Despite the controversy that surrounded Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, as well the lukewarm reception it received from critics and gamers alike, a sequel was announced almost immediately after release. With Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days, we get a sequel that starts off well and improves on many of the issues that plagued the first game, namely the story and multiplayer, but it’s still bogged down by a broken cover system and average third-person shooting controls. IO Interactive’s tale of two criminal’s on the run is told through great visuals and an overall impressive presentation, but this sequel still lacks the gameplay polish needed to make Kane and Lynch the superstar duo many of us know they can be.
In comparison to the first game’s mission structure, Dog Days is a little more straightforward, which thankfully works in its favour. Terrible heist missions that were executed poorly plagued Dead Men. The level design left plenty to the imagination, and the gameplay issues ultimately made some of those missions impossible to enjoy. In Dog Days, you’ll mostly be shooting your way through enemies en route to a specific goal, which is actually when the first game was at its absolute best. We get more of the good stuff this second time round, which is promising. Dog Days starts off very well and leaves a fantastic first impression, and while it doesn’t totally negate what you’ll experience in the first hour or so, repetition does eventually kick in.
The shooting mechanics work a lot better than they did in Dead Men, which should please anyone brave enough to tackle the heist missions in the first game. However, they’re still not perfect. In comparison to other third-person shooters like Crackdown 2 or Transformers: War for Cybertron, it’s still lagging behind. The game’s biggest problem falls onto the cover system, which seems relatively untouched from the first game. Sometimes it works flawlessly, but other times your character will move out of cover involuntarily, putting you directly into the line of enemy fire. It’s clearly dependant on the object you use for cover, but the character should be able to adjust and move around depending on the object size. It’s not a major deal breaker, but it can have an adverse affect on the experience, especially later on when things get a little more hectic.
There’s no shortage of weaponry in Dog Days, but you’ll have to choose wisely, as the accuracy is generally pretty terrible with every weapon. Even early on in the game, long-range combat is almost always a no-go, as weapons fail to register with the aiming crosshair, spraying bullets all over the joint. You’ll spend a lot of time searching for more accurate weapons, and most of the time you’ll end up with an accurate weapon that has either low bullet penetration or a low fire rate. The enemy AI seems to always have access to better weaponry than you (which makes sense considering you’re controlling a duo of crooks on the run), and they can also withstand more fire than either Kane or Lynch, which is surprising. You can fire an entire clip into a single enemy and they’ll walk away relatively unharmed, whereas Kane and Lynch are far more vulnerable. It also doesn’t help that the covering system is hit-and-miss.
The best thing Dog Days has going for it is its story, which is a big improvement on the original. While Dead Men had its fair share of memorable moments, it lost a bit of steam towards the end, leading to a less-than-memorable conclusion for the characters. Dog Days takes plenty of influence from contemporary crime dramas and thrillers, relying more heavily on corruption and criminality, rather than the relationships more associated with the first game. This paves the way for a more intriguing and character-driven narrative, which does plenty of justice for the two main characters. Kane and Lynch are potential gaming superstars if they have the game around them, and while Dog Days won’t be the best game you’ve played this year, it offers enough in terms of story and action to keep you interested in the tale of these two criminals.
However, the narrative loses a bit of steam in the game’s relentless focus on mass murder. Had Dog Days not had such a deep and intriguing narrative, the action and kill count wouldn’t be as difficult to ignore. But the emotional weight developed by the story throughout the experience is damaged by the fact Kane and Lynch can kill up to 1000 enemies throughout the entire campaign. It was a much smaller number in the first game, and while having plenty to shoot in a third-person shooter should never be a bad thing, it definitely defeats the purpose of having such an emotional stringing and cringe-worthy plot. Many of the things achieved through the story are lost through the game’s aggressive focus on mass murder, which is not a major disappointment, but it definitely feels unbalanced.
While the lack of the heist missions from the first game can be seen as a positive, improving on those missions or giving the gamer something to do other than shoot enemies would have given the game much more worth, and could have potentially given the story a little more depth. Instead, we get a game that tries so hard to be serious, but is ultimately let down by mindless shooting and action. Had the story had some sort of comical, mocking undertone, it would have been OK, but the entire experience does feel slightly off-track because of this.
Once you get through the single-player campaign you have a hefty multilayer component to sink your teeth into. The multiplayer focuses just as heavily on mindless shooting and cover as in the campaign, but it’s a different and at-times more enjoyable experience when playing with friends. Fragile Alliance returns from the first game, pitting you with friends as you attempt a heist within a four-minute time frame. This mode can get pretty hectic, and the more players getting involved, the better. Undercover Cop has one player acting as an undercover agent, with the main objective to stop the heist once it’s underway. Cops & Robbers is just as you’d expect; a group of robbers tries to rob a location, while the cops attempt to stop them in their tracks.
Despite the multiplayer relying a little too heavily on cover and shooting, it offers a relatively deep and enjoyable experience, one that is well worth tackling once you get through the campaign. Online co-op has also been included, which is a welcomed addition. Playing through the campaign with a friend gives the experience a little bit more energy, and helps you associate better with Kane and Lynch and their weird brotherly connection.