IT FROM AMAZON:
PLATFORM: Xbox 360
(reviewed), PS3, PC
DEVELOPER: Io Interactive
PUBLISHER: Square Enix/Eidos
Kane and Lynch and Army of Two have had quite similar paths. Both came out a couple years ago promising a focus on co-op gameplay with a unique duo that thrived on violence. Both games have sequels that came out this year that are far darker and grittier, showcase much-improved gameplay, and both feature our duo getting trapped in Shanghai with hundreds of people out to kill them, with escape their only option..
But whereas Army of Two: The 40th Day went for a more straightforward approach, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days has taken the visuals to another level, choosing to employ a grainy handheld camera look to the proceedings. The improved controls and graphics instantly make the game superior to the clunky original, but how much so?
Lynch has settled down in Shanghai, or at least as much as a sociopathic mass murderer can settle down. He’s living with his new girlfriend, the love of his life, and only getting up to a fraction of the trouble that he used to. During a job that’s beyond his particular capabilities he decides to call in his old “partner” Kane, who isn’t exactly looking forward to the reunion but comes anyway out of the need for cash.
The first job quickly goes south, fast, as a girl gets shot that just so happens to be the daughter of the main mob boss in town, and our duo try to quickly finish their job and get the hell out of the country.
While the core gameplay of Kane & Lynch 2 is nothing new (it’s the usual “grab cover, shoot enemies, advance” shooter) the graphics change up the experience like no other game in recent memory. It really gives you the feeling of being a cameraman watching these guys, or perhaps someone with a camera phone, judging by the quality of the video. Lights blow out the video, artifacts and compression are evident everywhere, and explosions can affect the framerate and knock the sound out of sync for a few seconds. It sounds like it could get annoying but it amazingly doesn’t, actually pushing you further into the world than many games do, and perhaps even making you overlook the fact that the character models aren’t actually that impressive.
CHUDTIP- Don’t skimp on the bullets. More ammo’s always a dead enemy away.
It’s really impossible to understate how important the visuals are to the game, so what happens when you realize how repetitive the gameplay is? While the game features some really fun and frantic shootouts that encourage spraying bullets and grabbing up new weapons as fast as you can over accuracy, there are only a limited number of guns to play with. Indeed, the number of weapons is pretty small, and in lieu of grenades there are small explosive canisters (cans of gas, fire extinguishers, etc.) all over the place that can be thrown and shot. It works for the feel of these guys, as they’re not marksmen, just a couple of guys crazy enough for the job and used to being quite free with their ammunition budget, but it does hurt the gamer that wishes for a little more variety.
There is one mission later on in the game that lets you control a machinegun on a helicopter for a little turret-type action, but that’s it as far as mission variety goes. It’s a sadly straightfoward shooter, solid as you can get and quite unique because of the look, but without much innovation otherwise.
The story isn’t much but the brutality in it is almost unparalleled. This is one gritty fucking game. For example, there’s one mission that begins right after a torture session, where your character is naked and covered in open cuts that look slick with blood. The game censors any nudity or extreme violence (close-up shotgun blasts to the head, for example) but this only serves to make it feel even worse than it really is, and is really used quite cleverly in that regard. But even in your nakedness the gameplay doesn’t change in any significant way- you still absorb the same amount of bullets.
CHUDTIP- Shooting from cover is really only effective to allow your partner to advance- it’s very inaccurate, and enemies can take a lot of gunfire before going down.
Co-op gameplay helps keep things fresh and give you another reason to go
through it, but there’s not a whole lot here to experience. No, the multiplayer is the clear meat of the game, since the core campaign is ridiculously short at about 4-5 hours. There are only a handful of multiplayer levels, some which are maddeningly locked out except for those who preordered the game.
But Kane & Lynch 2 brings back the acclaimed Fragile Alliance mode from the first game, which melds co-op and competitive multiplayer in a pretty unique way.You and up to seven other guys start as armed robbers in a variety of crimes- stealing cocaine from an airplane hanger, blowing up a subway to break into a bank vault, using a truck to smash an armored car off the road, etc. You pick up just as the cops have been notified and have to get in, get as much cash or product as possible, and get to your pickup location without being killed. The competitive part begins usually near the end, because you can choose to turn traitor on your companions and take them out, nabbing their money for yourself. If you’re first on board the getaway vehicle (which can be everything from cars to helicopters) you can choose to split your cash 50-50 with the driver, leaving your companions behind for the police.
For the most part people play nice together- you generally can make more cash even if it’s split up among a group, and when you betray people too often it shows in your stats, making people eye you a bit more the next game. Also, if you kill your companions they come back as cops, making it doubly hard for you to escape. The game, like the campaign, can get a bit repetitive, since enemies always appear in the exact same positions (how aggravating is that?), but your teammates keep things lively.
There are two other modes- Undercover cop- where one of your party is a dirty rat and gets a bonus for taking the rest of the team out, and Cops and Robbers, which is more of a challenge since you face players as cops.
Seriously, look at this thing. This isn’t actual gameplay but it uses the engine.
It’s stunning that they managed to pull it off and actually make the game playable with this look, let alone as compelling as it is.
It’s certainly fun to play through again with a new friend, as it is in most co-op games, but you’ll be done before you know it. The multiplayer isn’t deep enough to hold your for as long as you’d like either, although there are a few DLC packs on the way (at an undetermined price point). There is also an Arcade mode included but it’s basically a single-player version of Fragile Alliance that makes you go through the same missions over and over again with increasing difficulty.
Someone from Io Interactive loves being all up in Mann’s jock. Wait till you get the mission that’s a rip from the end of Heat.
A very solid if repetitive shooter that’s worth a look for the presentation alone. Its flaw in its short length and limited multiplayer options is a big one, one that likely makes this game only worth a rent. But it’s absolutely worth a playthrough, if only to see developers trying something new visually and succeeding.