Review: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is a strange monster. It’s a miracle that it even exists, considering Kane & Lynch: Dead Men’s chilly reception. It certainly wasn’t crying out for a sequel, despite being a decent shooter. It wasn’t a stand-out or must-play game at the time, and it was overshadowed by ridiculous controversy that should never have influenced sales in the first place.

Still, it served up a plethora of mechanics to keep gamers busy over its brief campaign mode. There were heists, stealth missions, and a storyline that proved genuinely intriguing. Dog Days strips all of these interesting yet haphazard elements from its narrative and presents a wholly unmemorable and frustrating experience that, at times (most notably in cooperative play) is completely unplayable and much like the game’s two “protagonists,” overtly unlikable.

Dog Days is a completely trimmed-down adventure in comparison to its predecessor. In this decidedly incompetent sequel, you’re asked to shoot, take cover, and shoot some more. That’s all. It’s devoid of any real variety. Unfortunately, it hasn’t even gotten that much right. Although aiming and shooting mechanics have for the most part seen a noticeable upgrade from the previous game, its cover system is absolutely atrocious. By enabling unskilled players and giving them a safe haven to rest behind before once again diving back into action, it serves as a frustrating example of dated game design.

Bullets rarely feel as if they’re making proper contact, and aiming serves little purpose other than to give the illusion of accuracy. In an attempt to make the game seem a little more realistic, weapons have been “handicapped,” if you will, to maintain the illusion that these are still two men on the run, testosterone and adrenaline fueling their every move. It doesn’t work, and as a result the game feels artificially lengthened by frustrating firefights and enemies who take more punishment than your controller while playing this game.

Why you’re doing any of this is another matter entirely. While there is a story to be told here, its slipshod nature prevents players from actually getting involved. Often, you’re simply moving forward while taking in banter between the titular characters, stopping for an extended shootout, and taking up arms to move forward again. It almost felt as though the creators weren’t confident enough to let the story play out the way it was intended to, with cripplingly short cutscenes and breathless dialogue that’s almost instantaneously forgettable. I want to learn more about these psychos’ plights, but it’s so difficult to continue doing so when the game has other plans. Shoot first and ask questions later.

At the very least, Dog Days’ presentation is particularly interesting. Shaky-cam, bright colors in the logo, and a decidedly gritty quality to the graphics provides a very raw and organic feel to the events unfolding before you, as if you were watching them on some contraband video sharing site. I found this a breath of fresh air even though, despite being set in Shanghai, there is little or nothing to suggest that you’re actually there. So much more could have been done with this exotic locale, and instead we’re treated to slums and palettes that would make Gears of War seem particularly colorful.

While the single-player campaign is deficient, it’s at least playable save for a few humorous glitches here and there. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the cooperative mode. Throughout my multiple attempts at completing the game with a partner, my game suffered serious glitches that made it almost impossible to continue playing. My co-op partner flitted across the screen like Peter Pan off to Neverland. Guns would hang mid-air as I would attempt to pick one up, and I would find myself armless until the next weapon drop. Enemies became superhuman beasts, dodging rounds straight to the face. My partner couldn’t contain his laughter as he pointed out I was on top of a car during a shootout and hadn’t even realized it. Coupled with the fact that we were doing what were essentially donuts with our avatars (Kane and Lynch) onscreen, we moved at a pace three times as quickly as normal, which made an already annoying game even more so. Four attempts at this with other players produced the same results, and in the end I couldn’t take another second of such glitchy co-op.

Multiplayer modes produced some of the same results, though to a much lesser degree. However, as innovative as they want to be (particularly Fragile Alliance), they aren’t particularly entertaining and rely more on hanging out behind cover than actually doing any real damage. And that’s if you can find someone to play with, which I suspect will become a difficult feat in the coming months after the game’s had a chance to settle into the bargain bins.

Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is terribly underwhelming both as a shooter and as a successor to the fledgling franchise. I never dreamt it would be this dull, this short, and this glitchy, considering it’s one of my more recent cooperative shooters to enjoy with friends. It’s apparent to me that the most work went into polishing the aesthetics and particularly intriguing box art and graphic design as well as the ad campaign. Everything else, well, sucks. I wouldn’t recommend picking this up over the original. I wouldn’t recommend picking it up at all unless you were a fan of the previous game or found it for a reasonable price used. It’s the epitome of a dull, mediocre shooter devoid of any redeeming merits other than the some interesting multiplayer mode concepts and its Cloverfield-esque camera. You can try to find some hidden meaning or righteous position to take on its gratuitous violence if you must, but like a sequel spawned for a dying license, you’d just be adding insult to injury. Pass on this one.

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