Hands on with Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

Immediately the game feels very different to its predecessor. This change of pace is due to the plot’s change of emphasis – notably Lynch’s promotion to lead character. The psychopathic convicted murderer is less-military-man- more-mentalist than Kane and the gameplay reflects this. Hence, the improvisational nature of the combat. The AI here is aggressive and every impact or near miss has us groping for cover. Lining up a clear shot without taking damage proves a difficult task, so we opt instead to shoot through walls. There’s just enough time for a quick air punch as the first baddie crumples to the floor.

Another example of this freewheeling approach to murderous violence occurs when Lynch tosses a fire extinguisher and shoots it as it lands. The resulting, rather foamy explosion scatters a handful of enemies against the restaurant’s walls. Later, Kane grabs a cop, presses a gun to his head and gruffly tells him: “I ain’t gonna hurt yer.” Shortly afterwards, however, he uses his hostage as a human shield, tosses him aside and casually shoots him.

As the level moves on with the mindless pace of a freight train with broken brakes, the game continues to match its lead in terms of dangerous unpredictability. Following suit we decide to take our opportunities where the taking is good. Spying a ramp nestled against a cluttered back alley wall we shamble onward and upward. Popping out of cover, we take down an enemy about to turn Kane into Swiss cheese. The headshot hits home and is accompanied by the humorous application of an obscuring veil of pixels (known in the trade as Vaseline blocks).

It’s just one example of the game’s canny use of visual language and sound. Such cinematic tricks make even the moments in which you’re not taking hits feel incredibly violent. The lights are too bright and they smear across the screen in glaring lines. The thump of a shotgun floors Lynch and practically tears the screen. Every sound is altogether too loud in a cover-your-ears sort of way. It’s breathlessly exciting (and often scary) stuff.

Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days might not offer anything new in terms of gameplay mechanics, but the energetic presentation style is awesome. It sounds crazy but in moving away from the pixel sharp sheen of modern graphics to this grainy, stuttery camera footage style it actually makes the game feel a lot more realistic – and shocking. Add in the return of co-op and the awesome greed-driven Fragile Alliance multiplayer mode and this could be one of the year’s top shooters!

May 3, 2010