by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
I really enjoyed the original Kane & Lynch. Sure, the graphics were a few years behind, the controls could have been better and it lacked online co-op. And there was that whole Gerstmann-Gate thing, which actually left me feeling more sorry for the game’s developer than incensed at CNET, GameSpot, or Eidos. After that, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men couldn’t be judged objectively; IO Interactive and its work were caught in the crossfire.
But independent of all that criticism and controversy, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men features a solid story that borrows from some riveting films, including Heat and Ronin. It takes you to a variety of locations all offering novel gameplay experiences and it offers a fitting and memorable lose-lose end-game choice. And its title characters – Kane, the badass who will do anything for his family, and Lynch, the unstable psychotic who’s supposed to keep Kane in check – are some of the most well developed characters in any videogame.
Like I said, I really enjoyed Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, so I had high hopes for Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. Unfortunately, in most categories, these hopes were agonizingly crushed. In others, they were gloriously exceeded.
Stop Taking Damage!
Dog Days offers little variety in gameplay. As Lynch, you have a gun and you can take cover. It’s a simple, familiar system complicated by enemies that are much better combatants than you. They take more damage, are better shots and use cover very effectively, while Lynch likes to leave half of his body vulnerable at all times. Kane is no help either, at least when it comes to getting kills. His sole purpose is to act as a bullet sink, absorbing absurd amounts of damage while dealing none. I suppose that helps in a way: When enemies are shooting him, they aren’t shooting you.
Kane & Lynch 2 also offers a gruesome human shield mechanic that the original lacked, but it isn’t practical except in a few predetermined circumstances. Even when you do make use of it, enemies excel at avoiding the shield and hitting you. Flanking, and hoping the enemy doesn’t notice, is the best way to stay alive. Throwing and shooting gas canisters and other explosive containers also helps. But the endless waves of super-accurate enemies will make you want to put the controller down – or in my case, the keyboard and mouse – regardless of how well you play. Lynch explains it best during one prolonged battle: “Ah fuck! This never ends!” Which is ironic considering how quickly the game ends.
After completing Dog Days’ single-player campaign, I looked at my Steam profile (the PC version of Kane & Lynch 2 is powered by Steamworks). It told me I had played for 3.6 hours. Take a second to absorb that. The game lasted 3.6 hours from beginning to end. Sadly, a good chunk of that was spent watching the end credits.
I’m never one to complain about a game’s length. I would happily pay more for a 5-hour engrossing experience than a 40-hour monotonous drone. A game’s length typically has no bearing on its actual worth, despite popular sentiments to the contrary. However, given its length, Kane & Lynch 2 definitely lacks the scope of its predecessor. The mystery and complexity of Dead Men has been replaced by a very straightforward yarn centered on revenge and torturing the title duo as much as possible. That’s not to say the game isn’t exciting. IO definitely makes good use of the game’s limited time, narratively at least. In fact this is where Dog Days shines, especially on that bit about torturing.
A Thousand Cuts
Probably the game’s most controversial feature, independent of its length, is the sequence titled A Thousand Cuts. If you’re not familiar, it features Kane and Lynch running through Shanghai nude and looking like a dozen chefs just used their skins as cutting boards. It’s bold and it’s daring. In fact, I’m surprised Fox News hasn’t done a segment on it yet.
Regardless, A Thousand Cuts works well within the story. It makes sense that Kane and Lynch are subjected to such torture after what they did, and it is acceptable that they escape bloodied and naked. But it does get absurd. I mean, how long can two severely lacerated and nude men run around before they finally collapse from blood loss? They scurry through a bus terminal, gun down cops in the street, and combat Chinese SWAT in a shopping mall. They pass multiple shops, some of which, I’m sure, contain a pair of sneakers and a hoodie. They kill many people, all of whom have pants and socks. In between all this, why can’t the two put some clothes on? How ‘bout a Band-Aid?
Just as I’m ready to relegate A Thousand Cuts to the videogame-designers-think-we’re-all-idiots column next to No Russian, I’m treated to a cutscene that acknowledges the absurdity of the situation and reveals more about the title characters. Lynch breaks down. He gives up, sobs, and accepts his impending death. Suddenly, I start to care.
Engrossing story and characters, striking visual style.
Combat needs work, very brief campaign.