Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is one of the more baffling sequels to come along in some time. When it was first announced, I recall a lot more confusion than excitement. Plus the whole Jeff Gerstmann thing had really tainted the entire brand, automatically associating it with shady business practices and a dark period for game journalism in general. Not to mention, I never really encountered anyone who truly loved the first game.
As bizarre as its existence may be, here we are a week after the game’s release and having played through it, I can confirm that it definitely exists. I did play through the first game a couple years back and although I felt it had a few good ideas and some solid multiplayer, the shooting wasn’t satisfying and the game generally wasn’t much fun to play.
So here we are three years later and after finishing the sequel I can tell you that it has a few good ideas and some solid multiplayer, but overall the shooting isn’t satisfying and the game generally isn’t much fun to play. Ah how little has changed.
In Dog Days you play as Lynch, who, along with Kane, is part of an arms deal in Shanghai that ends up going south. How is the situation dealt with? By shooting hundreds and hundreds of people as you make your way from checkpoint to checkpoint. If it sounds like I’m short-changing the story, it’s just because there is barely even a story to discuss. There is less plot here than the first game, and what you have is painfully generic and woefully uninteresting.
Remember how one of the big hooks with the first game was the idea that you were playing as the bad guys? How one of the main characters was a complete psychopath who will gun down an entire room of hostages, under the belief they were cops? That’s all gone now. One of the few novel ideas of the first game is now virtually non-existent. Kane and Lynch are still bad people, but no longer in any sort of interesting way. Lynch has gone from “raging lunatic” to “kind of a jerk.” They weren’t overly interesting characters before, but now they’re just bland.
Of course story and characters can sometimes be overlooked in an action game so long as the action itself is exciting. Sadly Kane and Lynch 2 can’t make that claim either. The game isn’t inherently terrible, but it’s never what I would call fun. The entire experience is just so mundane. You run into an area, get behind cover, shoot everybody in the room, run to the next area, and it just continues on like that from beginning to end. Not once do they do anything to switch it up, not a single time. By the second level, hell by the second checkpoint, you will know exactly what’s in store for you for the rest of the game.
Even this could be forgiven if the shooting was solid, but it really isn’t. Some of the weapons are fun to use, such as the shotgun that is eerily powerful at long range, but for the majority of them, you don’t really get any sense of satisfaction from taking guys down. I also found myself far too often wondering if my shots had actually killed a guy. I would have to wait several seconds to see if he would pop back up again, or if he was really down. For a game focused entirely on wiping out rooms full of bad guys, it’s a damn shame you won’t derive any joy from doing so.
Of course I do have to mention the one unique thing the game does have going for it – the visual style. No doubt you’ve already seen the videos and screenshots that depict all of the different filters and effects that the game employs, but it’s one of the few positive things I can highlight here. The whole game has this bizarre Youtube video quality look that gives the impression someone is filming your every move. They never explain it and no context is ever given, so it’s really there just to look cool, but hey what can I say, it does look really cool.
If you’re going to play Kane and Lynch 2, and I personally don’t believe you should, then the multiplayer should be the main draw. Here is where the fun lies. There are three different modes to choose from – Cops and Robbers, Fragile Alliance, and Undercover Cop. Cops and Robbers is the least interesting of the three as it is essentially Team Deathmatch, but the other two can be quite enjoyable.
Fragile Alliance returns from the first game and has you and seven others going into a location to steal money. At any point, one of your teammates could turn on you, gun you down and take your share of the loot. This brands them as a traitor and then it’s open season on them. This mode was fun in the first game, and continues to be fun here. It can make for a fairly tense experience knowing that anyone could turn the tables on you at any second.
However I found Undercover Cop to be the mode I kept going back to. Here, you again have seven people with you as you go in to perform a heist. However one of these people is selected as the undercover cop and it is their mission to gun down everybody else. So as the undercover cop you have to do your best to make it look as though you’re part of the team, as you try and divide everybody up and methodically wipe all of them out. I found it was more fun to not be the cop as it’s interesting to watch everybody’s paranoia rise, and it’s always great when somebody panics and ends up gunning down the wrong person. Overall, this is easily the most fun I had with the game.
There is also an Arcade mode that allows you to go through Fragile Alliance missions with bots instead of human players. It’s a pleasant enough diversion so it’s cool that this mode is here.
The downside to all of this is that even though the multiplayer can be fun, you’re still dealing with the same issues with the shooting mechanics that you were in the Campaign. Thankfully the ideas behind the modes themselves do help to make up for it a little, but it still feels like you should often be enjoying yourself more than the game is allowing you to.
Overall Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days did little to rejuvenate the franchise in my eyes. The Campaign is four to five hours of mindless shooting that is not the least bit satisfying, and those problems carry over to the multiplayer, which granted does have some perks. Unless you loved loved LOVED the first game, I wouldn’t bother.