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The initial Kane and Lynch: Dead Men failed in a number of categories. Most detrimental to its existence was imprecise and incoherent gameplay that felt muddled from the start. Having to tell your computer-controlled ally what to do and where to go made the entire game into a bad escort mission, but developer lo-Interactive has taken some big risks in order to create the game they had originally envisioned and that meant embracing the franchise’s theatrical roots.
The first thing you will notice is the game’s spectacular new look. The game uses a number of screen distortion filters and fake, shaky camera effects. These innovative methods offer an indie-film quality that successfully hides the games technical flaws and vertical sync issues while preserving a cinematic atmosphere that is both chaotic and startlingly real. Many games have tried to capture the gritty mystique of Hollywood heist movies, but Dog Days hits the mark in impressive fashion. This will not be the last time players will see these effects as most action games will steal what is arguably the second best feature of Dog Days. The voice acting is noticeably enhanced by better dialogue that focuses more on authentic interjections and less on cursing. Keep in mind that there are still quite a few swears sprinkled in, but they are used in a more natural-sounding and believable tone.
The story is simple enough. Kane and Lynch come to Shanghai in order to complete a robbery but hi-jinks ensue and the two are targeted for death by a powerful government figure. Most of the game is spent trying to find the quickest way out of the city. The game is literally either running away from people or huge gun battles which becomes grating after a while. You will only have to worry about yourself now that the tactical management of the other character is gone. A friend can take control of the other ally or the computer can manage itself, although the computer tends to get in the way from time to time. The game can be completed in a couple days but you may have to take breaks in order to rest your eyes or alleviate frustration from cheap kills.
Beyond the repetitive campaign lies an Arcade Mode that puts you in a small gang of thieves who have to loot bags of cash and make it to the getaway vehicle on time. The scenario reiterates becoming progressively more difficult. The police become smarter while your fellow thugs become more traitorous. The object of the game is to collect as much of the loot as possible in order to rack up the highest score on the online leaderboard and purchase better weapons. Your selection of weapons becomes greater with every rank you gain by successfully clearing a level. The rank system is not deep by any means—a total of eight ranks—but the game does monitor your criminal loyalty and style as a way to signal/warn other players of your past habits.
The gameplay has been overhauled and refined into a Gears of War clone, but unlike Gears of War, the fundamentals of cover-based shooting are either mishandled or feel just plain unintuitive. Snapping onto walls is spotty at best with some objects requiring you to crouch first before sidling correctly. Cover, by definition, is supposed to protect you from bullets, but you will find yourself taking damage at times from weird angles despite finding perfectly adequate cover. The human shield mechanic is available, but it just leads to the same issues. The shields don’t soak up the bullets the same way they do in Gears, which is deceptive because, once again, shields by definition are supposed to protect. If grabbing an enemy from behind and drawing the attention of every other enemy in the room offers no benefit to the player, then why include the mechanic in the first place? The game also ignores a melee attack button which translates into awkward backing up and shooting enemies that are already close enough to tug on your beard, but there is an interesting feature that allows you to shoot at enemies after being knocked down to the floor. It happens so quickly that it’s hard to fully appreciate it until it saves your life in the coolest way possible.
As alluded to earlier, the best feature of Dog Days is something else that will no doubt be copied in future shooters. The inspired multiplayer houses some of the most clever and unique modes in contemporary gaming. Multiplayer consists of three modes—Fragile Alliance, Cops & Robbers and Under Cover Cop. Fragile Alliance is an online version of the Arcade Mode in which each robber is played by a human being. You can either work together or turn on your teammates in order to grab a bigger payout. If you die, you are given the opportunity for revenge by respawning as a cop and killing your killer before they reach the getaway point. Cops & Robbers allows you to choose which side you want to be on from the start and encourages players to work together. But the most fun you’ll have comes straight from Under Cover Cop. This mode recreates a heist but one of the players is secretly selected as the “cop”. The cop’s job is to kill everyone else before the others have a chance to complete their goal. Paranoia begins to take hold of the group as players start to watch one another trying to determine who will betray everybody leading to some genuinely well executed mayhem. Since the game lacks any type of player customization, the shelf life for multiplayer will fade quickly as better titles start to emerge this Fall. A perk system would have been a nice gesture, but Dog Days even refuses to let you change the way your character looks. Gears of War at least let you choose what character skin you wanted.
Overall, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is a considerable step up from the first game, but muddled combat and a lack of well executed fundamentals prevents the game from receiving a major endorsement. The visual style and multiplayer modes feel too well-conceived to be a part of the franchise and could have easily been the pillars of a whole new game. In the hands of more talented developers, Dog Days could have been an excellent example of engaging story-driven combat but, as is, it fails to get the basic mechanics right and squanders its potential.