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Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is a game about two criminals out for revenge and it seems to be influenced by popular crime films. I did get into the story a little bit, I enjoyed the two main characters, and the scenarios the story puts you in are kind of exciting, sometimes making me forget I’m playing a very average third-person shooter. In my opinion, everything kind of falls apart during the final chapters but the game shows potential. It just doesn’t quite reach the mark. Developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days was released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in August, 2010. For this review, I played the PC version. Dog Days includes a unique style of presentation that differs greatly from Dead Men and eliminates the squad-based element of the gameplay. Despite not hearing anything super great about the game, I’ve always had an interest in this title and I have beaten this before a few years ago. When I think of the Kane & Lynch franchise, I always think of this entry the most.
The story plays out in chapters and if you decide to play through the story mode solo, you’ll play as Lynch with the exception of one chapter where you play as Kane. If playing co-operatively, one player is Lynch and the other is Kane. After the events of the first game, the duo went their separate ways. Lynch started a new life in Shanghai, China working for a crime organization led by a man named Glazer. Glazer informs Lynch about plan to smuggle guns to Africa so Lynch calls Kane for assistance. Shortly after Kane arrives in Shanghai, he and Lynch chase an informant, shooting their way through gang territory, and end up killing the wrong person who happens to be connected to a very high-ranking official. After this incident, they become targets and anyone friendly with the duo are open season. Their ultimate goal is to complete the arms deal so they can retire but this proves to be quite the challenge thanks to the enemies they make in only a short amount of time. The story is decent and feels more or less like a catalyst for all the action because the story is basically filled with non-stop action from the moment you start playing. I think the story in Dead Men had a bit more depth to it along with some more interesting supporting characters. The developers did away with the cinematic style in favor of a more realistic approach which makes the tone of Dog Days feel much different. The game is presented in a documentary style that looks as if it’s being filmed by someone with a handheld camera following the two main characters. Even though the game goes for more realism, I would say the story kind of gives off modern action movie vibes. Throughout most of the story, you’ll primarily be listening to the two main characters interact with each other and the performances are believable. The performances for the supporting cast are also pretty good in my opinion but you don’t get much exposure to them. The story is also very short and kind of comes to an abrupt end, you can probably beat it in about four hours.
You can walk, run, sprint, crouch, and climb over obstacles. Cover is essential for staying alive in this game because you will be shot at almost everywhere you go. You can move from cover to cover, and if you take enough damage, you’ll fall down but can shoot back while your down and get back up unless the enemies manage to kill you. This time around you can take human shields and execute them which is pretty cool and there is no command system. Kane will not die so you don’t have to keep an eye on him. You just need to focus on staying alive and the one thing I really enjoy about Dog Days is the intensity of the action. A lot of it is due to the visual presentation but the action feels very intense and the pacing is consistent. It doesn’t stop until you complete the story. You’ll always be moving, shooting, and looking for cover. Throughout the environments are explosive canisters like fuel cans and fire extinguishers for example and you can pick these up, throw them, and shoot them to blow them up which is good for killing multiple enemies at once.
The game does employ a regenerating health system and you can carry two weapons at any time. Weapons and ammo are dropped by fallen enemies so you’ll always have the opportunity to swap out weapons which is good if you want to try out all the different types. You can equip handguns, submachine guns, assault rifles, a sniper rifle, and even a light machine gun late in the game which can be really helpful. You should always be behind cover either popping out and shooting or blind firing because the enemies can drop you quickly if you’re out in the open, even if it’s only for several seconds, especially late in the game. There’s always enemies trying to kill you and they may be accompanied by dogs that can maul you. You’ll contend with gang members, police, and soldiers and the enemy AI does show some intelligence, at least compared to the enemies in the first game. They do what you would expect like run around, take cover, shoot at you, blind fire, but they’ll also advance on your position, sometimes try and flank you, and suppress you. Sometimes you’ll witness them do something stupid like running out into the open when not necessary or not moving when they should but overall, they put up a decent fight. The friendly AI is improved compared to the first game but it’s also primarily isolated to one NPC in the story mode. Kane will shoot at and kill enemies and take cover but you’ll always be doing most of the leg-work. I did see him run right past an enemy but for the most part he’s well behaved and you don’t have to worry about him anyway.
The setting of Dog Days is Shanghai and you’ll traverse through all kinds of areas throughout the city. You’ll engage enemies on the streets, in a parking garage, blast through a sweatshop, fend off cops in a restaurant, and battle your way through an airport, among other locations. At one point, you’ll get to ride in a helicopter and mow down tons of enemies attacking you from within a building while also dealing with enemy helicopters. It’s pretty cool. Many things in the environments can be used as cover but objects like wood and wooden crates can be broken by gunfire so you should always be aware of your surroundings. The environments, themselves, feel a bit more claustrophobic compared to the environments in Dead Men but many areas are somewhat open allowing you to approach battles in slightly different ways. You may be able to approach enemies head on or flank them from a room off to the side. You’ll be navigating through narrow hallways, corridors, alleyways, small rooms, and the more open areas include many objects and structures so the action always feels somewhat contained. Some scenarios allow you to get the jump on enemies but once the bullets start flying, everybody knows where you are. The environments do funnel you down specific paths but you can utilize the hint button if you’re not sure where to go. I really enjoyed the idea that you’re just constantly being pursued through the city but every chapter does end up feeling the same. You won’t be robbing any banks, rappelling down ropes, or breaking anyone out of prison. You just move from area to area, going from one battle to the next. The locations and situations were a real highlight of Dead Men wherein Dog Days, I would say the action is the highlight.
When it comes to the multiplayer portion, I did attempt to join matches with no luck and nobody joined any matches I hosted. In addition to the story and multiplayer modes is the Arcade Mode. I believe the Arcade Mode is just the single player variant of the Fragile Alliance multiplayer mode. You play as one of Glazer’s men and can participate in various heists around Shanghai. The heists play out in rounds and the goal of each one is the same. You and a group of allies run to the looting area, steal whatever it is, and then run to where the getaway driver will meet you. What makes this interesting is that you can betray your allies by attacking them or splitting the money the with the getaway driver and leaving everyone behind. Besides the money you acquire from looting, you’ll also acquire money by killing the cops and goons trying to stop you. Killing civilians will result in a loss of money. In between rounds, you can buy weapons with the money you’ve acquired and some weapons must be unlocked by reaching certain ranks before they can be purchased. I guess the whole goal of this mode is to rack up as much money as you can, otherwise known as your score, which is tracked on the leaderboards. You are only provided three lives and if you die, you lose a life and have to restart the round. One of my gripes with this mode is that the locations or maps are somewhat small. You can complete your objectives in under five minutes. But I do think that’s intended, I’m guessing to keep the rounds short and quick. However, I do like the map layouts because they are open allowing you to reach your objectives in multiple ways. There’s always branching paths so you can approach objectives and battles differently in each round. Another gripe I have is that you can’t really customize the match in any way. I kind of wish it included modifiers or something. I really enjoy the heist concept but I just wish there was more to it.
The visual presentation in Dog Days is really a mixed bag. Ultimately, I enjoy the visual style but the visual effects are just obnoxious. I believe the game is going for this handheld camera style so whenever you start sprinting, you have to witness the shaky cam effect. I don’t like this effect in films and I don’t like it here. It’s just annoying. Also, there’s some blur effects going on, tons of glare, and droplets from rain and blood will be visible on the screen as if you’re looking through a camera. All of these effects can just make it hard to see things sometimes, especially during hectic firefights where you really need to focus on the action. On the plus side, parts of the environments like walls and structures will break apart from gunfire, small objects will fly up into the air during firefights, and dirt, debris, and puffs of smoke will kick up from bullet impacts on surfaces. When enemies are shot, they usually react and fall in a cinematic style, downed enemies will squirm and moan, and you’ll see their blood splatter on walls. The game will censor certain aspects like nudity and the heads of enemies if you manage to shoot them directly in the face. I can say the visual style emphasizes the realism and intensity the game is going for and I believe it’s one of the primary reasons the action manages to feel as intense as it does. The environments are filled with plenty of detail making each area feel somewhat realistic. As for the music, the soundtrack was not composed by Jesper Kyd and I honestly can’t think of any memorable songs. But the score is comprised of a bunch of ambient tunes. The sound effects are well done and match the visual presentation. For example, it sounds like the audio will sometimes peak when characters start screaming and you’ll definitely hear tons of echo in many locations. The weapons fire sounds a lot better than it did in the previous game with most weapons sounding loud and impactful. As for the technical aspects, the game ran smoothly for me with no frame-rate dips. If you have multiple monitors set up like I do and play this in fullscreen, whatever monitors not displaying the game will be blacked out. Unfortunately, the game runs exclusively in fullscreen but you can get around this by using DxWnd. It allows fullscreen programs to run in a window and can eliminate black windows, among other things. You can find out how to set this up on the Kane & Lynch 2 PCGamingWiki page. I set it up and it worked great. Now I did encounter some bugs. Every now and then the camera would stop peeking over the character’s shoulder so the crosshairs were lined up with his head meaning I couldn’t see what I was shooting at. This happened twice. One cut scene refused to display anything which carried over to the gameplay, forcing me to restart the game. And the only other bug I encountered was dead enemies getting stuck in the environments, usually in the upright position.
Ultimately, I enjoyed Kane & Lynch 2 more than the first game. It definitely has issues but I think the actual core gameplay is a big improvement. The gunplay feels a lot better and I like how the game places a heavy emphasis on the action. The action also feels very contained, mainly due to tight environments which still manage to offer options when it comes to approaches. While the scenarios and situations never really change throughout the story, the pacing remains consistent and it’s just literally non-stop action from beginning to end. Yeah, the story is short and outside of the multiple difficulty modes and co-op functionality, there’s not many reasons to replay through the story mode. But I think the game’s biggest issue is in its visual presentation. While I enjoy the style and look of everything, the obnoxious visual effects are always in your face and don’t let up which I think may or may not bring the game down for some players. I absolutely loved the inclusion of the Arcade mode but wish there was more to it. I can’t say Dog Days is phenomenal but I found it very enjoyable to play. There’s a lot of action games out there, many of which I think are better than this, but there’s not many that manage to capture the style and intensity of the action like Dog Days does. I did look for some mods but couldn’t find any which is disappointing because I would have loved another reason to play through the story again.
I would recommend Kane & Lynch 2 to fans of action games. It’s a short but enjoyable experience that will keep you engaged in the action all the way to the end. I do think the game is a bit underrated but many of the complaints I’ve heard about it are certainly valid like the story mode’s short length and the annoying visual effects. Now I wasn’t able to play the multiplayer but for all I know there could still be players who do play this online and organize games but I can’t confirm. If you can get an online co-op session going, that may prove to be the definitive way to experience the story but if you can’t, playing through it solo can be a lot of fun. Kane & Lynch 2 definitely has flaws but I think it’s a big improvement over the first game and well worth the ten dollar asking price on Steam. Definitely check it out.