Kane & Lynch 2 – dirty, dirty hands-on

Right away, we’re certain that Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days’ “gritty” shaky-cam look is going to divide players. We’re actually divided inside our own brains. Throughout our recent hands-on, we alternated between really digging the unique look, and also being annoyed by it. There’s no question that it’s refreshing in a videogame context – even though we’ve all seen this visual style plenty of times in movies, it’s arresting to see it in a game, and gives the scenes of running through the narrow alleys of Shanghai a frantic, desperate feel.

Above: Nothing says "desperate and frantic" like sporting a male-pattern-baldness mullet, a wife-beater and sunglasses during a highway shootout

They’ve also absolutely nailed the subtle effects created by a real, low-res camcorder – lens flares abound, but not in a pretty, forced way, instead shifting in a muted kaleidoscope across the screen, catching artifacts of Shangai’s gaudy lights and television sets. Dust clings to the camera, and during the day, the sky washes out to near white, perfectly capturing the effect of a camcorder that can’t handle contrast. In certain respects, the visual style re-creates reality on a level not captured in games before.

However, there’s the other side to this approach, and one that some players probably will have trouble getting past: the filter also creates a barrier between you and the game world, and can feel intrusive. During cutscenes the camera wobbles a bit too much – and this is coming from movie goers’ perspectives who aren’t usually bothered by shaky cam. While we were playing, a coworker looked on and said, “Is it supposed to look like that?” To which we replied, “Like what?”

“Like shit,” was the answer. Indeed, even if the filter effects look fine, peering beyond them at the game’s “true” graphics reveals textures and character models that appear distinctly low-res, and it makes us wonder if the grainy picture doesn’t give the devs an excuse to say, “Eh, don’t worry if these textures look like crap, no one will be able to tell.” Yet at the same time, it all feels appropriate to the subject at hand: it’s an ugly game, with ugly heroes in ugly situations.

Above: Ugly

Why have we spent so much time talking about the visuals? Because players who couldn’t stand Cloverfield or The Blair Witch Project purely due to the shaky cam may have a real problem with K&L 2. However, luckily we found a “steadicam” option which completely shuts off the shaking during gameplay (but not cutscenes, where it annoys the most, and it doesn't turn off the camcorder filter).

That aside, let’s get on to the gameplay. We’ve covered two of the single-player missions before, so this time we’ll focus on two more missions we hadn’t seen yet. The first one, called Welcome to Shanghai, is naturally the first mission. We don’t want to spoil anything, so we’ll just say that it involves a pretty cool chase sequence through claustrophobic apartments, a run across corrugated tin rooftops, and a scramble down through the kind of street shops you know sell fake iPods and a hundred thousand pirated DVDs. We must say, having been to China, that the environments are dead-on at capturing the look of the streets and buildings. There are lovely details like stacks of plastic chairs, hanging laundry, and piles of garbage bags that instead of looking generic really give a sense of an actual, lived-in city.

Above: Even the attempts at glitzy lighting have that low-rent feel - just look at the haphazardly stacked air-conditioning units poking out everywhere

We’re not totally convinced by the shooting – it feels a bit random. Automatic guns have a huge cone of fire, leading to almost total inaccuracy at annoyingly short ranges. We sprayed entire clips at enemies perhaps fifty feet away and missed every shot. Yet the shotguns seem to have more range. It's also difficult to tell sometimes if you're being effective against enemies - a headshot usualy downs them, but sometimes not. Many times we blasted a guy in the face and assumed he was dead, only to have him magically pop up from cover, still fighting on. The game has a feedback mechanism built into the UI - a little X appears in the exact place you hit an enemy, but it needs this element because enemy reactions aren't clear, and even with the hit indicators, fights can be confusing as to whether you've killed someone or not. The cover could also use some tuning, as we often found ourselves getting shot even though we were behind cover.

The other new mission we got to play is called Blood, Sweat & Tears – which takes the “sweat” part logically into an actual sweatshop. We guess it’s a pretty easy target, if you’re basing your game in China, to have a sweatshop as a level. Yet at the same time, just as with real sweatshops, the term doesn’t really convey the proper impact until you see the actual thing in front of you. We hear about sweatshops all the time, but it’s not until we see pictures or video that the inhumane treatment really hits you. Here, Kane & Lynch scrabble through a maze of sewing machines, hair-net wearing workers, and stacks of blue jeans – a perfect reminder for where those living in the cushy West get those discounted denims.

Above: "Don't mind us, ma'am, we just need to clean out a few rats"

Of course, what social commentary that might come across could easily lose prominence when a hundred goons with uzis come bursting through the doors. Still, at the very least it captures a mood not typically found in videogames – it’s more than “gritty,” it’s desperate, broke-ass, rock-bottom nastiness. Perhaps some will find it depressing, but it’s certainly unusual. Can the tone and character be enough to carry this sequel? The gameplay is “pretty fun” but not exactly “rock solid” in the nuances of the shooting and cover. At the same time, the multiplayer could be very promising with its built-in back-stabbing. We’re hoping to get a chance to play some online matches before release so we can get an idea of how the newer modes play out. Until then, the full package of K&L 2 will remain somewhat of a scummy, mean-faced mystery.

Aug 2, 2010

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  • teayneverdie31 - August 10, 2010 7:22 p.m.

    Download Games PC
  • TheWebSwinger - August 3, 2010 6:27 p.m.

    Btw I agree with many of this article's points. The gunplay does feel incredibly random, to the point that I'm often dead-accurate blindfiring, but then shoot all over the place when i'm focusing. weird. And they should have gone for a roadie run type of sprint, a la gears, instead of the stupid system they have in place.
  • ichigoame - August 3, 2010 6:06 p.m.

    i played the demo,bad graphics,bad gameplay..not buying the game
  • JohnDagger - August 3, 2010 5:02 p.m.

    I just recently played through the demo for K&L2 and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. After only completing K&L1 a month ago, I am amazed by the massive improvement on all fronts. I actually kinda liked the first Kane and Lynch at least until they started a second revolution in Cuba...The new one at least from the first look seems so good and I just love the little details. From the cool shaky cam while sprinting through narrow alleyways, the lensflare from bright light sources, to the crazy muttering from Lynch when he starts killing a lot of people. I just am very excited for this game.
  • CARDYKEV - August 3, 2010 11:17 a.m.

    I played the demo on the PC and some of the lighting effects look terrible to the point where i was more focused on those than the enemies themselves, like a bad version of ME2
  • milkmanallday - August 3, 2010 7 a.m.

    why don't all of you who hate the camera so bad just turn off the effect and enjoy the game?
  • WrathLord03 - August 3, 2010 6:25 a.m.

    I liked the demo, and that's coming from a guy who owns Uncharted 2 and is about to buy Mafia II. I never noticed the bad texturing until you mentioned them, and i don't plan on looking for them if I play the demo again or actually buy the game. I found the cover system to be a bit unforgiving, although I never encountered any problems with the shooting. I don't know much about the characters yet but I am intrigued - although I'll still be waiting for the reviews, just like I do with all games I'm still undecided about. @crumbdunky I respect your opinion, and it's just that - opinion. No need to advertise your own hatred for the game and assume that everyone else feels the same about it, though. As for "in a medium wheere looking like dogshit shouldn't be a good option", I'm sure a lot of people thought the same thing about Blair Witch (which I also loved, by the way). But what do you know, it's spawned so many more movies that have followed in it's wake and are becomign successes. It's people like you who are unwilling to accept new things (I quote: "shouldn't be a good option") who hold back mediums. Sure, keep your opinion and no one will judge you on it, but there's no need to insult a game based on opinion.
  • crumbdunky - August 3, 2010 5:01 a.m.

    Well, I liked both Blair Witch AND Cloverfeld and a million films that use similar effects to K&L2 but for gaming it simply won't work for ENOUGH people. After five minutes it ceases to be interesting, clever or fitting and becomes what it is-a lazy, pretentious bit of cover up. Pan stick for a crappy looking bunch of models and textures. A cheap trick to stop us scrutinising their shoddy workmanship. It's a con-and not a very bright or enjoyable one, either. Don't start me on the mechanics as they aren't worthy of a theirs rate movie tie in let alone a game with lofty aims like the devs have stated for this one. Social commentary? In what way? Trying to prove we'll buy any old crap? The shooting is pants and the cover is plain broken. i LIKE the flimsy shoot through cover and in a game I could play for more than twenty seconds without becoming wildly angry at IO it might be a cool feature that makes us think a bit more. Sadly, however, it's by and large the worst demo I have EVER, EVER played. And no one will play the MP purely because the core mechanics are abouit as satisfying as a celery sarnie. I only wish Gerstmann and his ilk had gone in for the kill on the awful first game(4/10 at the outside)and we MIGHT have been spared this affront to gaming's dignity. Christ, I'd rather listen to Bobby Kotick's plans for the future of gaming than play another second of this pap. In fact I'd go as far as to say wanking using a sandpaper glove would be bth more fun AND better for you. Seriously, stop the meds and tell it like it is peeople-we stand for this and God knows what bollox they'll foist on us next. The point is there is NOT ONBE good thing about the demo and seeing as most of the bad points are certain to stay for the full game I can only imagine it getting worse rather than better. Dogshit, pure dogshit. That looks like dogshit. In a medium where looking like dogshit shouldn't be a good option. Games have to be played and hiding the game under a sheen of laziness and false artifice is unforgivable and having to play this is ain to p[laying while constantly having to blink an eye the whole time. It's, in short, dogshit. Do not buy into this rubbish or we'll have no one to blame but ourselves when all our "HD" games come with a layer of bloody foundation to hide the fugliness underneath, is that really what we should be allowing and egging on? Right now it's IO's fault(we suffer this travesty while we have NO new Hitman to play? For effing shame!)-do NOT let it become ours. there will be no blood on my hands, I can assure you of that.
  • TheWebSwinger - August 3, 2010 4:54 a.m.

    Oh god I hated the demo. It's like really hard and really sloppy. Quite boring, too. I predict this game scores about as "well" as K&L1.
  • apleasantguy - August 3, 2010 3:50 a.m.

    I didn't think I would, but I liked the demo. The shaky, grainy visceral style was something I was sure I would hate but it didn't take me long to get settled in and no longer find it offputting. It's very unique though, not for everyone I guess. Great characters, dialogue and story (well, except for the war part) were what I liked about the imperfect original so I hope they stay good too.
  • JohnnyMaverik - August 3, 2010 3:07 a.m.

    I enjoyed the demo somewhat, not jaw dropping but it showed promise, but I haven't heard anybody say that they aren't 50/50 on this game as of yet, so I guess we'll have to see... I'm actually playing the first now, and it's interesting...
  • HyperPoweredHighFive - August 3, 2010 2:33 a.m.

    the art style is also confusing, and I sometimes cant tell what the hell is in front of me. I wish they just did away with it, it'd be much better and I would buy it.

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