Kane and Lynch was a game which was, to put it simply, riddled with problems. Not only was the gameplay problematic, but it also had the shadow of the now infamous Gerstmann-gate (look it up on google) hanging over every review and playthrough of the title. However, in spite of the negative press the game received, IO Interactive has decided to go ahead and release a second game starring the slightly psychopathic duo. The latest title: Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days isn't exactly a bad game, however, the fact that it is short and repetitive holds it back from being a truly good game.
Kane and Lynch 2 drops you into the shoes of a psychopathic thug, Lynch, who has recruited his much more level-headed partner, Kane, to do one last job in Shanghai. However, as is often the case, things go wrong in a hurry, and you soon find yourself on the run from many of the Shanghai underworld's most unseemly characters. One of the first things you'll notice about the game is the camera. For some unexplained reason, you are being followed around by some dude with a cheap camcorder, with the entire game essentially a replay of that film. This means that while playing you will experience all the normal imperfections associated with film: occasional graininess, lens flare, slight skipping, and shaky cam (although it is optional) not excluded. It doesn't really interfere with gameplay, but the camera definitely does add a unique and visceral feel to the game and is, ironically, probably one of the best parts about it.
The rest of the presentation is a little bit hit or miss. In the hit category is definitely the art direction and overall style of the levels. Kane and Lynch's escape will take them through the dingiest alleyways all the way massive corporate high-rises with everything in between. No matter where you are though, there is a certain dirtiness to the environments that make them feel as if Kane and Lynch are totally at home in every area they visit. Also in the positive side were the character models, which are quite realistic, along with the sound design as a whole. However, there were definitely some graphical drawbacks. The animations can get terribly choppy at times, some of the textures can be really low-res, and there is a fair amount of clipping. Taken as a whole, the graphics probably won't impress, but they also won't severly detract from the experience.
Gameplay in Kane and Lynch 2 is classic cover-to-cover shooting action. Getting into and out of cover is accomplished by simply pressing the A button. For the most part the cover mechanism works well, although there is the occasional hiccup, which causes you to inexplicably find yourself out in the open as you desperately try to stick behind a column in order to avoid enemy fire. You will also occasionally have trouble moving along pieces of trouble, casuing you to get unstuck from your protection, albeit briefly. Selecting exactly which cover you want to take is important, as there is also a realistic destructible cover system, which forces you to both keep moving in some parts or risk getting knocked down.
Pixelation of particularly gory parts: a nice touch given the camera
And get knocked down you will, as the enemy AI is very intelligent. Even on medium it was near impossible to just stay in one spot and hope to pick off your adversaries. They'll flank you, get behind you, pin you down, and generally make it very tough for you to dispatch them. Thus, you will need to both select your weapon correctly depending on the situation (although one of the shotguns is a nice catch all) and use your brains as well as your trigger finger to get the drop on your enemy. Thankfully the friendly AI is quite competent at taking out your foes and maneuvering into a superior position. Also, should you get knocked down there is there is the option to shoot your way out of the situation (very convenient in a pinch) or get up into cover. On the whole, the combat in Kane and Lynch 2 is well done and intense, forcing you to both outthink and outgun your enemies on the way to freedom.
Unfortunately, there isn't much variety at all in the missions. Generally, nearly every mission can be summed up as simply "kill all the guys on this street" or "kill all the guys in this warehouse". There are a couple of bright spots, such as an on-rails helicopter shooting segment near the end, but other than that the actual objectives and style in which you complete them aren't really varied at all.
Perhaps in order to make up for this lack of variety in campaign, Square has also included an arcade mode to add increased replay value. This option allows players to give players the Fragile Alliance gametype a shot before going online for multiplayer. For those of you who have not experienced Fragile Alliance before it is a rather unique experience. The goal is simple: to get out alive with the most money. However, this is complicated by the fact that once looting has begun, and players have started to accumulate money, they can be betrayed by any other player and lose their share of the take. The betrayer will then be marked as such, possibly resulting in the other players turning on him/her. Add this to the fact that everyone needs to fight through the police in order to escape, and you have a deliciously complex game mode. In between rounds, the loot you take can then be used to buy weapons Counter-Strike style. The one problem I found with arcade mode is that you play the same level and complete the same pattern of attack continually until you fail, which can get pretty boring.
Playing in arcade mode, the levels become progressively harder until you fail to escape three times total, whether it be by dying or running out of time. In online multiplayer, the number of rounds are limited as is the time. In my experience with Fragile Alliance, it didn't quite live up to its awesome potential, as no one betrayed each other either because they were to nice or they wanted the additional money which is gained by the splitting of the pot which occurs when no one turns rogue. The fact that no one betrayed each other made for a very boring experience, as we would just run downstairs, grab the money, and run out through the cops for eight minutes. That being said, should enough of a ranked community spring up that your alliance truly is fragile, this game mode has the potential to truly be one of the most intriguing around.
Another mode which stands out is undercover cop. In this slight variation of the "get in, get money, get out" theory, your partners in crime will all be working together with the exception of one undercover cop, who is selected at random every round. This player's goal is to stop the crime from happening by killing all of the robbers; however, he can only start taking out criminals once they start taking money. This makes for one of the most nerve-wracking and paranoid gameplay I've ever experienced in multiplayer. Add to this a full deathmatch mode, a pretty decent online co-op mode, a levelling system which opens up new weapons, and metrics which measure your loyalty, and you have a unique multiplayer experience which I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
Co-op is also offered, although it can be hit or miss. First off, for some reason the enemy AI can't deal with two player-controlled people shooting at them, meaning they will randomly just stop while running between cover points. Needless to say, the weaker AI makes the experience less enjoyable, as without the challenge that the enemy poses to you, the game simply becomes boring. Similarly, when playing local co-op the separation of the screens really makes it difficult to focus on everything that is going on, especially if the shakycam is turned on. There is an online mode however, and it functions well enough, although it certainly isn't anything exceptional.
Overall, Kane and Lynch 2 really cannot be considered a bad game. The shooting elements in the singleplayer function well, although there are some glitches, and atmosphere is unlike anything else on the market thanks to a fantastic art style and one-of-a-kind camera. Square Enix has also crafted some compelling multiplayer modes for players to try out. However, unless the multiplayer lives up to its potential, which may be difficult for it to do, Kane and Lynch 2 can only be considered a rental because of the short campaign which is devoid of much level variety and lack of other replay value.