IO Interactive is ditching many of the audio-visual bells and whistles of the modern third-person action game for its upcoming Kane & Lynch sequel, with the hopes of ultimately creating a more realistic, gritty experience. So far, we'd say the developer is doing a pretty good job. Set in a Shanghai that's a far cry from the brightly colored one found in Army of Two: The 40th Day, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is presented "documentary style" -- it looks like the game is being recorded on a handheld camera as you play, with all of the shaking and imperfections you'd expect from such a production.
It's as if the action has been taped and uploaded to YouTube -- there's even an animated "Buffering..." message in place of a stock loading screen. The video pixelates when you're hit and loses sync when the camera's rocked by explosions. Particularly heinous headshots and other brutal injuries generate a mosaic effect as the camera moves past them, adding to the documentary feel. Oh, and there's no soundtrack -- the only time you'll hear music is if you happen to pass a radio or catch a shopping center's muzak over the gunfire.
We're sold on the presentation, but the gameplay ... well, read on after the break for my thoughts on an in-progress build.
For as no holds barred as the violence is in Dog Days, the actual gameplay seems fairly no-frills -- not that that's particularly bad, it's just simple. From what I saw, the action played on without any over-the-top, stand-out scenes.
Although the game features co-op play, the single-player mode casts players as the long-haired Lynch, who's been trying to make a name for himself in Shanghai's criminal underground. He calls in Kane to help him on a "big job" that's sure to get him in good with the big bosses.
The action played on without any over-the-top, stand-out scenes.
The cover system looks improved over the original's, introducing blind fire and the ability, when downed, to crawl to cover (and regain health once there). If you manage to kill any enemies while on your back, you get a health boost -- but there's the tradeoff of, well, being on your back, out in the open. In one of the two levels we saw, "out in the open" meant almost anywhere, since the false walls of the Chinese restaurant splintered and collapsed realistically when shredded by bullets.
The second level focused on raiding a clothing sweatshop, as the duo was joined by a couple of other AI-driven criminals. Seamstresses and other workers screamed, ran or took cover as our demo driver kicked down doors to various rooms, at one point grabbing a low-level thug as a human shield. That was about it for the gameplay in this early build, and I got the sense that it's not going to get much deeper. Still, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days could be engaging, but only a longer, hands-on demo will satisfy our initial curiosity.