Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days

Written by Joe the Revelator

I’ve been a fan of Kane and Lynch since the release of their first game in 2007, and not because of the game itself. The original Kane and Lynch was jerky, unwieldy, and awkward as a cover-based shooter. But it wasn’t the gameplay I was impressed with. It was the characters.

Long has it been a successful formula to cast male characters as generic, brown-haired ruffians, with muscles the size of cinderblocks and clefts in their chins. Kane and Lynch abandon this formula with a sadistic glee. The crime duo is crazed, loathsome, and thuggish, with receding hairlines and weak jaws, often wearing cheap suites that look tailored for loan sharks, or stained wife-beaters.

Dog Days reunite the lovable brutes after the events of the first game, in the streets of Shanghai, where the accidental assassination of Big Boss’s daughter pits our anti-heroes against the toughest gangs in town, the cops, some spec-ops ninjas, and pretty much anyone with a gun and a beef. In keeping with the first game, Kane and Lynch tear apart the city in a hale of bullets, all the while cursing and muttering like sociopaths.

The Game:

The controls and gameplay are smoother this time around, although ducking cover to cover can still be awkward. Many times I found my character standing up in the middle of a gunfight instead of crawling against a wall, or jumping behind a splintered stick of post when I was diving for the safety of an iron stove. Practically everything onscreen is considered ‘cover’ for better or for worse.

No, that splintered beam won't stop a 12ga slug.

God help you if you actually get shot into unconsciousness, since the countdown before final death is dependant on button-mashing. While your ally searches for you, a health-bar appears with a prompt to tap the square button repeatedly. This false comfort only marginally slows the flow of blood. The icon at the top of the screen indicating your position to your teammate is the size of a chevron-shaped gnat, so unless you fell into his lap after being sprayed by a mac-10, he may as well pencil-in the funeral on his calendar. The difficulty of finding your friend amongst a sea of tattooed Asian bodies is balanced slightly with the instantaneous recovery time. A quick slap on the back of the head and you’re ready to take more bullets.

My biggest gripe about Dog Days is almost a deal-breaker, especially after a few hours of playthrough. Large portions of the game, mostly early on, take place during a protracted chase through sweatshops and dingy ghetto apartments. The levels are dirty, dank, and fitting. One impoverished residential building looks like the next. And the rooms are built with split paths, corridors, and byways, to encourage players to part ways and flank enemies. Unfortunately, this also turns every level into a massive freaking maze. Even if your buddy manages to navigate through the dilapidated labyrinth and locate the exit, checkpoints require both players to activate the next stage. So you’re left chasing an ally-icon, like a rat following the vague whiff of cheese.

Everything Can-Shaped Explodes.

The action is long and repetitive; fighting the same kinds of enemies in different hats with progressively bigger guns, but that’s the name of the game where shooters are concerned. The best innovations to the Co-op have been directly ripped off from Army of Two, like obstacles that require both players to trigger. Step-jumps, heavy two-man doors, etc. Give Kane and Lynch a pair of skulls masks and some steroids and it would be Army of Two: Unwashed Psychopath Edition.

As far as mindless destruction goes, Kane and Lynch do their job well. Like the GTA series, the player need not concern themselves with doing the right thing or being a good person. Everyone is a target. If you feel like some destructive fun that’ll make you need a shower afterward, rent Dog Days.

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