gruntsavage's Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (Xbox 360) review

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Games can not live on graphics alone

 What would you do if your life as you know it was taken away because of one mistake? What if the most powerful crime lord in the country wanted you dead? What would you do if you were trying to review a game that only has one really good quality, but that one this is perfectly executed?

The predicament I'm in doesn't seem so serious now, does it?

In Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days you play as James Lynch, a psychotic ex-convict who's working for a crime boss in Shanghai. Lynch has as good a life as he could want, with a job he excels in and a loving girlfriend. Before long, things start to go downhill when he calls in his old partner, Adam "Kane" Marcus for backup on a high-stakes arms deal. As soon as the duo reunite, things take a wrong turn, then continue to go bad until four hours later when the game is over.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with the good. First and foremost, the best thing about Kane & Lynch 2 is the presentation. The game looks fantastic. Its whole style is that of a homemade video being watched on the internet. Instead of load screens there are “buffering” screens. The camera shakes like it's being held by someone following Lynch through Shanghai (you can turn the shaky cam off if you get motion-sick), and there's a great film grain effect that really makes it look like you're seeing the game through a hand-held camcorder. There are a ton of other visual effects, such as how the video gets distorted when explosions happen nearby, and how nudity and blown-open heads are pixelated out, a la Cops . Multiple times throughout the game I had to remind myself that I wasn't watching a home video. Kane & Lynch 2 excels at looking convincingly low-quality.

Besides the visuals, the game plays like a competent cover-based third-person shooter. You press a button to snap into cover and vault over low walls, and you'll stay in cover and pop out to shoot dudes' heads. You can pick up and throw explosive things like gas canisters, propane tanks, and fire extinguishers (who knew that fire extinguishers blew up so nice?) to use as impromptu grenades, and if you get hit hard enough you'll be “down but not dead”, where you can press a button to get back up. There's a stealth segment or two thrown in, but gameplay-wise, there's not much here that you haven't seen done better elsewhere.

Kane & Lynch 2's story isn't very engaging either. The story is poorly told; you'll get a better idea of the characters and their motivations from reading the manual than you will from the game itself. If, like me, you haven't played the first game, it's hard to care about the characters, even when some seriously rough shit is happening to them. Kane & Lynch 2 took me about three and a half hours to complete, playing on the default difficulty setting, and there is both online and split-screen co-op, though the game is neither fun enough nor outrageous enough to want to replay it for any reason but to mop up some achievements.

The game's got three multiplayer modes: Fragile Alliance, Undercover Cop, and Cops and Robbers. If you've played the first game, you know what Fragile Alliance is about: a team of up to eight players start off as a gang of crooks going for a heist. Their goal is to get in, grab as much cash as possible, and get to an extraction vehicle. The twist is that any player can turn traitor and try to take out the rest of the team in a bid to get all the cash for himself. Undercover Cop is a variant of that, where one player is (you guessed it) and undercover cop whose goal is to stop the crooks from making it out alive. Cops and Robbers is a straight up team based objective game where one team try to rob a bank and the other tries to stop them. The multiplayer is interesting, but forgettable, and doesn't have much lasting appeal.

Kane & Lynch 2 is kind of a one trick pony. The game's story is short and uninspired, the multiplayer, while somewhat interesting, grows old pretty quickly, but the presentation! While it doesn't have as many frames-per-second or polygons as Modern Warfare 2 or MGS4, Kane & Lynch 2 visually is one of the most convincing games I've ever seen. As good as it looks, though, there's just not enough game here to justify $60 for any but the most hardcore of Kane & Lynch fans.  

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