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Kane and Lynch 2 is far better in theory than in practice. The concept is stylish, artistic, and subverts the shooter genre. Unfortunately, these elements don't match up to the competition. The result is an incredibly short game that still feels too long.
Having never played the original Kane and Lynch, I was immediately thankful that Dog Days requires no previous knowledge of the series, as it's very much a standalone story. It's also a relatively simple story: the titular pair of career criminals are due to play a part in a drug deal in Shanghai.
Unfortunately, the borderline psychopathic Lynch mistakenly shoots a young girl, who turns out to have a very powerful father. Soon, virtually everyone in Shanghai wants Kane and Lynch dead, from their previous allies, to the police and even the military.
While the story was not complex, I largely appreciated the effort to try a new visual style. The game seeks to emulate the YouTube "caught on camera" style, with the shaki-cam following Lynch (your avatar in the game). Even the cutscenes are presented in this style.
This almost documentary approach reminded me frequently of the style of Michael Mann, particularly his recent films utilising Digital Video, including Collateral and Miami Vice. Night-time Shanghai also reminded me of Michael Mann's visions of night-time Los Angeles, all artificial neon lights against the backdrop of darkness.
This approach brings an immediacy and intensity to movies, here it made me feel motion sick.
Where this approach brings an immediacy and intensity to movies, here it made me feel motion sick. I admire the effort to try something a little new, but it didn't work for me. There's an option to turn the shaki-cam off, but even that didn't really help.
Along with the visual style, IO Interactive have made an effort to say something about the shooter genre and the characters that inhabit them. While most playable characters are heroic individuals, I felt that Kane and Lynch represent a kind of probable reality. People who are employed to kill other people for personal gain are not likely to be heroic figures. They're likely to be psychopathic, unbalanced and generally not very nice.
Kane and Lynch are actually taken one step further, and I found them a little pathetic. Lynch is devoted to his girlfriend, a relationship that unfortunately isn't explored. After she is horribly killed, the only consolation Kane can offer is: "do you want to talk about it?" It's both funny and sad that Lynch's only friend in the world fails so completely in such an important moment.
The violence in Kane and Lynch 2 teeters precariously between exploitative and harrowing. It's used to prove the point that the business of shooting people is very, very ugly, but I thought it also came dangerously close to being violence for the sake of violence.
I found the shooting elements mediocre at best. Any sense of realism gained from the characters or style was lost once I had shot several hundred enemies, effectively negating the main point of the game.
The visual style is nicely reminiscent of Michael Mann movies.
As for the actual mechanics, I initially appreciated the stripped back feel. The cover-based system is reminiscent of most third-person shooters on the market at the moment, but everything else is back to basics, with a minimum of gloss and added features. There are no grenades, for example, though you can pick up and throw cans of petrol, and shoot them to blow them up.
After a few hours though, gunning down endless enemies with little variety becomes grating. I expected the story, and it's associated series of double-crosses and battles for survival, to have real narrative drive. In the end, though, it was a slog to get through each chapter, with little to look forward to in terms of an ever deepening story.
Kane and Lynch 2 is more fun to talk about as a concept than to play as a game. The visual style is nicely reminiscent of Michael Mann movies, despite not personally being able to enjoy it, the characters are interesting if unrelatable, and the game is initially fresh and intense. It quickly becomes apparent that the Kane and Lynch 2 plays its hand early on, leaving nothing to look forward to later on. Despite only being a four hour game, somehow it still drags.
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