I should preface that although a myriad of reviewers and gamers easily discount Kane & Lynch: Dead Men as one of the worst current generation video games made, I am a huge fan. Putting aside the obvious control issues the game had and making peace with the obviously dated game-play, Dead Men provided a very visceral experience following the classic themes of vindication and vengeance with movie-quality set pieces that kept (for the most part) a very steady pace that was easy to get lost in. Many games have had an anti-hero protagonist but very few have been able to pull of such disgustingly unlikable characters that are also very multi-dimensional to an almost relatable point. While Dead Men focused heavily on Kane’s story with glimpses into the psychoses of Lynch, Dog Days will be Lynch’s story set in the city of Shanghi some years after the first game. Lynch has found what he considers to be a peaceful existence working small jobs for a gangster named Mr. Glazer and a girlfriend who he loves, Xiu. When the opportunity for a too-good-to-be-true arms deal comes up, Lynch gets in contact with Kane. Dog Days spans the time of two full days, revealing what happens with the arms deal.
One of the most drastic changes from the very beginning is the new direction in visual presentation. Taking a cue from “mockumentary” trend in movies within the last decade, Dog Days is shot as if someone with a handheld camera is following Kane and Lynch through their trek into Shanghi’s seedy underground. Although somewhat startling at first, I personally have grown attached to this new look as it does a fantastic job of maintaining the constant chaotic atmosphere that a game with this background needs. While running, the camera will follow wildly like someone trying to keep up, however will stand still in cover enough to get the perfect shot off. There is an option available for those with a weak stomach to turn the steady-cam on but I feel it really detracts a big part of what makes this game visually interesting in doing so. The cut-scenes follow suit as the camera and use a gritty, almost “live webcam” look and are accented nicely with load-screens that use a classic web-based video site animation with the “buffering” percentage.
The second and easily most important change has been the improvement on cover. Dead Men had a terrible cover system that would frequently have the player randomly stand out of cover, run too far into the open while aiming and with a severe lack of snapping back into hiding would usually result in gunfights that were unfairly pitted against the player. Dog Days does a good job rectifying this problem and stepping into the current day with mechanics that would be impressive if not already in every other third-person shooter available. If there is anything to say about how Dog Days handles so far its that it is very mediocre in terms for the genre but years ahead of the first game. Also new is a new “down-but-not-dead” system that throws the character to the ground when taking a heavy hit, allowing them to hazily get up and proceed or finish the opponent while on the ground. I feel this is a nice change from the adrenaline shot in the first game because it immerses the player into the chaos that is happening and rather than just waiting for the game to decide to let you back up in the middle of a heated crossfire, allows some strategy and cover from the rest of the environment.
Multi-player is mostly locked out of the demo save for the mode “Fragile Alliance” which has up to eight players working together to pull off a heist. Upon everyone gaining some money, the game twists into one of betrayal and revenge as players are able to choose to work together to make it to the escape point or kill each other off to claim the whole amount for themselves. If a player choses to attack a teammate, they are labelled as a traitor and others are then rewarded for bringing them down. If a player is killed, they respawn as a member of the SWAT force trying to stop their former allies while killed traitors simply skip this part and go straight to spectator mode until the round is over. A rather fun mode or would be if not for the fact that there will inevitably always be someone who shoots you in the back, ruining any surprise the creators may have intended (the human factor works strongly here).
All in all, all the kinks I had any problems with from the first game have been reworked to be playable if not improved drastically. I am thoroughly impressed so far and am excited to play through the story to see how Lynch’s character develops.