Having only briefly played the original, I was unsure what to expect with Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. What I got was a pretty solid shooter that should capture its own legion of fans. It doesn’t really break or even bend the genre too much, but is a fun ride nonetheless.
The story, such that it is, takes place a few years after the first one, where Kane and Lynch escaped the death penalty in a fit of bloody rage. Lynch isn’t really the bloodthirsty psycho anymore. In fact, we see him in cut scenes living in Shanghai, taking his medicine and having a normal relationship with his Chinese girlfriend. We don’t know much about Kane, but when he does show up, it’s obvious that he’s still the thoughtful one of the two. Kane comes to China at Lynch’s request. There is some type of job that involves smuggling guns into Africa (perhaps The Jackal from Farcry 2 is buying) and Kane wants to pull one more big job, get paid, and get out of the business.
Of course things go awry. You never actually get to the promised mission. Lynch wants to "talk" with someone first, and things go south from there. Poor Kane never even gets to his hotel. Pretty soon all the Chinese underworld is after you, as well as the police, military and even Lynch’s former gangster friends.
Missions consist of brief cutscenes where the story is set, followed by long fights. In the single player campaign, you play Lynch most of the time, though you eventually get to be Kane near the end. There are no partner commands to worry about. Your buddy will follow your lead, pumping out unlimited shots at your enemies, though you will have to take most of them down yourself. I’m not sure if your buddy’s bullets don’t count for as much damage or what, but you can’t rely on them to take out the hoards of people in your way. Occasionally they will kill someone, but it’s fairly rare. On the flip side, they are invincible. As such, you can use them as a human shield. At one point I led poor Kane into the middle of an open field knowing that machine gunners would tear into him. He must have taken over 1,000 rounds. But since he couldn’t die, I knew he would be fine. While the enemies were busy shooting him, I moved around a train car and shot them from the side.
There are a wide variety of guns in the game, though most of them are pretty crappy. This is Shanghai after all, and cheap guns are everywhere. You won’t really know if you have a cheap gun or a real shooter until you use it a bit. Cheap guns fire slowly and do very little damage to your enemies. Also, better opponents will have better weapons, so when you start fighting the military instead of street thugs, be sure to grab their rifles and leave the Saturday night specials behind. Ammo is limited but I never had a problem with that since you can carry two weapons and pick up new ammunition for them from fallen opponents, who always have just enough to fill you up back to your maximum load. The only trick is when you start fighting a new group of enemies, like when going from thugs to cops, you will need to switch to the new opponent’s weapons of choice so you can find enough ammo to advance, since your old weapons will run out fairly quickly.
There are a lot of bad guys in each level (other than arguably yourself), to the point that it’s almost comical. The only way to survive is to take cover, which is done easily by pressing one button. You can then move from cover to cover if you want, though this feature didn’t seem to work too well unless the cover was specifically lined up, like the bulkheads in a ship’s corridor. It was just easier to exit cover mode and manually run to the next one. Cover comes in different types as well. Wooden crates will eventually get shot away, while cement barricades will stay solid for an entire fight. But any cover is better than being caught in the open, which will bring you down fast.
I didn’t really have trouble with dying. If you are about to die, you will be knocked to the ground. You can shoot from the ground, but the world is very red at that point (blood on screen tells you how bad you’ve been hit) and it’s difficult to see. Any further damage will kill you. However, you can hit the "Get up in cover" button to crawl back into cover. On some very hard levels I would get knocked down close to ten times, but always managed to get back up and into the fight before dying. I like this feature a lot. Without it, the game would be far too difficult with the insane number of enemies you need to kill.
All of the levels follow pretty much the same pattern. You go from room to room, or open area to open area, and as soon as you get inside, it floods with enemies. So you have to shoot whoever is stupid enough not to get good cover, and then move up from one safe position to the next, taking out new enemies as they arrive, or as they also move up. Grenades don’t exist, but would be a huge help in this game. At least your opponents don’t toss any either. You can find things like fire extinguishers and acetylene tanks lying around which can be thrown. You toss them and then shoot them to make an explosion. It’s a rather clunky interface, but it’s better than nothing. And again, it’s nice that your enemies don’t have anything like that.
Occasionally you will be given special missions within a level. You might have to protect someone from getting killed, or to take out a special enemy like a sniper. In the case of the latter, the good news is that you can grab their weapon most of the time once they die, which can give you a huge advantage until the ammo runs out.
Graphically, the game looks very good. There is a bit of an over-use of light filters. You can see this in the second picture with this review. Bright lights seem to bleed out and blur the screen. Sometimes the screen gets a little fuzzy. I thought my PS3 was having trouble drawing the graphics for a while until I realized that it was deliberate. I’m not really sure why they did this. Also, whenever you shoot someone in the head, you don’t get to see it. Instead the screen gets all blurry like its censored or something. Given that the game is already rated M, what’s the big deal showing a head shot? Like the light filter, this is just a gimmick as well. At one point a guy fell under a desk and the censoring screwed up, showing the area around his head but letting me clearly see his face. It didn’t even look bad. So again, I don’t know why they used it. There is one level where you go through it completely naked, and there the censoring works so you don’t see any naughty parts, but I’m still confused about those headshots. Other than these odd quirks, the game looks pretty good.
The sound is average, but nothing special. At one point when you suddenly start playing Kane, I think the developers forgot to give Lynch many lines because he complained about being "almost out of ammo" 36 times in as many minutes. And no, as far as I can tell, your partner never runs out of bullets.
You can complete the single player campaign on medium difficulty in about eight hours, or at least that’s how long it took me. After that, there is a ton of multiplayer content to keep you shooting for hours on end. Like the first game, there are a lot of bank robbery scenarios where you start out as "friends" with other bad guys. But if someone doesn’t survive a mission, well, it’s more loot for everyone else. So at some point all your "friends" start trying to kill you, unless you do it to them first. If you die, you get to respawn as a cop and try for revenge. There is even a mission where there is an undercover cop, randomly chosen, who infiltrates the robber gang. All in all, the multiplayer is some of the most clever I’ve experienced online. So if multiplayer is your thing, this is a great game choice.
The one thing that really disappointed me about Kane & Lynch 2 is that in terms of the single player game, it’s not really that clever. The developers are Io Interactive, who made one of my all time favorite series of games, the Hitman trilogy. That game required you to be very clever and I was hoping for something like that for Kane & Lynch. I mean a shade of character development, weapon upgrades, an alternate path to get through a level or even a level where you have dinner with Lynch’s girlfriend and don’t shoot anyone would not have gone unappreciated. I know Io has that in them. It’s not like K&L 2 is bad, but given the team working on it, it could have been a lot more than just a pure, almost plotless shooter. I just expect a bit more from Io given their remarkable history.
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is good for what it is. It doesn’t advance the genre in any way, but it’s a fun ride if you want some mindless shooting. A great multiplayer component helps it score just a bit higher than it would without one, giving the dastardly duo a respectable 3 1/2 GiN Gems for a final score.