Kane & Lynch 2 is just like a drunken blow job. Forgive the rather crass analogy, but it’s true. It’s a guilty pleasure that is brazenly adult, yet at the same time all too brief and over quickly, and it’s not long before you catch your reflection in the mirror and can’t help feeling somewhat empty. The game, a follow up to the mediocre Dead Men, sees Kane & Lynch travelling to Shanghai to take part in a deal that inevitably goes wrong, leading the pair in a chase around China swearing, cursing and other various adjectives that you probably wouldn’t want to tell your kids. This translates into a fairly competent co-op cover shooter with some interesting ideas.
The first thing is the most obvious, and it’s the visual style. In a nod to an age where we get our fix of the latest information on YouTube and from amateurs shooting footage on camera phones, here the action is portrayed as if it’s been filmed by a third unseen character using a low quality camera. This means we see such effects on sceen as loading screens becoming ‘buffering’, heavy light sources causing bleeding on the camera and the visuals itself shaky and inconsistent – in a good way. It’s certainly one of the most unique looking games of the year, and it works really well. The little touches really give the visuals a character like our two leads- gritty and somewhat rough. Close range explosions can even knock out the camera for a short period, which is a really nice touch to introduce gameplay effecting elements into the game. However – and it may only effect a few people – it has to be said that these visuals can, after long periods, feel slightly nauseating and disorientating. There is an option to turn it off however, so it’s at least reassuring to know you’re not the only one.
Over time however, the guilty pleasure of Dog Days starts losing it’s pleasure and the parts that make you feel guilty about playing the game start to emerge. The shooting and cover mechanics don’t quite feel polished up to the standards we expect nowadays. Sitting behind cover is no guarantee of actually avoiding shots, even when the enemies are across the other side of the room. The shooting itself feels remarkably hollow – bullets rarely go exactly where you’re aiming the reticule which wasn’t as much of a problem in IO-Interactive’s other series Hitman because guns were largely used as a last resort. However in Kane & Lynch – where the shooting is the meat of the game – it struggles to be satisfying enough to persevere with. The closer you look, the uglier it gets, as enemy AI seems to be wildly erratic, veering from disturbing accurate to running into walls for cover that have already been destroyed previously – massively breaking immersion.
A massive bone of contention is in the length of the game. On normal, the story can be finished in around four hours, which is incredibly short for a full price title. Granted, you can kind of see where IO felt that the game would have a degree of replayability with the co-op element, but the story isn’t deep enough and the levels aren’t unique enough for you to not really get bored with them before your first playthrough is over. The only major set piece in the game – in which you get to ride in a helicopter – is a welcome addition, but some more moments that mix up the gameplay would have been more than welcome here. Dog Days does however get some credit for it’s interesting multiplayer.
Somewhat crippled by GFWL in the first game, Kane & Lynch introduces aspects to the multiplayer game mode with unique twists that makes it a very unusual experience. The first is Fragile Alliance, in which you work together with fellow criminals to secure as much money as you can from the various maps. At any time however, you may turn on your team by shooting them. This flags you up as a traitor to the rest of your team, but also means you can escape – assuming you can – with more money than you could from the heist on your own. Undercover Cop mode is similar, but at the start of the round one person is assigned as the Undercover Cop. They can’t kill any of the police, but when they start killing teammates, they don’t show up on the criminals HUD. Their mission is to kill all the criminals before they find out what’s going on, and escape with the money. These modes make for some tense action, with you never being quite sure whether or not to trust your teammate to watch your back around a corner. However like most multiplayer games, your actual experience will depend on you’re playing with. Granted there’s a certain degree of being a jerk involved with the game mode – but in my experience some people will just try and kill you before it would actually benefit them (such as right at the start of the map, for example). In the large though, the mutliplayer is tense, fun and will definitely outlive the single player experience.
So to return to the drunken blowjob metaphor then, Kane & Lynch 2 isn’t a total disaster and is certainly better than the first game: it looks like a good idea, it’s adult, it’s messy but it does leave you feeling decidedly hollow afterwards. It’s better with more people, if they’re the right ones and there’s a certain element of trust and mistrust involved. It’s certainly a far cry from greatness but there is still potential here. If it makes to as many sequels as the Hitman franchise then – like it’s older brother – it may see a really great game somewhere down the line. For now, it’s a game with a unique and brilliant visual style, but seriously let down by some frustrating flaws.
And if you’re offended by this review’s blow-job analogy, replace it with ‘drunken ice cream eating’.