Now, Kane And Lynch 2: Dog Days is a genuinely unique title to come up for review. Before we even start delving into the quality of the game, it has to be noted that Dog Days is one of the shortest full priced titles we’ve ever played. How do you deal with that? An average gamer will get as much time out of this as they will as an epic movie. 3 hours. Yes, that’s 3 hours! And it doesn’t even have an ending. What’s up with that?
It would be a whole lot easier if the game was a huge pile of steaming dung, it has to be said. It could be easily dismissed as a title that, even if you like the gameplay, you shouldn’t buy. Easy. The trouble is that it’s good.
So let’s start with the basics. Dog Days is a cover-based shooter. In fact, unless you’re opening doors or watching cut scenes, you’ll be shooting from cover, or taking cover while you shoot. Sometimes you might find yourself covering your buddy while they shoot, or being covered while you take cover in an effort to find a better place to shoot from, but you get the idea. It’s a little different to most cover based shooters in that rather than simply picking the nearest chest-high wall, each of the areas requires you to work through the area with a degree of planning that others in the genre don’t necessitate. In fact, the quality of the gun play is excellent for the most part, and while it does become routine for the latter hour or so, there are enough set pieces and change-ups for it not to matter.
There are three types of people with which you find yourself trading bullets, namely Shanghai gangsters, the police and the military. They come and go rather arbitrarily and the only real difference comes in what kind of guns they drop. The reason for this is that Kane And Lynch have managed to shoot and kill the daughter of Shanghai’s big boss. From cover, of course. This means that you have to shoot your way out of China. You don’t get much worse odds than that, which just about makes the murderous duo enough of an underdog team to sympathise with. Most of that goes out of the window the moment you start using cowering civilians’ faces for target practice, but the point here is that as protagonists, they’re at very least different.
So, as the story continues, you’re faced with wave after wave of goons. You slaughter them, and move onto the next. No puzzles, no clever bits, no nothing. Just the slaughter with a side order of slaughter. By the end of the game, one imagines that half of China’s female population will be picking up a fair whack of life insurance money, so while you’re taking with one hand (or trigger finger, to be precise), you’re giving with the other.
If anyone suggests to you that Dog Days is in the higher echelons of videogame narrative, they’re wrong, it’s little past the likes of 80’s classic Commando. No, while IO Interactive has done much to make this look and feel gritty, real and story led, it ain’t. The wobbly camera (which, thankfully you can turn off), the grainy texture of the screen and the abundant use of the ‘F’ word do lull you into believing that this is a mature title, but it’s only mature in the sense that it’s quite grizzly in a lot of places.
Two things stick out as slightly incongruous, and while you can understand why, if IO was thinking to make this as gritty as possible, you wonder why the studio didn’t go the whole hog. At no point, in the story does either Kane or Lynch utter anything in the slightest bit racist. While they’re happy mowing down thousands of Chinese people, innocent or no – and one half of the pair has had the love of his life brutally murdered and abused in front of him – both maintain an air of cultural politeness completely against their nature. Similarly, there is a bizarre pixellated effect used whenever you shoot someone in the face, or when body parts are exposed. This is not really a niggle, but a point that has confused this reviewer immensely.
As far as those niggles go, they’re mainly down to the difficulty curve, which is somewhat inverted; the stupid, stupid camera, which feels like it’s been strapped to the front of a drunken wasp, and the fact that there is no ending to the game. In fact, the last person we killed in the game was an innocent airport worker knocking off to pop to the pub. This is no way to end a game. Sure, do it without pomp, but at least offer an ending as opposed to a mediocre cut scene.
There is a multiplayer mode, local and online which allows you to get a little more creative with the cover part of the game, mainly in that, with a sentient being in control of your buddy, things are a little easier to manage. While we’re at it, it is a hard game. Tackling it without a friend can often cause points of dismay, as you’re carefully working you way around a room, trying to flank some goons, when you turn around and your partner’s gormless face turns up. That isn’t how this is supposed to work. It’s something of a shame that the gunplay can be so interesting, and require a high degree of thought on the fly, but the friendly AI simply doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
So it’s really your choice as to whether you plump for Dog Days. At three hours long, we’d feel a little annoyed at paying full price for it. Conversely, however, we don’t rant and rave about getting great value for money with a stupidly long JRPG, so perhaps this is a point we’re too deeply involved in to judge accurately. It’s bloody, but strangely prudish at the same time. It’s feels like some officious killjoy has seen the final product and crudely chiselled off the bits that he thinks are rude. That aside, it’s a different take on the shooter genre that moves away from buff super soldiers and buff cops-on-the-edge and buff average-joes-who-just-happen-to-be-caught-up-in-something-they-shouldn’t-have. Well worth a play, as you’ll do it in one sitting, but you’ll want to catch it at a super-low bargain price if you’re anywhere near as miserly as us.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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