Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days PS3 Review

Publisher – Square Enix – Developer – IO Interactive – Genre – Action – Players – 1-12 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – Xbox 360

The original Kane & Lynch had a very entertaining story involving two criminals joining forces, although it had its fair share of problems to stop it from reaching true greatness. Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, on the other hand, may tell a story that isn’t as entertaining as the original, but the game itself is a vast improvement. You know, some games are just made as the foundations for a better sequel to come along some time down the line.

The story is darker than the original game, and the entertaining word exchanges of the two lead characters isn’t as regular as it once was. Lynch is now living in Shanghai with his Chinese girlfriend, and Kane flies over and the two get themselves involved in an arms deal, although everything doesn’t exactly go as planned for the criminal duo and they end up with both the police and the Chinese underworld shooting at them. It’s a great story with very believable voice acting, although it is a little sad to learn that its humour has been toned down so much. I really must also mention the shockingly bad ending, particularly because there’s so much in-game excitement leading up to it, and it could even be the worst ending that I have ever seen in a game. Yes, it’s that bad.

Kane now has a thicker head of hair and his bald patch from the original game is now invisible, but other than this, what else is new? Well, not a great deal to be honest, but developer IO Interactive have certainly looked at the criticisms of the original and came up with a superior sequel. Oh, and the graphics are certainly nicer, as well.

They might swear a lot and are on the wrong side of the law, but I do like the characters of Kane and Lynch.

Yes, let’s talk visuals and sound. The overall look of Kane & Lynch 2 is very gritty and character models have a good level of detail, but it also looks very unique. I certainly can never remember playing a game that appears to have been shot by an amateur cameraman and uploaded onto YouTube, with a graininess and shakiness to really make you understand that this is what the look of the game is trying to convey. There’s bloom lighting that streaks from the camera, censored nudity and head shots, and the sprinting will definitely make a certain player woozy (steady cam can be turned on if it causes too many problems), but for those who can put up with the visuals, they’ll find a style that is very refreshing. The minimal use of music also makes the game feel very real, with it only being heard when you pass certain portions of the environment such as a shop. Both the graphics and sound are certainly more unique than the game itself.

Speaking of which, Kane & Lynch 2 is still a cover-based shooter, it’s just everything happens to work a whole lot better now. Staying with the cover system, this is no longer context sensitive as IO Interactive likely realised that it caused too many problems – you now press a button to place yourself behind something that is hopefully solid (certain cover can be riddled with bullets and destroyed, you see), which definitely makes taking cover a lot more reliable in this sequel. If you go back to the original you’ll soon realise that the new cover system certainly shows up the old one.

The many intense moments of shooting feels satisfying enough and, with reliable aiming, less precise blind-fire, and stray bullets shattering portions of the environment, the mechanics work as they should, although shooting has still felt more fulfilling elsewhere. Perhaps it’s the unspectacular death animations that are the greatest culprit.

As for other features, the game has a number of neat little touches: when you’re needing guns or ammo, holding down on the D-Pad will show you where there’s some available, gunfire can also knock you to the ground in which you are then able to crawl to the safety of cover or stand yourself back up to take it like a man.

AI is unremarkable but generally solid: you’ll see the opposition taking cover exhaustively and if you aren’t careful they’ll also catch you out with the occasional flanking.  If you’re playing in single player the AI controlled Kane also generally does the job, and for those fretting about having to babysit the character to stop him from being mortally wounded all the time, well, the simple case is that he can’t be. The only one that can truly let the team down is yourself, although being embarrassed in front of the AI would just be silly. So don’t be.

Things change when you have another human beside your real or virtual shoulder. The game can be played in local and online co-op, but sadly doesn’t give you the convenience of a drop in and out option. Like Army of Two, you’ll be opening heavy doors together and hoisting each other upwards, although Kane and Lynch aren’t as burly as Rios and Salem and are certainly a lot more interesting. The online co-op will be welcome for those who wanted it in the original, and it works just as well as it should, although you’ll be returned to the title screen if a player decides to leave during a level, which isn’t ideal and could have quite easily of been sorted with the AI taking over control of the character.

This screen is an advertisement for getting yourself killed. You should always make use of all that cover that the developer has made for you.

Sadly, the campaign can be finished in around four or five hours, although it is  four or five hours of lots and lots of manly shooting, it would have been nice to have two or three extra hours thrown in to up the value of the game. If you’re just looking to play the campaign, then Kane & Lynch 2’s may not last long enough to really justify its asking price.

Even online, though, Kane & Lynch 2 doesn’t really offer enough content. There are only six maps (nine if you pre-ordered) and three modes, of which are all basically a variant of one another. The excellent Fragile Alliance (now also a single player mode) once again makes its return and always has you wondering who is going to stab you in the back and take all your money, hey, you can do it yourself if you feel greedy enough for virtual cash. Undercover Cop is similar but it has a twist: a randomly selected undercover police officer, and unless you are selected you just don’t know who this is, leaving you to keep an eye on who starts shooting at you, and when you’re the undercover man yourself, it always feels good to take the criminal group down from the inside. Finally, we have Cops & Robbers, in which two teams face off, one as the robbers and the others as the cops, the former must attempt to get away with lots and lots of cash, whilst the latter must stop them from becoming rich men. They’re all good modes, but a little more variation wouldn’t have gone amiss.

What we’re left with is a very well presented and gritty shooter that is well worth a play for those who enjoy such cover-based third person shooters. Kane & Lynch 2 does the basics well enough, although, with a short story mode and a lack of variation in its multiplayer options, better value packages can certainly be found elsewhere.