Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

If you’re after a quick measure of the quality of Kane & Lynch 2 then you don’t need to read this review. Instead, look no further than to the fact that, a mere week after its release, the limited edition was retailing at £20 just about everywhere. Even notorious price hikers Game had whacked it on the head with a serious discount. The standard affair was a couple of quid cheaper. As a benchmark for terrible, that’s terminal.

Still thinking otherwise?

The hallmark for the undesirable sequel to Kane and Lynch is the petrified news reporter camerawork. It’s a feature that’s nauseating when Lynch walks, bouncing up and down like a twelve year old filming a McFly concert on a camera phone. But sprint and the camera convulses like its user is riding a Bucking Bronco and popping ecstasy like they were Smarties.

Adding to this failed attempt to attach dramatic weight to the otherwise mind-numbing conveyor belt of shootouts, the faces of your murdered enemies are occasionally blurred. You know, like on the news. Sometimes exposed genitalia are also blurred but someone ought to tell IO that the effect is applied during post-production. Here it just looks silly. Especially when the random-blur-assigner decides to blur a dog’s face. Won’t someone think of the puppies!

I’m sure “cinematic” was the word bandied around the IO office on a few occasions during the three-week development cycle (and you can tell they’ve been watching Heat on repeat) but this is about as cinematic as an episode of GMTV. The principle mechanic isn’t even a solid one. Nobody enjoys shoddy TV footage, but when a news reporter is too busy weeping, regretting career decisions and then hurtling away from certain death it’s all there is and you make do. Why that would ever translate into a great lens to view a game through is beyond me. It works about as well as Halo would if the camera were in Master Chief’s massive metal ballsack.

Graphically, the game isn’t fooling anyone and the layer of film grain that was probably designed to mask it only confounds this graphical finger painting. Anything beyond reaching distance is barely visible (which explains why a white cross appears every time you hit an enemy) and character animations are shoddy down to the fact that guns – of which you can only hold two at a time – simply magic themselves into the lads’ hands whenever they switch arms.

So as far as presentation goes Kane & Lynch don’t have a leg to stand on between them and the gameplay fares about as well.

An early chase scene sets the precedent. Through it you’re hunting an acquaintance of Lynch’s, Brady and his naked lady friend (don’t get excited, it’s all blurred). The chase moves through the underbelly of Shanghai where the lads lumber through markets, shops and restaurants blasting away at anything that moves. Shooting Brady in the foot is as effective as writing a strongly worded letter to IO asking that they stop making terrible games and go back to Hitman because the man can’t be killed or halted. That’s no different to myriad games but its slightly incongruous when you’re jogging side-by side with the man like it’s a Saturday morning run.

When the inevitable cut scene interrupts the fun, the lads only go and shoot the daughter of Shanghai’s most notorious villain. Doh.

From then on in you’re chaperoned from one featureless shooting gallery to another shooting endless stupid reprobates. Some of the cardboard cutouts you send to hell wear police uniforms, some wear army attire. Some even wear leather jackets and motorcycle helmets. But it doesn’t really matter what you’re shooting at, it’s all the same.

Except during a level toward the end of the game where you play as the gunner of a helicopter. In any other game that would be the cue to roll eyes and switch off but in Dog Days it’s morale revitalization. Granted, you’re still firing at NPC’s who happily cavort into an Apache helicopter’s stream of bullets but by that point any kind of variety is enough to make you think twice about signing that hastily written suicide note. If there’s an on rails vehicle section here, just think what could come next. A moral decision, a boss battle versus a Russian man, maybe even a quick time event!

The only interruption – chopper aside – from the incessant gush of shootouts comes whenever the lads have to open a door, which they either do mutually in a rare moment of teamwork or, more often than not, one of them just boots the door down. Sometimes there’s even a mini cut scene detailing the art of opening the door. These brief moments of comradery must be savored for they’re about as near to character development as Dog Days ever gets.

More annoyances: there’s the classic press ‘X’ to pick up ammo. Not that Lynch bends down to pick it up, too much effort on the animation front there. Having to ask to pick up money or ammo – as if you wouldn’t want either – is a major gripe in any game, having to do it without the character even acknowledging you’ve gone to all the effort of tapping ‘X’ is unforgivable. Dog Days is already about as dumb as it gets – there’s a dead-wife scene ala Gears of Wars 2 to ratify that claim – so I’m not going to hold it against the lads if they have a magic power that makes ammo jump into their pockets should they be within a meter radius of it.

But more puzzling than any of the abundantly featured missteps plaguing this awful game is IO’s decision to completely eschew the fact that there is a Kane and there is a Lynch. Two of them. The only time it verges on being a worthwhile co-operative experience is when the sniper rifle is available and one player can cover the other. Besides that there is literally nothing to suggest this is any better played with a buddy. Even playing alone, Kane may as well not be there. The banter between the lads is mindless hoo-hah and the levels have been designed to be as monotonous and linear as possible.

And to rub salt in the already seething wound there’s a shop hidden away in one of the generic Shanghai streets with none other than Hitman games lining the shelves. What should be an amiable reminder of a studio’s pedigree is, instead, a brief moment spent weeping for the lost souls: Agent 47, the freedom fighters.

Five-hour campaign aside there’s also a multiplayer component. As bank robbers you and up to 7 others fight your way into what looks like a bank safe, take a share of what looks like money and then try and escape. Or you wait for what look like your teammates to take all the money, run to the end of the level and then kill them and steal all the money. Obviously as soon as you start shooting them they’re going to return the favour and there’s also what kind of looks like the police – but might just be angry bankers with guns – to consider so if you murder your buddies you’ll have to fight your way out alone. It’s a funny premise for about ten minutes and then, when you realise it plays effortlessly into the hands of Xbox Live’s most cretinous denizens, it’s annoying instead.

But maybe that’s a fitting match. Kane and Lynch seek trouble, they find it and then they commit small genocide trying to flee the sleazy lair of the Shanghai beast that they awoke for no given reason. At the end you’re left with nothing but the bare bones of a sterile, tasteless and forgettable third person shooter.

3/10

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