That shit was bananas.
When I first picked up the controller with Kane and Lynch 2, I really had zero expectations. Not only had I never played the original due to mediocre reviews and the far reaching "Gerstmann-gate", but I also wasn't particularly familiar with the titular characters. Lemme tell you something, the first tutorial level didn't really make me feel too great in getting involved. I fumbled with the somewhat unintuitive default control scheme but made my way through a fast paced chase as the balding, pot-bellied Lynch, which was highlighted by an impressive visual style. Then there was an unexpected climax from is intro level that left my jaw on the floor and I was certainly sold on the hooks.
The campaign sent me through "48 hours of hell" in Shanghai with so many story twists that I came to expect people would shoot me in the back. The whole idea is that your buddy Kane has flown in for a final job which should result in enough cash to leave his criminal past behind forever and go live with his daughter. Of course like any crime tale, things go to hell pretty quickly for an unknown reason, Lynch's love interest Xiu gets involved, and there's several bits of "goddamn" moments that take place. IO certainly does a great job at making you feel like you don't know what's going on, as well as throwing some taboo topics at you. I'm willing to bet that there are scenes in this game you haven't seen before in the interactive medium. The squeamish should not apply.
Probably the most uninteresting part of Kane and Lynch 2 is its gameplay. You've been here and done it many times in the past with standard third person cover mechanics, complete with online and offline cooperative play. You'll be able to stick to bits of cover if the game decides to let you, then you can pop up or out with the left trigger with a light touch magnetic targeting. Sometimes you'll get knocked down and be able to crawl your way to cover while shooting at your enemies. Levels consist of narrow hallways followed by big open areas full of shoulder height bits of cover. Thankfully, at least all of the areas are interesting and cool. You'll be able to carry two weapons at any time with the option to grab and throw some environmental explosives like fire extinguishers. Certain guns like the MAC-10 feel particularly ineffectual due to their spray and weak power, while other shotgun style weapons are far too powerful and accurate (I shouldn't be able to take out an enemy with one shot from across a room with them). Still, there's plenty of different implements to deal your death and it just takes some experimentation to figure out what fits your fancy.
The entire game is presented like you're watching some sort of underground snuff film. Instead of having some omniscient, free floating camera behind the player, IO has decided to make it seem like someone is following you with a crappy camcorder the whole time. There's bad lens flair, blood on the lens, color separation, and plenty of additional movement as the "cameraman" gives chase behind Lynch. This style is pervasive, from the menu icons to the loading screens that seem like you're just waiting for a buffer off the internet. The coolest effect they added with throwing a mosaic pixelization on top of things that are too hot for TV. Genitals will be blurred out, as well as those times you shoot someone in the face which gives the impression that it's way more gruesome than what you've seen before. If the shaky camera is a bit too much intense for your intestines to handle, you can turn it off, but the other visual effects remain on all the time.
Unfortunately, with the mess that is Shanghai there's a bunch of annoying niggles that really detract and take you out of the experience. You're supposed to be able to take human shields at any time but it's restricted to enemies and often straight up just doesn't work. Certain bits of cover aren't usable despite them looking perfectly valid. If you die multiple times and reload to the previous checkpoint, you'll get to hear whatever piece of dialog was just spoken repeated again and again. Sometimes you'll lose full animations when swapping weapons, or that awesome blood splatter on the wall will have a hard edge due to a stupid texture seam. All of these detract from the immersion quite a bit.
Once the fairly short campaign is taken care of and you hit the unfortunately lame conclusion, there are three multiplayer modes waiting for your attention. They've even added a training mode dubbed 'Arcade'. With Fragile Alliance, you'll join up to seven other players and be thrown into a scenario which tasks you with doing variations on a smash and grab heist: Get in, get the loot, get away. If you get gunned down you'll may respawn as an opposing force or just have to wait till the round is over. Biggest thing here is that friendly fire is always on and at any time a teammate can turn into a greedy prick, stealing your piece of the pie and your life away. It creates a interesting dynamic as you're never entirely sure if you'll all work together nicely or not, but doing it to much will alter your persistant title letting people know you're a backstabber. Between rounds you'll be able to jump into a purchase menu, letting you grab some upgraded firepower options with the cash you earned in previous rounds.
The other two modes are mild variations of Fragile Alliance. Undercover Cop is exactly the same as Fragile Alliance, however one of the criminals will always be chosen to play as... you guessed it, an undercover police man guy, tasked with stopping the heist in progress. Lastly, there's a more competitive mode called Cops and Robbers which throws two teams of six against each other. While the core is completely solid and a ton of fun, the limited number of maps and complete lack of customization options feels like it may be a short lived affair. It's obvious that we'll see more maps in the future considering there's three of them visible right now with a fat "You are missing required downloadable content" message. Also, some of the weapons you have the option of buying mid-round are locked out due to that pesky DLC virus.
Kane and Lynch 2 isn't a perfect game by any stretch but I'd totally be lying if I said I didn't have a ton of fun playing both the campaign and multiplayer modes. The camcorder approach to the in-game camera really gives it a unique look that never gets old and thankfully didn't throw my in knots or make me dizzy. If you're looking for a brutal, visceral experience with solid cover based shooting mechanics then this should certainly tide you over until Gears of War 3. Just be sure to put the kids to bed.
- Camcorder visual presentation adds a needed and awesome layer of interest to the standard gameplay mechanics.
- Brutal and unapologetic, but in a good way.
- Fragile Alliance is pretty awesome.
- Fairly weak ending to a generally exciting story.
- Plenty of spots could have used another coat of paint or polish.
- DLC based multiplayer maps are already in the menus... That angers me.