Reviewed: September 16, 2010
Released: August 17, 2010
Shanghai seems to be a popular place for two guys with lots of guns to hang out these days. Earlier this year I took two heavily armed soldiers through the city in Army of Two: The 40th Day, and now I’m back with my trailer-trash buddies, Kane and Lynch in their 48-hour adventure in the Shanghai underworld. Sequels seldom impress me but Io Interactive has achieved something quite unique and special with Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, both in visual presentation and immersive storytelling.|
Kane and Lynch have gone their separate ways since the events of the first game. Lynch is living in Shanghai. He has a girl and a job and is doing okay, at least until the day when Kane arrives in town. After meeting up, Lynch drags Kane along on a "job" that quickly goes bad when the daughter of a major Chinese businessman/gangster gets shot in some crossfire. Now the entire Shanghai underworld is out to exact their revenge, and with an army of police bearing down on the city, Kane and Lynch have their own crossfire to worry about.
The big hook for Dog Days is obviously the presentation style. The entire game unfolds much like an extended episode of Cops or the movie Cloverfield, shot entirely with a handheld camera and complete with all the artifacts and visual flairs and filters associated with amateur photography. It was pretty cool when I first saw the demo at E3 and I was completely blown away by the realistic experience of the final game.
Cutscenes seamlessly blend into gameplay, which is now much more focused on cover and cooperation. Flanking and crossfire is crucial to the overwhelming odds you’ll face, but sadly the single-player game doesn’t really allow for a command system to order your partner around or create a distraction. The game could have really benefited from Army of Two in this way. Still, the game is playable, winnable, and extremely satisfying playing solo, despite a few instances of frustration that are not present when you play the game with a friend.
Kane and Lynch will travel the city and engage hundreds of enemies, both gangsters and cops, who are all trying to kill them. Things get especially uncomfortable when our heroes are captured, stripped, and tortured, only to escape and run around the city completely nude for an entire level. Thankfully, the same digital pixilation used to obscure boobs and decapitations are hard at work blurring any dangling twigs and berries, despite the camera’s insistence of focusing on those parts.
One of the biggest complaints about the first game was that there was no online co-op; a disastrous decision for a game that is designed primarily as a two-player experience. Thankfully Dog Days managed to not only work in a fully functional online co-op mode, but also included a surprisingly robust assortment of fun, challenging, and highly addictive multiplayer modes.
Fragile Alliance is back and more fun than ever in this four-minute grab for cash where any other play can turn on you at any moment and swipe your cash. Cops and Robbers splits the players into two teams, one trying to make the heist and the other trying to stop it. The cool gimmick here is that when a robber dies he spawns back as a cop, so the odds are always shifting in favor of the law. And then we have the new mode and my personal favorite, Undercover Cop, where one player is a cop working with the robbers. His goal is to try and stop the heist from within while remaining undiscovered. Robbers can kill the player they think is the cop, but they had better be sure. There is a lot of fun to be had with the online modes, but only diehard Kane and Lynch fans will likely stick with it for very long considering the more popular online alternatives out there.
The visuals are remarkable. While technically imperfect and even uncomfortable at times, such is the price of ultimate realism, and that is what Io was striving for with this handheld presentation style. It adds a whole new level of immersion and energy to the experience, and while I didn’t enjoy the digital censored parts at first, I quickly realized that “not seeing” something can often be more disturbing than having it splayed out before you. I loved the level design, especially the city levels, the ambush assault on the highway, and the airport finale. Incredible!
The audio complements the visuals with plenty of gunfire and 3D environmental effects. The dialogue is brutally harsh with excessive amounts of profanity and easily earns the Mature rating. The off-camera screams of Kane being tortured sent chills down my spine. The music is minimal in keeping with the realistic presentation.
The solo game is admittedly a bit short, coming in at just under 8 hours, but then you’ll likely want to replay it on co-op and then you have a highly engaging multiplayer component to explore if you are so inclined. I’ve easily spent twice as much time in the online modes as I did with the story. I can’t get enough of Undercover Cop. And the Achievements in this game range from easy to sheer insanity. Completionists have their work cut out for them.
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a superior sequel; a game that I enjoyed much more than the original, both in story and presentation style, and thankfully they worked in the online co-op. I hate split-screen gaming but I love cooperative experiences, and Dog Days represents one of the most brutally entertaining and memorable trips through Shanghai that you’ll take in this lifetime.