Hounds of Hell
When the original Kane & Lynch game released almost three years ago, it quickly became a household name amongst gamers, not because it was a great game but because of the immense amount of hubbub surrounding one particular review of the game that ended with the reviewer losing his job. Fast forward to the present and IO Interactive reveals their long-awaited sequel to this now notorious series. Does this latest frolic through the underworld wash away any bad blood?
For full disclosure, I didn’t play the first Kane & Lynch. I’ll admit to being curious about Dog Days, however, as it seemed the developers had nowhere to go but up with this franchise. It seems my expectations for the game were off the mark, and Kane & Lynch 2 ended up being quite a different experience (for good and bad) than what I initially thought it would be.
Dog Days offers several modes of play, with the story mode being the main single-player option. You’ll run through mostly linear levels set in Shanghai, China, and the gameplay consists of straight-up shooting action. The atmosphere and design are convincing, but it becomes clear early on that Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is merely an arcade experience with a gritty realism as its shtick. If you were expecting adventure, complete with character development, story exposition, and puzzles, you’ll likely find the story mode to be quite disappointing. As a simple cover-based shooter, though, Dog Days has a lot to love.
I should say, Dog Days has a lot for you to want to love. The cover mechanics work, but they’re also a bit clunky. Sticking to walls is fairly reliable, though pulling yourself away can be a clumsy process. The shooting itself feels satisfying because of the mood and vibe of the gunfights, but even with the aiming sensitivity turned up to max, your character moves with a plodding pace when trying to aim. When you’re merely free-shooting, there’s no reticule onscreen, making a run-and-gun approach a gamble.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the story mode is that the action is either completely on or completely off. In that I mean, there are no other notable gameplay elements injected into the formula to keep the experience interesting. You’ll open a shutter here, bust down a door there, but for the most part, you’re hiding behind cover, slowly whittling away enemies, and then moving on to the next area for more of the same.
To the game’s credit, there are some neat details tossed in that you won’t find in most other shooters. Because the lighting is so realistic, I found myself sometimes being unable to see past a particular area because of light shining in my line of sight. Luckily, all I had to do was shoot out the light and the lighting in the room completely changed. Computer monitors, certain walls, and other environmental objects are also destructible, and these little touches definitely make the experience more convincing, as well as force the player to think on his or her feet. Picking up a fire extinguisher or gas can, tossing it into a crowd of enemies, and then blasting it before it hits the ground is yet another satisfying way to clear a path to your next objective.
Before you know it, though, the journey’s over. The story mode is brief and repetitive, and it’s likely going to confuse many folks about what the package is all about. It wasn’t until I jumped into the multiplayer modes that I understood what IO and Eidos were going for with this game. Dog Days isn’t meant to be a single-player adventure at all; the real meat lies within the pick-up-and-play multiplayer components that can best be compared to the Left 4 Dead franchise. Though I don’t feel the developers pull off their ideas with complete success, there is some fun stuff here worth checking out.
There are three main multiplayer modes to choose from, two of which are completely new for this game. Fragile Alliance makes a return from the first Kane & Lynch, and the gameplay consists of you and a group of other players pulling off a heist, grabbing the loot, and trying to escape before you’re gunned down by the cops. The twist is, players on your side can turn on you and nab your cash. The player with the most loot at the end of the round wins.
The other two modes are Undercover Cop and Cops & Robbers. Undercover Cop is set up similarly to Fragile Alliance, though one player in each round is randomly, and secretly, chosen to be an undercover cop. As the cop, it’s your mission to stop the criminals and retrieve the stolen loot. Lastly, Cop & Robbers simply pits teams of players against each other, with the cops’ side working to stop the robbers before they can make it to their escape vehicles.
All of the multiplayer modes have fun and interesting elements I found intriguing. However, the rounds are too short, the atmosphere from the story mode all but disappears in multiplayer, and the levels are tiny. In just a few short hours, you’ll pretty much see everything Dog Days has to offer, and it hardly amounts to a full-priced, retail product.
That’s a shame too since the production values are definitely AAA-quality. There are a few things here and there I could pick apart: movement blur looks good but it’s not always conducive to good gameplay, and certain bits of texture work aren’t as pretty as others, but as a whole, Dog Days looks good. The handicam visual style is an interesting approach that really helps drive home the violent nature of the two main characters and the world they run around in.
I wish the same could be said for the voice acting, but it’s not all A-list material. The actors often unnecessarily exaggerate their lines, and though I never felt like profanity was used gratuitously, the dialogue wasn’t always great. Hearing the characters bark at each other while they remained mostly stationary and their mouths barely moved kept me from ever truly caring about them or their stories. The music and sound effects, however, serve the gameplay well.
After running Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days through its paces, I wanted to love the game. In some ways, the franchise seems greatly misunderstood. Dog Days has more in common with Left 4 Dead than a typical action adventure, and the multiplayer modes are definitely something different. The story mode co-op (both online and off) is another appreciated addition, though some of the matchmaking options are a tad archaic. Though Dog Days wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I enjoyed its arcade approach. Unfortunately, the design and breadth of content don’t come close to justifying the price. Had this been a $15 game folks could download from PSN or XBLA, it would be much easier to recommend.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
Though the shaking of the handicam visuals, as well as movement blur, made the game hard on my eyes at times, it’s an otherwise great-looking game that runs smoothly. 3.5 Control
The controls seem overly complicated, but everything works fairly well. The cover system is kind of clumsy, though, and there’s not much else going on outside of the shooting action. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
In terms of ambient sound, Dog Days has got it goin’ on. The voice acting, however, is hit & miss. I was interested in the world of Kane & Lynch, but the characters themselves aren’t completely convincing. 3.0 Play Value
Remember the bank heist toward the end of the movie Heat? That’s pretty much Kane & Lynch 2 in a nutshell. Unfortunately, the gameplay never changes gears. There are some fun ideas here, but the execution leaves much to be desired. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.