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First Impressions: Kane & Lynch 2

The next game from Io Interactive was in our office and we lived to tell the tale.

As game developers attempt to find new ways to make gun combat seem more violent and frightening than ever before, it's only natural that the camera has started to go through a lot of changes. Some games try to make things shaky and unstable, attempting to reflect the unpredictable movement and frantic feel of documentary footage. Io Interactive's latest, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, is taking that grimy feel one step further with a series of video filters that gives the action a lo-fi intensity that makes it hard to look away. Representatives for Io and Square-Enix dropped by our office earlier this week to show off a couple of levels and talk a bit about the setup. 

 Bright lights will cause the image to streak, explosions will cause it to pixelate.
 Bright lights will cause the image to streak, explosions will cause it to pixelate.
Perhaps the biggest change this time is that Dog Days is Lynch's story, with players playing as Lynch in single-player games. At the outset, Lynch and his onetime associate Kane have separated. Lynch lives in Shanghai, has a girlfriend named Xiu, and rolls with a crew of smalltimers pulling lightweight crimes. When his crew stumbles onto a potentially huge job, Lynch decides to call in some backup by contacting Kane. Kane, for his part, sees the big job as a way to end his criminal career, and makes plans to send whatever money he makes to his daughter. Of course, things don't exactly go according to plan, and the game focuses on a short period--like a couple of days, tops--as the reunited duo get into, out of, and back into trouble.

Dog Days ditches the squad tactics from the first game, which feels like a wise move. Though we weren't able to play it, we were told that a lot of work has gone into making the shooting feel a lot better than it did in the previous game. Both of these changes seem pretty key, as both were very much in your way during the first game. Without the squad, Dog Days focuses more on direct action, and the end result looks a lot like other co-op-based third-person shooters, like Army of Two: The 40th Day, which, weirdly enough, also takes place in Shanghai. Though grenades are no longer a part of the Kane & Lynch universe, you can grab fire extinguishers and toss them at enemies while shooting them to create an improvised explosion.

Lynch probably needs his pills. 
Lynch probably needs his pills. 
Other gameplay mechanics include a "down not dead" system that, sort of like other third-person shooters, puts you in a downed state if you take too many hits. It sounds like you'll be able to recover on your own if you can get behind some cover and not take damage for awhile, though as it's a co-op shooter, you can obviously get a little help from your partner, as well. Also, the fragile alliance mode, which was the online multiplayer in the first game, will return in K&L2.

So far, the game looks like it fits into the co-operative third-person shooter (with cover!) subgenre just fine. But its visual style really sets it apart. It goes beyond basic film grain and other types of camera noise in favor of digital noise that makes the whole thing look like it was shot on a pretty average digital camera. Bright lights totally blow out the view, causing big bands of color to streak down the frame. When you take damage to see violent explosions, the view violently pixelates like the camera is having trouble capturing the image due to the force of the blast. It's an amazingly effective visual style that makes everything look very intense. There's nothing quite like it.

So, yes, I'm very interested to learn more about Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, thanks for asking. Of course, I would have said that about the first game before it was released, too. We'll probably get to see the game again in a couple of months, and it's still scheduled to be released sometime in the second quarter of 2010.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+