Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a raw and intense third person shooter designed to take players on an visceral story driven experience, following two of gaming's most disturbed criminals through the gritty Shanghai underworld. Introducing a new visual experience, the design of Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days has been inspired by documentary film-makers and the user-generated content era.
Every aspect of the game has been designed to deliver a fresh perspective to the words intensity and realism in videogames. In Kane & Lynch 2, Lynch is now living out his days in Shanghai working with a British criminal called Glazer. Glazer is the boss of a gang that left Europe in search of new ways to expand his criminal empire.
This adult tale begins with Lynch accepting a deal to ship an assortment of munitions to Africa from China with a little help from his old friend, Kane. Ultimately, things turn sour quickly and a bloodbath ensues. Dark, gritty and packed with action, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days will have you on the edge of your seat right from the outset.
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What sets Kane & Lynch apart from the majority of other games out there is that it puts players in the role of violent, morally bankrupt criminals who are only looking out for numero uno. It gives things the tone of a gritty crime-drama. The kind that would usually make for a successful movie. The grimy locations and unsympathetic, scumbag characters who make up this seedy experience allow the title to have a unique sense of style. Where Dog Days stumbles is in it's gameplay, and it's enough to kill the whole package.
The story is presented in a unique found-footage sort of way. It's as if you, the player, are following the leads around with a camcorder. A cool concept, but one that works better in theory than in execution. The grainy visuals and the way the camera shakes when you run do add a sense of believability, but can obscure the action and honestly seems like a way to try and hide the dated graphics. The looks aren't quite up to par with other 2010 games. The plot itself is little more than a "we ticked off everyone" setup. The ending is laughable in it's immediacy. There's a missing final act.
Not that I would've liked to play through any more chapters than what's here. This is some very flawed 3rd-person cover shooting. Most guns feel underpowered, level design if often haphazard, and there were plenty of times where I was getting shot despite being in cover. Mix in the fact that enemies often take way more punishment than they should and you've got a recipe for some frustrating shootouts. What really sucks though is how basic it all feels. Gunfights play out like a slow game of whack-a-mole as you wait for the numbskull, generic-looking enemies to pop their heads out of cover. These certainly aren't the brightest AI combatants out there. I swear their positions are not organic at all. Sections I was forced to retry often found my attackers going to the exact same place they were before I died. When they do have to move locations it all breaks down. They often just run out in the open or take cover beside a barrier instead of behind it, allowing for easy kills. What caused my death more than anything was the shear number of them, along with the fact that sometimes they'll just bumrush you. The campaign simply isn't much fun. Even if you decide to bring a buddy along.
Multiplayer fares a bit better. It really makes use of the whole backstabbing criminal element by allowing you to screw over teammates at any point in the game across all game modes. Unfortunately there's nobody online. This also causes the arcade mode to be rendered practically worthless as well. It puts the larger emphasis on potential treachery in the group, and while you can play with AI, it's just not the same as playing with randoms and constantly looking over your shoulder. You could get some friends together, but that would force all of you to own this crappy game.
With a dull single-player offering that honestly isn't that gritty or shocking in content, flawed gameplay, and a basically dead online component, there isn't much reason to give Dog Days a look. A shame because there is potential here. It's just not capitalized on very well. Instead of a realistic, dark, and disturbingly violent glimpse into what it's like to be on the other side of the law, what we got is an unremarkable 3rd-person shooter. One that's just not worth playing.
As someone who regularly faces much anxiety and a healthy dose of self-loathing, this game is one hell of a mood.
On another note, I’ve always been attracted to the immediacy of digital ever since Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (2006). The rawness of the image’s noise, the intimacy of the angles, the low light vibrancy of the city around our characters allowing little to be shrouded in dark…there is something unmasked about the format. What has always attracted me to the film has been a multitude of factors; but one of it has been its fervent orientation towards the immediate experiences of the people ensnared by roles, expectations, cultural/societal scaffolds, and a whole web of fabrications—all collapsing under the weight of the humanity of its players (only to inevitably regain form). Mann’s camera does wonders to capture this; with its extremely intimate focus on human expressions like the wrap of hands as two bodies embrace in dance, near impressionistic, or the welling gaze of jealousy and repressed sentiment in response. This has limited applicability to this game, of course. Little of Mann’s romanticism and explorations of character psyche are present. Dog Days strips away most of the attraction, intentionally so. Subtract romanticist existentialism for the behaviouralist death-dream.
This game relies more on our association of handheld digital with the More Real than newfound ways to point its camera. It’s a video game after all, most of the pointing comes down to us. And while the game has more so the gross compositional elegance of a David Ayer, or a LiveLeak video, it does retain Mann’s “Time is Luck” ideology through and through. Sans history, sans the future; every second matters to be human…and oh we feel it. The immediacy of feeling, thought and action (a time to be alive). Through omission of context and excited use of the cold cut, the game enters a territory that feels almost alien in this genre. Enemy encounters appear as they disappear, lending the game a tone more akin to a fever dream that we cannot escape. We move from gangsters, to cops, to the military and we don’t bat an eye—accepting this reality through mutual resignation of its players and us. It feels almost…unreal. Yet also More Real. Without context, what propels the game forward is this freneticism of survival—all emotions and (corrupted) intimacy of relationships^ therein—within this transactional world the game enters and leaves, unceremoniously. The characters have no build-up, or deeper characterization, and thus become figureheads. Figureheads indicative of the rot and the peeling back of the veneer of the world around them, bullet by bullet, to expose its malignant cancerous spread. Vindictive, transactional rot; comfortably caressing the human ails at its centre. Blood for blood, blood for money, money for blood.
The gameplay is mechanically unremarkable, with shootouts often imprecise and extremely repetitious without thought to pacing, but this only reinforces the freneticism and exhaustion that occurs remarkably quick under its 4 hours. This constant beating down of the player asks the point of our transactions, despite simulated. What drove me to the end was inexplicable…a drive to see the end, perhaps? An anticipated relief that rewards the tension? It’s only fitting that the game does not provide an end, and instead might even imply that the end can only be as arbitrary as a cold cut away from the filth—to close one’s eyes to the world that the characters inhabit and co-create. The transaction is a spiral and may not end. As figureheads, Kane and Lynch will show up again, in another form, to continue the descent. The games we play, that act on such transaction for some greater purpose, are in question: The greater purpose may be as arbitrary as the cold cut away. One must ask if the game intends for the freneticism of the More Real, and all strength of feeling, to be repurposed to push away from what Dog Days represents. Spark life to end complacency. The player is the third person holding the camera, uninvolved in the proceedings, but open to feeling what the characters may feel with our context in place of theirs. Do what Kane and Lynch cannot and push away from all of the senselessness in our video games. And maybe with other things too.
A death-dream questioning itself.
(^good review here about the nature of the bond between Kane and Lynch: https://www.backloggd.com/u/ludzu/review/148628/)
(we're in a decent spot these days with games)