A history of Kane & Lynch
Let's get one thing straight: I was a fan of the first game, I enjoy games and movies that are realistic in core and don't hold back on the violence, as long as it's within certain limits that eventually make it entertaining or have a good story to tell.
The first Kane & Lynch game was based on some really solid ideas. Michael Mann movies, guys in suits with bags full of money, automatic weapons, urban locations and two main characters who were not your everyday game heroes. I followed every scrap of info that came out, watched every single video tens of times. I was hyped. And then the game came out. The graphics were a bit dated, but some levels like the Tokyo Nightclub were incredible. The gameplay was flawed beyond redemption with faulty hit detection, grenades that blew up cars but didn't damage enemies, a cover system that really didn't work properly. The core was rotten. To add insult to injury, gamers were promised urban warfare but half the game was set in Cuba, in a revolution with jungle warfare that really didn't make any sense and just made the game frustrating. But the story was solid, some parts of the game looked really nice and had an awesome soundtrack by long time IOI fan-favorite, Jesper Kyd. It was a very different game then what the average gamer was used to, not in terms of innovation but in terms of style and a lot of people passed it up because of that. The game featured some great multiplayer components which were again plagued by the gameplay. It had it's ups and downs. I believe that's what the problem was: inconsistency. The dots that were finely crafted and tuned were connected to some of the worst dots created by IO Interactive. A wow was followed by an ugh...
With that out of the way, let's continue on with Dog Days. The first thing to note is that Dead Men's lead game director, Jens Peter Kurup is replaced by Karsten Lund, and his ideas have made the sequel more appealing to a specific group of gamers. Like in the movies, there is a certain style that the game is set on. This is not Hollywood, this is European cinema at it's best, going against the massive flood of games that are just copies of each other. The visual style is in the form of an amateur camera, something you'd watch on the internet that's been recorded with a cheap camera. The developers have included tens of different effects to make the experience click together as a whole. Loading screens look like flash player loading screens, bright lights tend to create flashes on the screen and leave marks, grain and image compression effects keep the screen dynamic while the shaky cam makes you feel like you're really there, in an alley in Shanghai, watching two criminals shoot their way out of an urban nightmare. The sounds also play along the visuals perfectly; loud noises will dampen other sounds, distant urban sounds make you feel like the streets are filled with all sorts of activities, and the voice overs are spot on, both for Kane & Lynch. The swearing seems to have been taken down a notch, but still, there are a lot of f-bombs and swearing going on. This time, they do seem to be hitting the mark, a wall will explode near you and your character will cry out in agony and start swearing as he gets back up. Lynch, a medicated psycopath, will lose control of himself from time to time and start babling out meaningless phrases during intense firefights while Kane will try to snap his "comrade" out of it. The overall presentation is really good, there are little bugs, low-res textures and the alpha maps for Lynch's hair seems to be a little rough around the edges but these are needles in a haystack, you'd have to be crazy to be this picky...
The gameplay has been improved, with the camera now following your character much more closely this time around, like in recent Resident Evil games. The cover system is button-activated, and you vault over, jump out or do SWAT turns while in cover. You can take damage while you're in cover unlike many games as your opponents are usually crack shots and can snipe you from the edges or destroy your cover entirely. Oh yeah. Most of the covers are destructable, including a Chinese restaurant with wooden walls which are completely destructable. Moving and shooting also feel a lot more solid, and the hit detection errors are done away. One thing to note is that this is not Modern Warfare as in the weapons' accuracy is pretty realistic. Anyone who's ever handled a firearm can tell you that you cannot fire the magazine dry down range and hit all the rounds on a single dot. That's what you should expect in Dog Days. Weapons kick back but they feel incredibly realistic while firing, and I personally found it very satisfying. If you think about it, the characters are fighting under extreme circumstances and for a game that's based upon the "real" factor, this is spot on. I should also note that the squad mechanics are out the window. I really don't know what to say about this, as it was one of the core mechanics of the first game. It works fine, but I do miss moments when playing co-op I'd assign a guy to my buddy and we'd work different tactics out. Dog Days in it's gameplay form is much more polished and mainstreamed. This time around, online co-op does exist, obviously as one player controlling James Seth Lynch while the other player controls Adam "Kane" Marcus. I will pass on the Single Player Campaign, it is short but sweet while it lasts. Telling even a bit would give away a ton of spoilers, you have to experience this part on yourself.
The weapons in the game are all based on real life models with similar names to their real life counterparts. You'll come across many popular weapons such as Beretta 92Fs, Sig Sauer P226s, Desert Eagles, Vz.61s, MAC-10s, AKs, shotguns and all the usual suspects plus you'll get to use some authentic Chinese military issue weapons as well. The game does really well in the weapons department, something the first game lacked. I should also note that the game features a Taurus Judge Handgun/Revolver-Shotgun, I believe this is the first game to feature this unique weapon.
Multiplayer is the strongest link of the whole chain that is Dog Days. Fragile Alliance is back, and some new modes are introduced to your liking. The way multiplayer essentially works is like this; there is a crew of eight robbers looking to loot some "data" or money from certain areas in Shanghai. Each player is randomly assigned one of these characters who also appear as characters in the single player campaign, each with their own unique looks, voice and personality. Once you get the money you have to work your way through a horde of AI controlled cops and dogs and reach a van or helicopter that arrives on certain times when you approach the escape zone. When you're downed you lose your money and gear and respawn as a police officer, and now you have to stop the heist and prevent any criminals from escaping. Multiplayer is based on rounds and at the end of each round each player is awarded certain stats based on his/her skills. The money you loot is used to buy new weapons which are unlocked level by level, but each have their own use and are balanced. You may be carrying the standard issue weapons but if you're better than everyone, you can still survive against pretty much anything the game throws at you. At the end of three rounds the game ends, and whoever has the most money wins the game, and gains more score so he can level up. The survivors of each round split the score evenly, so if you're looking to jump up the ladder and keep your money to yourself you can become a traitor by killing a teammate, which labels you as a traitor and puts a reward on your head. Becoming a traitor is rewarding but tough, knowing when to pull the trigger against one of your own takes a good bit of planning. Traitors do not respawn as cops and are labeled unreliable, shifty or other kinds of names in the lobby. Undercover cop game mode selects a random player and makes him an undercover cop whose task is to hunt down the crew while acting like a member, it is certainly one of the best modes ever created, a rush of adrenaline mixed with squad tactics and paranoia, what else could I want? There is also an Arcade mode which is Fragile Alliance with a twist, play to see for yourself.
All in all, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is my favorite game of 2010 so far, and I'm certain that the future of this franchise has been saved. There will be masses who will dislike the game for what it is, this is still Kane & Lynch at it's core, so if the initial concepts that made up the first game doesn't appeal to you, you should pass. Everyone else, welcome to the Alliance!