have taken a lot of the chaos and crazy out of his life as he no longer needs medication and seems to have a genuine concern and love for her that I wouldn’t believe was possible of such a low-life. Without spoiling anything major, this was the perfect set-up and counter-balance to the latter half of the game when, after a certain event, Lynch completely loses it and we are treated to a magnified version of the personality from Dead Men complete with the ambient grumbles and swearing until the end.
Although Kane and Lynch are the main characters, the star of the game is undoubtedly the new visual style. A gritty game deserves a gritty look and what could be better than a flash-based handycam or cellphone camera recording everything that happens? I cannot even imagine how hard it probably has been to develop technology to make computer animation look as crisp and clean as possible up until now, but I know how much of an effect reversing that idea has been to keep my interest. From simple things such as blown-out colors and lights to pixelation and artifacting from explosions destroying the camera’s tiny sensor, IO Interactive did a stunning job keeping true to theme that brings what could be a generic third-person shooter into the limelight and does so with neat little enhancements throughout (like a “buffering” percent as the load screen). What I consider the best thing about this game seems to have had a negative effect however as many reviewers have complained that the look made it hard to play the game and made them feel nauseous. I personally didn’t have a problem with it while spending four hours straight staring at the screen but began to feel the disorienting effects a little after playing and, as a person who gets motion-sick somewhat easily, it was still mild enough that I had no issue.
This would normally be the part where I talk about how the game plays. Honestly, if you are a newcomer to the series it will play like any other third-person shooter on the market and has a very low learning curve but I think it is those of from the first game who will be impressed. All those annoying little nuances that Kane & Lynch: Dead Men had are thankfully gone and incrementally increased the ease of getting into the combat. It is by no means a new concept to be able to snap in-and-out of cover or that after dying the player probably doesn’t want to be revived only to stand straight up in the middle of gunfire and this is fortunately finally realized. It is amazing how something so basic could make such a difference.
The multi-player in Kane & Lynch 2 is a lot like the first game; the game mode Fragile Alliance comes back along with some new things like Undercover Cop. In what has to be my favorite online mode, Undercover Cop is Fragile Alliance with the twist that at the beginning of the round a random player is chosen as the “undercover cop” and will therefore not be tagged as a traitor for killing their teammates, which forces them to stealthily take out all the criminals before the time is up or they get away. New to the game is the Arcade Mode which is essentially just offline multi-player with A.I. filling in where other players would be, a somewhat fun waste of time although the computer will never betray you (as opposed to players generally ALWAYS betraying you). While being somewhat fun for the time spent with it, there is definitely not enough in either the online or offline components to keep one’s interest for longer than a few days at best.
Taken for what it is, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a decent shooter with a beautiful style unlike anything else seen on the market, however it’s lack of content and effort doom it to being a great rental or good bargain-bin purchase and little more.