Kane & Lynch 2: Barenaked Bloody Butts
Before I start writing anything substantial, there's something I need to get off my chest. Kane and Lynch, the titular characters of Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, are not attractive men by any stretch of the word. No matter your gender or orientation, there is no possible way either of these men will become sex symbols for you (unless you're a very twisted sort). While I certainly advocate that video games should "grow up" to some extent and treat nudity in a more mature (read: non-titillating) manner, this is not the game to do it.
[image1]So I'll warn you in advance: There is an entire scene where you play as the aforementioned men sprinting around in the rain, covered in blood.... and more rain... and more blood. For that entire segment, there seems to be a dirth of pants in Shanghai. If nothing else, I'll offer "props" to the developers for their fine work in rendering the pair's, err..., rears. Even days after playing the game, I can still see their crisply drawn flesh in my mind's eye (
for better or for worse).
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is the sequel to the cooperative third-person shooter Kane & Lynch: Dead Men (both developed by IO Interactive), and the subject of a veritable flood of advertising and publicity. If you manage to walk more than a block without seeing the characters faces splashed on some billboard or bus stop, you may very well be living under a rock. The game details the pair's adventures through Shanghai to rescue Lynch's girlfriend, to take down a corrupt army of police, and (finally) to fly off into the horizon. The manner in which the plot is revealed is convoluted, at best, and often filled with more f-bomb's than actual storytelling - as though to ensure the player that, yes, Kane and Lynch are super mega badass homies, yo.
The game's art style closely follows the trend of "gritty realism", even going so far as to make the camera shake to portray a cameraman following the characters through the game's entirety (which makes the aforementioned "naked blood scene" somewhat awkward). Without delving into the options menu to enable "steadycam mode", though, the cameraman in question appears to be pursuing the action on one leg... while drinking bottle after bottle of whiskey.
Simply walking is a dizzying experience in and of itself and, before I discovered the aforementioned "steadycam" option, running forced me to pause the game and step outside until my nausea had subsided. Given that, in later portions of the game, running is almost required for survival, I cannot for the life of me understand why this "shaky cam" concept was even considered. This is the first game that made me physically ill.
[image2]Further, the graphics act as a detriment to the actual gameplay. Every door looks alike in its grittiness; you will walk up to some and bump up against them stupidly until you find the "objective point" door, where you will be given the option to kick it in and, once again, show that your character is either supremely awesome or too "slow" to operate a doorknob. A press of the d-pad supposedly points your vision towards the next objective, but more often than not, forces you to stare at your scarred partner, as though to mad-dog the man as he screams for you to (f***ing) hurry (the f***) up (f***er).
Gameplay seems to be carbon-copied from any number of cover-based shooters, wherein health regenerates after "hiding" for so long, encouraging the "pop and shoot" mechanic favored by Gears of War, the newest Grand Theft Auto iterations, and Army of Two. Were the environments easy to traverse and the movement more fluid, this approach might actually be considered "fun"; as it stands, attempting to press up against a wall may magnetically latch your character onto a nearby car, while trying to hide behind the car will have you standing around wondering where all these bullet-holes are coming from.
Provided you can find cover in the first place, as there is nothing to indicate which parts of the landscape are "valid" cover and which parts are decorative, you may still find yourself shot up with no way of retaliating. Numerous objects, especially cars, seem to admit bullets one way, allowing you to be shot to pieces, without allowing you to fire back. While some of the weapons may be fun and satisfying to use, the scenarios in which you use those weapons turn the game into a frustrating loop of death and respawn.
All of these faults does not, however, mean that the game is without its good points. Multiplayer includes a series of game modes under the title of "Fragile Alliance" and offer an interesting spin on those classic games that have been a standard in shooters. "Undercover Cop" and "Cops and Robbers" are, at their very core, variants of the "Capture the Flag" style of gameplay - wherein a team of players attempts to escort their objective quickly from point A to point B without being killed in the process. "Fragile Alliance" mixes up the multiplayer dynamic by changing the concept of binary "teams" (literally: good guys versus bad guys) into something a little murkier - where as a "bad guy", you have to watch your own team just as closely (if not more so!) than the opposing one.
[image3]In "Cops and Robbers", the "Flag" becomes "Flags" with bags of money secured and brought to an extraction site. The amount of money your character steals is largely dependant on how long you stay at the "gathering" site, exposing yourself to enemy fire for as long as you grab your dough. Assuming you survive the mission, that money is transferred to the next round where you're given the option to buy new and more powerful weaponry.
Where things become interesting is that you're given a series of options to betray your team: Do you kill the slow man and steal his money? Do you bribe the pilot of the escape vehicle to leave early, allowing you to keep all the money for yourself? But on the flip side of the coin, players who die while robbing switch to the "cops" team, thereby making it more difficult to escape if you choose to kill one of your peers. "Undercover Cop" follows in essentially the same fashion, with the addition that a randomly chosen player must prevent the team from escaping.
Whereas the single-player mode can become "old" within an hour of playing, multiplayer is fascinating, addicting, and hard to compare to the lame game it's packaged with. It manages to mix up the multiplayer suite in a way that provides fresh gameplay without deviating from the standard path so much as to turn off players. "Fragile Alliance" captures the very spirit of playing as a bad guy; you become a bastard with no code of honor more complex than the cash you want to stuff in your pockets. The online mode-of-play may not be social commentary or even philosophically deep, but it has something far more important: entertainment.
Kane & Lynch 2 is not a game worth picking up as long as it costs $60, $50, or even $40. It is not a game that you play to enjoy the single-player story--or even, for that matter, the offline mode. If you can reconcile yourself with that, though, the multiplayer "Fragile Alliance" mode is incredible fun and incorporates a dynamic that I wish others developers would try to imitate.