The game’s little deviations from formula come to a head in the game’s second-to-last level, which has you machinegunning an office building’s windows from a helicopter, and then fighting other helicopters from inside that same office building. It’s fast-paced, destructive and fun enough that it almost makes the bleakness and repetition of the rest of the game forgivable. But then it gives way to a frustrating slog of a final level, and the game’s one brief moment of nihilistic joy is forgotten.
It’s also worth pointing out that, even in its most over-the-top moments, Dog Days is strangely bloodless. It spills little of the red stuff when people get shot, and even less when they supposedly get their faces blown off by point-blank shotgun blasts; in lieu of a bloody explosion or tattered red mess, the game simply slaps a mosaic blur over your victims’ heads. It’s disturbing in its own way, as it leaves the gore up to your imagination, but look closely and you won’t see much red under that mosaic. In a game with such a relentlessly nihilistic attitude and a “Real is Blood in Your Teeth” ad campaign, it’s bizarre to see it pull its punches where so many other games have gone for broke.
And no, the absence of gore isn’t really made up for by the scene in which the heroes get tortured with a box cutter.
To be fair, the story is a little less unappealing if you play it the way the developers intended: with a buddy. (You can do this in split-screen if you really want, although Kane and Lynch tend to block most of their respective screens, so we recommend against it). Co-op doesn’t really change the game’s overall dynamic much, but it makes it a little easier to focus on the action and ignore the plot, and gives you a chance to actually strategize with your partner – something that isn’t really possible with trigger-happy computer-controlled Kane around.
Having a second player along can also theoretically prolong Lynch’s life, as it’s possible to revive a fallen teammate if you can get there fast enough. More often than not, though, this just isn’t possible, either because the enemy fire is too thick or because one of you wandered off too far on your own. And if one of you dies, you both die, so try to keep an eye on your buddy.
Aside from that, there isn’t much of a difference between co-op and single-player; there’s a brief part you’d normally play solo as Lynch that gets truncated into a cutscene, and there are a couple of segments when the two briefly split up that you wouldn’t otherwise get to see from Kane’s perspective.
Of course, if you’ve played the first Kane & Lynch, you already know that the story mode isn’t all the game has to offer, and that co-op is just one small part of the game’s multiplayer possibilities.
Rounding out Dog Days are its three multiplayer modes – Fragile Alliance, Undercover Cop and Cops & Robbers – as well as an Arcade mode that’s basically a single-player (read: practice) version of Fragile Alliance. Thanks to a ranking system and the option to buy new weapons between rounds (with whatever money you stole in the last round, of course), Dog Days’ multiplayer has the potential to hold your interest a lot longer than its short story mode. It also has the potential to simply frustrate the hell out of you.
Returning from the first game, Fragile Alliance is the centerpiece here, tasking a group of players with carrying out a heist (or, more accurately, with looting a wrecked vehicle), shooting their way through the cops and escaping to safety in a waiting van or helicopter. Simple, right? Of course not; all your teammates are greedy backstabbers, and everyone’s goal is to make it out of the stage with as much cash as possible.