Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days Review

I think it is fair to say that the original Kane and Lynch hardly set the world alight. After all of the hype, the game failed to deliver on its initial promise and, even though it provided some solid entertainment and a fantastically unique multiplayer experience, it could well have been so much more. So can the sequel, aptly titled Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, raise the bar and provide us with the intriguing combination of action, story and intrigue that we are all pining for? With two borderline psychopaths, a whole plethora of guns and the combined might of Eidos, IO Interactive and Square Enix behind it, you'd expect so.

Taking out enemies, friends and everyone else.

Kane joins up with Lynch once again, only this time in the murky underbelly of Shanghai. The pair were hoping to pull of a fairly routine arms deal, but things take a turn for the worst when a routine shakedown leads to a rather notable death. With seemingly the entire city turned against them, the pair then have to fight their way to freedom over the course of a hectic forty eight hours. The story seems to offer a lot, but it plays out in a disappointing manner, with the real issue being that both of the lead characters are astoundingly dull, with no redeeming features whatsoever. When you can't even root for the hero - or anti-hero as the case may be - then it is truly hard to care about their fate.

Instead you find yourself stuck at the helm of an incredibly linear shooter, which hurtles rapidly towards its conclusion with only a smattering of clichéd, cardboard cut out villains standing in your way. The game utilises a fairly bog standard cover mechanic, and your partner will either be steered by the AI or a friend should you so desire - this time, online co-op is supported! Pretty much every level consists of you entering an area full of enemies and objects to hide behind, then you use the latter to help dispatch the former before moving on. Throw in a handful of weapons that do not really seem to make much of a discernable impact and you have the game in a nutshell. You could easily level the same charge at a game like Gears, but at least that had a solid story, good set-pieces, varied locations, interesting characters, varied gameplay – I could go on, but these are all things that this title is sorely missing.

After just a few hours the credits will be rolling, and you will be left wondering whether all of the graphic language and violence was worth it. Some of the scenes do leave little to the imagination and, coupled with the grainy hand camera style footage, try to depict a gritty tale of revenge. However, the camera only serves to make things look washed out and old, not to mention that the constant motion can soon become distracting. Stop running and you can admire the game, but once in motion the issues do start to creep in. Graphical hiccups abound as people and objects morph into one another, and the AI of both your enemies and Kane is shocking at times. Not to mention the fact that you can literally shoot through walls if you take cover in the right place – and that is definitely not a reference to the destructible scenery either.

Bullets can cause sudden chest pain: FACT.

Outside of the woeful story, there is at least the saving grace of multiplayer, which was also the strongest aspect of the original game. The unfortunate truth is that the shoddy nature of the single player campaign sours the whole experience, which is a shame actually, as the online arena provides pretty much the only entertainment this game has to offer.

The main modes are all variations on the same theme, with Fragile Alliance, Cops and Robbers and Undercover Cop all seeing a band of up to eight players trying to earn as much cash as possible. Fragile Alliance, if you don't remember it from the original, tasks your crew with a specific objective, but at any point can someone on your team turn on you and look to make a break with a bigger slice of the pie. If you die, you respawn as a protector of the objective and can then look to take revenge on the traitorous killer to make some of that money back.

The whole Fragile Alliance game mode creates a pretty tense atmosphere, as you end up fighting it out with cops, goons and your friends over the loot. Traitors can be easily identified by a yellow name, so you will know who to blame when they venture across onto the dark side. The Undercover Cop mode is a novel idea too, with one player on the team trying to off his comrades without raising suspicion, although in practice, it can be tricky for said individual to remain anonymous for very long. Still, all of the elements are present and correct for a lot of fun, and with treachery as the byword, it can create some memorable moments.

Time for some cops and robbers.

If you do not fancy heading online, then you can always take on the arcade mode as well. This mode is pretty much the same as the Fragile Alliance, but all of your team are controlled by the AI. As with the rest of the multiplayer, you can betray people, buy new weapons and basically cause mayhem. The difference here is that you take on multiple rounds with the opposition, with the chance of betrayal increasing each time. The overall goal is high scores and it also has the dual role of being a nice training ground for taking on human opposition. It is a fun diversion but no where near as entertaining as taking on friends and rivals online.

The achievements on offer are not too shabby, and cover all three game modes equally. It is nice to be able to dabble in online action with a goal in mind, and one that is not so ludicrously long winded that you would have to devote months to it. In theory you can get all of the campaign tasks out of the way in one run through, assuming you play on co-op, and you would be well advised to do so if you are going for maximum points – as you will not really want to suffer through the story again, even as short as it is. You can also enjoy arcade mode, which is basically multiplayer with bots, too as an added extra to drag out a few more points. Sure, there may not be much imagination or flair on show, but it at least shows some variety.

To be honest, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a disjointed mess. The promising early screens have, once again, been nothing but a false dawn and the shockingly brief story is barely worth a rental let alone a full purchase. The game may look nice at times, and have a thoroughly enjoyable multiplayer offering, but that in no way makes up for a mere three hour campaign, zero plot and two characters completely lacking in charisma. There are so many games that do this style of run and gun action better that it would be a crime to waste money on this title, and here is hoping that this will be the last hurrah for Kane and Lynch.

If you like swearing then this game is for you, but at times it feels forced and the dialogue really doesn't help make the game move forward in any way. The idea as to make the characters interesting, but it only serves to make them completely intolerable.

Stand still and the game looks superb, but once things are in motion then issues pop up all too often. Frame rate issues, terrible lip-syncing, characters that morph through scenery – expect all of these things and more. Although shooting through solid walls at least makes things easier.

Run forward, take cover, kill enemies – repeat. Luckily it only lasts for three hours or it would really outstay its welcome. Things do pick up online, but then you have to contend with either a lack of players or people that quit on an alarmingly regular basis.

A terrible campaign married with a top notch multiplayer mode, but one that is very similar to the first game. The presentation and shaky camera soon outstay their welcome though, and the graphic nature of the game often strays into the ridiculous.

A pretty varied list and one that mixes up the points between the story, arcade and multiplayer modes to good effect.

While the multiplayer is a notable strong point, it really is not enough to carry the entire game, and the insipid and all too brief campaign leaves a lot to be desired. If you are a fan of the first game then by all means give this a rent, but once the credits roll you will probably be wondering if even that was worth it. Hopefully this will be the last we see of these characters, as it is hard to see a successful comeback after this.

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