Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days
‘How NOT to Look Good Naked.’
Dog Days is a dirty, filthy game. Seriously, saying this is ‘gritty’ is tantamount to saying Nitro-glycerine is ‘a little bit dangerous’. The eponymous unbalanced scumbags are back, this time gunning their way through the criminal underworld of Shanghai, and every effort has gone into making it both impressive and disgusting at the same time.
The game-play pretty much remains the same as it was in the last Kane and Lynch (2006’s Dead Men), only this time the whole system feels a lot more refined. The context in which you move into and around cover feels very responsive, and I rarely ran into any problems trying to navigate around the different types of cover. The shooting is functional, if a little tightened up since Dead Men. You point your gun at a guy, and he dies. Job done. Guns and bullet-impacts feel nice and heavy, and this is most evident in the rounds that hit you. Get Lynch tagged one too many times and the force will knock him onto his ass, leaving you to crawl into cover to get away. This helps to assert the vulnerability of these guys, and how chaotic the gunfights themselves are. Speaking of vulnerability, the NPC AI leaves a lot to be desired, especially in Kane. The squad mechanics of the first game have been wiped clean out for this sequel ( a good move on IO Interactive’s part) but this also means that the AI is left to make it’s own decisions on where to go during gunfights, often leading to Kane running in circles in front of you, or getting himself stuck in corners firing off magazines into a wall.
A worrying trend has appeared in games lately of ‘tagged-on’ multiplayer in games that don’t necessarily need them. Kane and Lynch has it’s own multiplayer, but rather than knock out some broken death match or capture the flag modes, it has genuinely tried to create a very unique
experience, and is mostly successful. ‘Fragile Alliance’ sees you and a group of players work together to pull off a heist, but at any moment during the actual looting and escape, you can opt to become a traitor by killing your team-mates and stealing their share of the bounty. This comes at a price however, because the surviving members will know you’ve gone rogue and will try to kill you at the nearest opportunity.
This may seem unfair for people who get killed straight away, but if that happens, downed players will re-spawn as one of the cops attempting to foil the robbery and can get revenge that way. This makes for a very tense relationship with your team, and unleashes waves of paranoia I never thought I was capable of. There were a few issues where grudges carry over across rounds. Some guy you turned traitor on in the last round would remember and pop a shotgun shell in your head within seconds. But even then, there is no sweeter taste than coming back as a cop and taking him out.
Even though it plays somewhat competently and does what it says on the tin in terms of expectation, the real draw with this game isn’t the way it plays. It’s in the way it looks. Put simply, Dog Days looks unlike anything else around. Some very risky decisions were made in terms of style that raise the bar on how third-person shooters could be made to look. Our ‘heroes’ journey is all captured in the style of realistic ‘found footage’, very much in the same vein as films like Cloverfield or [REC]. This unconventional style is achieved by changing one simple thing; instead of having a fixed camera, you’ve essentially got your own cameraman following you around.
The authenticity of this Youtube-esque appearance is hammered home every step of the way with little touches here and there. Light bounces off the camera, causing colour band effects stretching down the screen in bright areas, explosions will cause the visuals to freeze up and disrupt the feed, even close-range headshots end in the resulting mess being pixellated out. My favourite thing, however, was the fact that when you took a killing blow, it wasn’t always Lynch that dies. Sometimes the cameraman would drop dead instead, and you could still see Lynch fighting as the camera drops to the ground. All very satisfying, and impressive in the way it’s handled.
Visceral is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the saturated shooter market, but this is one of the only games I’ve played that can justify the use of it. In one particular section, the two titular bullet-magnets get themselves captured and tortured, resulting in a body full of painful looking cuts and a bare-ass naked trek through the streets of Shanghai in search of some ill-fitting clothes. I suppose what I’m trying to say is this: Dog Days constantly looks like total shit, but in the best possible way. That being said, beauty is only skin-deep after all, and if you strip away the gimmicky but impressive design work then this sequel is very much the same generic cover-based grind it always has been. Io Interactive strive for a very realistic experience, even right down to the panicked and foul-mouthed dialogue, but when you’re controlling a medicated psychopath who’s shooting down helicopters and taking out armies, it’s hard to forget you’re still just playing a game.
The bottom line: If you want something to fill the time between bigger name games, you could do a lot worse than immersing yourself in Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days and it‘s filthy, seedy little world.