by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
A Thousand Cuts (cntd)
Kane and Lynch are criminals, murderers, scumbags. I know this. They brought this shit storm on themselves and deserve everything they have been through. But I care about them, especially Lynch, because IO Interactive has done a brilliant job of developing one humanizing element that keeps Lynch connected to his sanity. IO used a similar tactic in Dead Men by toying with Kane’s daughter, but the developer does an even better job in Dog Days with Lynch and his relationship.
I don’t think I’ve been this connected to a videogame character since that ethereal girl who was always holding my hand in Ico. Every time she jumped across a cavern, my heart leapt into my throat. Every time a shadow creature took hold of her, I was ready to hack its head off with my stick.
After seeing Lynch break down, I was pissed off and ready to exact some revenge. What, you only cut me a thousand times? Shit. That’s part of my daily workout. Gimme a gun. Gimme some ammo. Listen to the sound my gun makes when I cock it. Now, get ready for some real blood loss. This is why videogames need good stories and interesting characters. Solid writing motivates you to actually play the game; it keeps you invested from one level to the next. After A Thousand Cuts, I was definitely invested. I was ready to furiously click my left mouse button many, many times, which is a real triumph for IO considering Dog Days’ poor combat and short length.
The writing isn’t the only thing that keeps you invested – Kane & Lynch 2’s visual style is exceptional. The in-game camera shakes wildly when Lynch runs, colors smear into each other on the overexposed screen, lens flares wash out small details, and clingy water droplets blur everything. It all suggests a cheapness that lends reality to the low-polygon-count models of Kane and Lynch. I’m pretty sure IO Interactive inserted Paul Greengrass into the game with that device from Tron and told him follow Lynch around with a camcorder.
This style is at its best on the streets of Shanghai where the fluorescent storefront lighting suggests a sickening sterility that matches the apathy of bystanders but contradicts the feeling of filth that covers everything. It’s brilliant.
But not all locations offer the lived-in grime of the city streets. Kane and Lynch journey to warehouses and train yards that are so generic and uninspired not even Paul Greengrass’ direction can make them appealing. There is one sequence in the top floors of a crumbling skyscraper – a few too many helicopters tried to land inside of it – that is particularly striking. Even so, the city streets are the game’s visual triumph.
We’re Not Friends
Kane & Lynch 2 offers a few multiplayer modes best experienced with strangers given the prevalent themes of backstabbing and double-crossing. In principle, the Fragile Alliance and Undercover Cop modes are interesting, but the PC version’s controls are as erratic as any console-to-PC port. Dodgy aim isn’t problematic when going up against AI-controlled enemies, but it quickly proves frustrating when playing against other humans. The cover system is equally frustrating in multiplayer too.
A welcome addition to the PC version of Dog Days is online co-op. Dead Men lacked this feature, which didn’t really concern me since I didn’t feel it was appropriate – Lynch is supposed to unstable, unpredictable, and uncontrollable; having someone actually control him ruins that. Just because you have an in-game partner doesn’t mean an in-life friend should be controlling him. But since Dog Days has you controlling Lynch from the outset, why not bring a friend to be the more stable and accessible Kane? The combat is definitely more bearable when you have a partner that can actually hit enemies.
Movie or Game?
So, frustrating combat and a short length, but engrossing writing and striking visuals. Kane & Lynch is a series that flaunts its many cinematic influences, so much so it seems like IO focused on making Dog Days a good movie rather than a good game. In fact, if it were a film, it would be pretty damn good. Hey, maybe that means the movie with Bruce Willis and Jamie Foxx will be good… Probably not.
Anyway, unfortunately for IO, Dog Days isn’t a film, it’s a videogame. But that’s not to say its filmic qualities aren’t welcome. I believe Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days has many elements that all videogame developers should pay attention to: Plot, characters, writing – they’re all important in games. And experiment with artistic styles and how players perceive the game. The final shot in Dog Days, right before the credits roll, is a playful and welcome acknowledgement of the game’s novel visuals and Paul Greengrass’ presence in the game.
But fundamental to all games is, you know, the gameplay. Without something strong in that department, how far can you really go? Well, pretty far I guess since I really like Dog Days. But still, gameplay is important, and Kane & Lynch 2 could have been a much more enjoyable experience had IO focused on it more.
Engrossing story and characters, striking visual style.
Combat needs work, very brief campaign.