New camera -- same dirty face
The return of Kane and Lynch doesn't feel anymore extraordinary than their first foray in gaming. Tweaks to the game's core structure has certainly made it more accessible, but lingering issues still reside.
Much of what plagued the first Kane and Lynch was the lack of consistency in the gameplay. The sequel is effectively able to rid the series of the horrid and misused cover system found in Dead Men. The 'sticky' cover system was broken, but Dog Days replaces it with a hard button press. This new cover system is by no means perfect, and I still had problems with staying on the walls and other objects, but initially getting up to the wall is much less of a headache than it once was. Dog Days also fixes some of the hit detection problems I encountered with the first Kane and Lynch. Enemies still eat clips after clips of ammo, but at least it gives you consistent feedback that the enemies are being penetrated by the bullets. The weapons also feel immensely better and the game gives great force feedback on all the weapons. Assault rifles are so ever so satisfying and a joy to tear through the enemies.
Creating a remorseful story or deep characters were never really a big concern in Dead Men, and we see no real turn around here. Any attempts to personify Lynch fall flat and it is hard to relate to him or his girlfriend, who is essentially non-existent in visual form. It's a mix of revenge that eventually turns into survival and the best that can be said about it is that it gives some reason to go from checkpoint to checkpoint. The ending kind of feels like a slap in the face, but it sort of fits what I expected. If nothing else it will give you a chuckle with your potential co-op partner.
Shanghai is theoretically a great place to bring the series, but the game never effectively turns its environments into effective levels. Sweatshops and a Chinese restaurant are really the only non derivative locations and besides that you wouldn't know if the airport, factory, or high rise was set in China, America, or Germany. Shanghai is able to lend its grit and grime feel to what Kane and Lynch tries to achieve, but we never see anything exciting or inventive. Even if Dead Men was essentially broken, it still had had some memorable and overall exciting levels. I'll remember the bank heists and prison outbreak from the first Kane and Lynch, but I don't think anything from Dog Days even remotely matches these.
The game isn't a technical masterpiece, but the main characters look good and it conveys the dirty style of Shanghai quite nicely. Framerate stayed consistent throughout much of the game, and the only slowdowns I would get would be on split-screen using the helicopter's mini-guns. Dog Days deserves some credit for its visual style. The game uses a documentary type of camera similar to movies like the Blair Witch Project of Cloverfield. It never gets that violently shaky, but it adds an interesting feel when running or taking sharp corners. It can feel a bit disorienting when having hard stops with your character, but if you don't like the feeling you can turn it off in the options. With the shaky cam comes some cool lens effects as well. There always seems to be some sort of colored glare from the lenses and a lasting gritty layer stays throughout the game. I don't advocate every game to take this style, but it certainly adds a unique feel. In the case of Kane and Lynch it blends very well with what the game tries to convey.
Both voice actors reprise their roles for Kane and Lynch. I never had a problem with either of them, but the dialogue isn't exactly thought provoking or Shakespearean in structure. Lynch plays a more toned back version of himself this time around so the range we get to see is scaled back. The original music tracks are one of the game's brightest spots. It features some moody soft music that works eerily with the game.
One of the best ideas that made it from the first Kane and Lynch to Dog Days is the Fragile Alliance multiplayer. Many games try to incorporate multiplayer, but all too often it is just a mix of capture the flag and death match variants. The problem is that most games just don't play to their strengths and are dominated in these areas by high profile first-person shooters because they just lend themselves better to the types of gameplay. Kane and Lynch uses what it has to its advantage. Fragile alliance is essentially a team game where the player can turn at the drop of a hat and betray all of the other members in the lobby. The advantage is clear for the betrayer, they get to keep more loot and a larger share, but is it worth the risk of losing the trust of the team? The multiplayer is always tense and you never quite know who you can trust. Dog Days doesn't add anything really new to the formula, but it refines the raw mechanics that were presented in Dead Men. Some better character tracking, weekly challenges, and new maps are all new additions. Fragile Alliance was the best part of Dead Men and it is still the strongest part of the sequel. It is still a little light on content and I'd love to see larger maps, better and more varied AI, and even more content, but its a solid progression and its good to see they haven't strayed from making it better.
Cops and Robbers and Undercover Cop were two additions to Kane and Lynch's multiplayer repertoire. These modes aren't the attraction that Fragile Alliance is, but they're a nice addition to the mix. It is unfortunate they are already being thinned out, and Fragile Alliance is really the only consistent game mode that you can find on a regular basis. Arcade mode is a new edition and is an alternative to the online modes. It is essentially Fragile Alliance with bots as your teammates. The only problem is that it takes out the human aspect and your AI teammates never double cross you during the game. This results in a less tense and repetitive alternative to playing online.
Kane and Lynch might be a hard sale for anyone who isn't interested in the unique multiplayer. It's a short game, very short. I finished it in about four to five hours on the hard difficulty. There is an additional difficulty and the addition of online co-op may give you incentive to play with a friend, but overall there isn't heaps of content here. Arcade mode also doesn't provide enough of a lasting appeal or to warrant a $60 price tag.
For every step forward Dog Days seems to take, it also takes a step back. The campaign is shorter and less memorable, but it has a very distinct sound and visual design. I liked some of the direction they took in the sequel, but it is hard to warrant a purchase with a slim amount of content. If the Fragile Alliance multiplayer interests you in the least, I would highly suggest giving it a look.