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Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

Worse Than The First

When Kane steps into frame for the first time, he displays the body language of a sullen, defeated man. His clothes are disheveled, he’s poorly groomed, and he is clearly lost to the world. Lynch, on the other hand, while still in dire need of a shampooing, is uncharacteristically calm, almost beaming with life. We’re led to believe that he’s found his lot in life in Shanghai, the setting for Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days.

The reunion of these two trigger-happy maniacs is sharp of tongue, as expected, yet has a sense of sincerity. Kane and Lynch have changed in their time apart, yet it’s clear that neither is comfortable in their new skin.

Before Kane can check in to his hotel, Lynch asks if he can run an errand first. This errand begins with Lynch kicking in a door and ends with the game’s credits rolling. Any notion that the characters have evolved is stripped away once the bullets start flying.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a relentless yet faceless shooter. The protagonists’ personalities – which were prominently on display in the first game – are muffled under the constant rattle of machine guns. The entire game is one long firefight, giving little time for the player or plot to breathe. The interesting personality flaws of Kane and Lynch rarely bleeds into the action, but we know that in their time apart, they’ve both learned how to shoot a gun properly.

Most of the firefights are intense tests of skill that nicely mix up the weapons and ranges. Your foes, which are either poorly dressed gangsters or Shanghai police, are intelligent enough to flank in the larger environments, and recognize the fastest and safest route to cover. However, they have problems reading player movements in cooperative play (either split-screen or online). On occasion, when my teammate and I would shift position, enemies would run into the middle of the fray or would try to position themselves in the same cover location as another enemy. Rather than moving to a different spot, their body joins with their teammate, creating a glitch-tastic visual. This problem also occurs with your teammate in single-player.

Kane and Lynch: Dog Days earns the right to be a called a respectable shooter. It doesn’t earn the right to be called a respectable game. The lack of face time with the characters isn’t the only bewildering omission. None of the levels have a pulse. Outside of one exciting helicopter-based moment, every fight can be classified as a by-the-numbers shootout. The result is a game that feels more like a carnival shooting gallery than a gritty adventure.

I hate to say it, but the true star of this game is the camerawork. Designed to mimic a poorly recorded YouTube video, the camera is intentionally imperfect. Shots are framed poorly, off-screen light sources bleach the image quality, and artifacting and distortion occur when the camera is jostled. As odd as this is going to sound, the grungy effect is beautifully realized.

If your interest lies outside of single-player or co-op, Dog Days offers a much deeper multiplayer experience than the first game. Fragile Alliance, the mode that starts with players working a heist together then possibly turning against each other, is heightened by a better selection of maps, not to mention gunplay that actually works. A variation on Fragile Alliance called Undercover Cop also delivers a thrilling experience, as players know one of their own will surely turn on them. Enjoyable deathmatching is also offered in the new Cops & Robbers mode, although it doesn’t have much in terms of progression outside of achievements and trophies.

If your preference is single-player or co-op, Dog Days’ lack of personality (both in the characters and on the battlefield) results in one of the blandest shooters out there. Given how little the story matters, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck could have been swapped in as the protagonists and I probably wouldn’t have noticed. Corners are even cut on the ending, leaving the story wide open with no hint of resolution.

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Second Opinion:

5.00

While gravely flawed, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men had soul. Dog Days does not. Lobotomized characters and a throwaway narrative do nothing to bolster mediocre gameplay. Easily one of the most formulaic games I’ve ever played, Dog Days repeatedly relegates you to one room-clearing mission after another – the only real variable being the state of your character’s clothing (or lack thereof). The gunplay has been tightened and cover system reworked (it’s now notably less magnetic), but the tweaks can’t counteract the glaring omissions. Interactions with your partner are curtailed, removing all instances of ammo sharing and squad commands that I enjoyed in the first game. AI is hit or miss and notably more troubled when playing co-op. Multiplayer continues to be a point of intrigue, but with other perfectly tuned online offerings available, it’s hard to justify a purchase for this single redeeming feature. The minor technical improvements can’t offset the fact that there is nothing in Dog Day’s gameplay or design that hasn’t been done by dozens of other shooters to significantly more success. Dead Men had interesting ideas in a poorly executed package. Dog Days disregards any and all brand capital established by its predecessor, and as a result is stunningly ordinary.

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