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Attempting to replicate the look and feel of a seedy underground film, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days puts forward its unique presentation but lacks any kind of story or characterisation to pull it off effectively. I wasn't expecting a deep or soulful experience but my hope for a compelling gangster tale was quickly quashed by a dull and pointless story - absent of any likable component.
In a world full of generic first and third person shooters I was pleasantly surprised to see how Kane and Lynch 2 created a presentation style that was completely unique to the genre. Instead of aiming for smooth frame rates, high quality audio and crystal clear visuals the screen is thick with grainy filters and a shaky cam that physically makes you sick to watch.
There seems an inordinate amount of effort gone in to making this game look as rough and unpalatable as possible. This on its own was enough to intrigue me and I hoped that this underground police video style would frame the telling of a bleak, nasty and unforgiving gangster tale.
Unfortunately the atmosphere that Kane and Lynch managed to evoke from the very beginning was quickly ruined by aspects that thrust me out of the realistic visuals. The first enemies I came across managed to suck up lead like a superhuman sponge no matter what difficulty setting the game was on. When you have a style that instantly gives the whole game a documentary feel, you don't want to see contrivances clogging up the vision.
This was followed at every step by repetitive encounters that never veered from the usual stop-and-pop nature of cover-based shooters. I was hoping that the down and dirty approach to visuals might translate into the story and, while it isn't a buttercup fairy cupcake of a tale, it seemed too pedestrian, predictable and largely pointless to hold my attention.
When you have a style that instantly gives the whole game a documentary feel, you don't want to see contrivances clogging up the vision
The story follows the titular anti-heroes as an arms deal goes belly up and sets the entire Shanghai underworld after Kane and Lynch. The only saving grace to the dull environments and plodding plot could have been the characters you play and the mix of despicable crooks you come across.
The bizarre sound of a Cockney kingpin and his Irish lackeys gave the game some much needed colour but none of the characters were any deeper than a cardboard cutout. This left Kane and Lynch themselves to pick up the slack and I hoped, considering how unhinged they are, that the game might do something with their personalities.
For a moment my hopes were realised as Kane, subject to a personality disorder, starts to mumble and swear in the middle of firefights in a disturbing fashion. Considering what happens to him during the middle of the game I expected fireworks and mental breakdown that would have spectacular results both in the story and in the gameplay. Neither of those hopes were met with anything special and the game just plodded on, giving nothing but generic battles interspersed with predictable plot twists and an empty ending.
With a single-player story that felt incomplete and pointless, the multiplayer provided the most meaningful experience and injected some real tension into its modes.
With a single-player story that felt incomplete and pointless, the multiplayer provided the most meaningful experience and injected some real tension into its modes. Just as in the first game the most impressive part is the heist concept. Here, you're on a job to rob a bank and have to work together in order to obtain the loot. At any time however, you can choose to go rogue and make off with as much as the stash as you can, killing other players and gaining their cut in the process.
I usually have a hard time finding anything meaningful or deep in multiplayer modes but playing this with a good group of people brings out the tension and the risk/reward elements that the single-player lacked. Knowing that one of the many players around you could at any moment turn the tables and change the game mode completely kept my nerve-strings taut and frayed my concentration.
It's a criminal shame then that none of this conflict between characters on the same side came through in the single-player mode. The story is fraught with betrayals and double-crossing yet it presents a collection of bland levels that throw legions of goons after you like a monochrome shooting gallery.
In this respect, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is a matter of dirty style over bland substance.
In this respect, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is a matter of dirty style over bland substance. Even though its shaky cam and grainy filters gave me a headache I loved the unique style it was aiming for. But that's nothing compared to the migraine the dull story and paper-thin characters managed to induce after finishing the single-player campaign.
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