STAFF REVIEW of Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (Xbox 360)

Friday, September 24, 2010.
by Adam Dileva

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days Box art Its no secret about the controversy that surrounded the first game and some of its review scores. I wont go into details about that whole debacle, but after that whole situation I was honestly quite surprised that a sequel was announced so quickly. What I wanted to know was weather all the problems that surrounded the first game like the horrid controls, the lack of online co-op, a story that just falls half way through and more were fixed for this sequel. I wouldnt say I was excited for the sequel, more of a morbid curiosity. Did most of these problems get fix? Well, kind of.

If you havent played the first Kane and Lynch title you wont have any clue about whats going on when Dog Days starts. Theres no real recap of whats previously happened, who Kane and Lynch really are, why they are being tortured in the opening scene or anything about their past.

Kane and Lynch reconnect for that one final job so they can quit their ways for the payday of a lifetime. Nothing in this world is easy and obviously something goes awry and sets off a chain of events that have the duo trying to flee from Shanghai and seemingly every single cop and gang in the city.

I was debating whether or not to explain the plot of the game to try and make the review have some more substance and hopefully make some more sense; due to the extreme short length of the game Im just going to explain the main parts since its not some giant revelation or plot twist that happens 10 hours in (if only the game was half that long). Essentially the corrupt duo accidentally kill the daughter of a high ranking government official and from that moment on they are hunted down like dogs by every cop and mobster in the whole city.

Usually having the world against you angle leads up to some high tension and an awesome conclusion that sets things right or at least finishes off the long awaited story arc. Well, this isnt one of those times as the complete story run-up is slow, doesnt really pick up much steam and the fact that the most exciting part of the game was a little more than half way through led me to an ending that left me saying thats it?. It feels completely unfulfilling once you complete the story and may even turn you off of playing more of the game like it did for me. On the bright side to this dilemma; at least a full play through will only take you 4 or 5 hours to complete. Yup, its that short but I honestly dont know how much more lethargic and uninteresting gameplay I would have been able to endure.

Every game needs a gimmick; that something special so to speak. Kane and Lynch 2 does have that gimmick in the form of its visual representation. The game is played in third person but the camera style is done like a documentary along with the Youtube quality grain from an amateur cameraman. Because of this real style of camera footage, the view also constantly is swinging as if the camera man is holding the camera following Lynch everywhere he goes. The issue with this is that its swinging and swaying so much that itll either make you sick from the motion or completely prevent you from seeing where to go or whats shooting at you. Think of the roadie-run from Gears, but someone running behind with the camera in their hand; its that nauseating. Luckily theres an option to turn on the steady cam to get rid of this issue, but its not the default and people may not think to look for it. Unforunetly, you cant get rid of the grainy filter from the camera; thats just something youll need to deal with.

Just like videos youd see on Youtube as well, theres also censorship bars and blurred out sections such as headshots or naked body parts (Yes, you play a complete level naked). In a way, the combination of this fake censorship along with the grainy hand-cam does make it feel a little more real and somewhat violent that I probably would have thought without this style.

So lets quickly talk about what makes this sequel different from its predecessor. Lets be honest here, the first game had vastly sub-par gameplay but what made it kind of bearable was the varying locations and types of missions you were doing. Kane and Lynch 2 does away with that varying gameplay and simply sets you in a room or corridor of enemies one after another making a very monotonous gameplay experience. Yes, somehow they took a step backwards and theres no variety here at all apart from one or two very brief missions. Clear the room of enemies, move ahead, clear that room of enemies, repeat; this is the formula for your 4 hour playthrough, get used to it.

Somehow grenades no longer exist in the sequel either. Instead, you will pick up canisters of propane or fire extinguishers, hurl those at your enemies and then shoot it to make it explode. Maybe they thought this would be a little more exciting than a regular grenade, but theres so few spots where you can pick one of these improvised explosives up while behind cover that youll really only do it a few times in the whole game. If things get really bad and youre able to run up to an enemy without dying, you can take them as a human shield. It works for the most part, but dont expect it to be like a moving cover, as you can still get shot very easily.

The small selection of guns available will have you constantly trying to find something better as youll notice nine times out of ten your shot will miss or simply do nothing to the enemies. Almost all of even the basic enemies will take a full clip to put down, yet a few shots in you and youre toast. The guns dont sound impactful (even when you have the shotguns) and Lynchs accuracy is so terrible that youll constantly have to be foraging for ammo. Regardless if the enemies head was right in the middle of the crosshair, sometimes hell get shot elsewhere; this makes for a very frustrating experience throughout the game regardless of what your true aiming skill is.

Something that was added and wanted in the original though is the inclusion of online co-op. this comes two fold though; yes you can play co-op but the experience doesnt change in any way. Theres no sections like in the first game where Kane was doing one thing and Lynch was doing another. Essentially co-op in this game is just having another pair of guns that can help you when you keep missing your shots from the accuracy issues. Theres no real branched gameplay like in Gears or other games where one player has to cover the other or meet up later on.

If you played multiplayer in the first game, then youve played the Fragile Alliance mode. This is essentially a group of players in a gang robbing the loot from an area then having to make it to the getaway vehicle. What made this unique was that after the gang got the loot, players could then turn on one another to gain more loot for themselves if they wished, but theyd have to deal with the rest of the players for being branded a traitor. Anyone killed by a traitor respawns as a cop and if they kill the person who betrayed them, they get a bonus.

Fragile Alliance in Dog Days is essentially the same, but there are a few small tweaks and inclusions of some campaign elements. This means you can grab a player and use them as a shield, use canisters to make traps to betray your team, and more. What also carries over from the campaign is the horrible shooting accuracy and getting the kills you want can be a task in itself.

There are now two variants of FA mode; one being Undercover Cop mode which places one random player a secret undercover cop in the gang. Their job is to prevent the real criminals from escaping. The other variant is Cops and Robbers is essentially a basic VS mode where robbers try and get the loot and escape and the cops have to do everything they can to prevent that from happening. The team with the most money in the end wins.

There is also an Arcade Mode that is simply a single player version of Fragile Alliance. You play alongside bots and you have the same objectives as before. This is more used as training before going online or if you want to learn the layout of the maps. Rounds become increasingly difficult and you have three lvies to gain as much cash in those rounds you can.

It took me quite some time to find some lobbys and get some games going. Im assuming its more the population of people playing rather than the servers but the biggest problem playing online is that nine times out of ten there is always someone greedy enough to betray the team well before you hit the extraction point (making finishing the level that much harder). Granted, that is part of the gameplay built in, but constantly getting shot in the back when youre trying to shoot the cops to get to the extraction point with your horrible accuracy becomes incredibly frustrating.

So Ive explained the inherent flaws in design, but there are also many other bugs youre going to most likely encounter quite often as much as I did. This is not limited to warping corpses, enemies stuck in place running, and even having my system lock up one time. Couple this with enemy accuracy able to hit you from the other side of the room where you struggle to hit someone point blank; you can see where frustration starts to set in.

Hide behind a pillar or barrier, shoot the enemies, move forward once its clear; do this for 4 hours and you too can have yourself an unfulfilling ending that does nothing to really develop the relationship behind two interesting characters from the first game. I do have to give a nod to its very unique and distinct visual art style, but that swinging camera HAS to go. If it doesnt sit well with you in the first few minutes of gameplay, youll be struggling with it throughout the whole gameplay experience, but at least you wont suffer too long start to finish.

Somehow these two games are spawning a movie adaptation with the main roles being played by Bruce Willis and Jamie Foxx (I knowI dont know how either) so obviously someone somewhere sees the value in the brand; I guess they havent played the games. Somehow Dog Days make the first game look good; sequels are meant to surpass the previous iterations; sadly this takes a step backwards somehow.

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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