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Review: Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days

Justin McElroy

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Out of Jack Handey's "Deep Thoughts," one of my favorites goes something like this: "If God dwells inside us like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that's what He's getting." It's a quote that was oddly present in my mind during my time with Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days.

If you end up with this game in your disc drive, you'd better be ready to hide behind cover and shoot your way from one end of the game to the other over and over again, because that's what you're going to get. If that doesn't sound so bad, I should warn you that this isn't necessarily a great enchilada. ... Err, cover-based shooter. Sorry.

Gallery: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (E3 2010) | 24 Photos

As skullet-rocking, semi-reformed psycho Lynch, you're at the bad end of an arms deal gone wrong and you've just roped in your frenemy, the more even-keeled Kane. Your mission for most of the game? Get the hell out of Shanghai, with a stop or two for vengeance along the way. Since you're still only semi-reformed and this is a video game, you'll be killing your way to freedom.

Hide behind a solid structure, shoot enemies, move forward when it's safe. That's the game. It's not a jumping-off point for further meditation on that idea. It's. The. Whole. Game. Its action is, at nearly every turn, obstinately uncreative and brings nearly nothing new to the table. Wait, I take that back: There are three minutes of the approximately five-hour game where you're shooting a building from a helicopter, but even then you're hiding behind the walls of the chopper.

That would be a grave offense but not necessarily a fatal one if it did that shooting well, but Dog Days falls woefully short there too.

Lynch's accuracy is unsatisfyingly poor, no matter how good your aim might be. Popping out at the just the right moment with a perfectly targeted headshot only to be rewarded with a total miss is infuriatingly frequent. The enemies -- surprise! -- never seem to have this problem.

Much like Forrest Gump traded common sense for the ability to live an extraordinary life that touched a nation, the enemies of Dog Days have apparently gained their shooting acumen by being good at absolutely nothing else. I can't tell you many times I picked off six guards in a row at the exact same spot, continually expecting them to learn from the friendly corpse pile that it was a very bad place to stand.

In fact, the best defensive maneuver concocted by many thugs was the "dress like Justin's dad" ploy. Uncoventional, sure, but also highly distracting. I would scarcely have time to think, "Hey, I thought he was in Cincinnati with Carol!" before the army of not-my-dads had riddled me with bullets.

Hey, dude? What are you wearing?

Though it won't be a problem if you're playing the game with a friend via online or split-screen co-op, you lonely hearts out there are going to have to put up with a lot of stupidity from partner Kane. I always followed his helpful request to "Flank 'em!" just moments before he decided that flanking looked like so much fun he just had to try it too. In case you're as dumb about flanking as Kane is: That's not how it works.

Though Kane and Lynch aren't a whole lot of fun to pal around with, all is not lost, as their game also sports a far better multiplayer component. It's kind of sad that the brilliant Fragile Alliance, which tasks a team of criminals with robbing a bank while contending both with security and their partners' murderous greed, gets saddled with the disappointing single-player campaign. Though the new Cops and Robbers mode is little more than a team deathmatch, I liked the other addition, Undercover Cop, which places a random criminal on the side of the po-po and has them covertly eliminating the team from within. It's all good stuff, but not enough to sustain your attention for too long thanks in part to AI that rarely puts up much challenge. If IO continues with this franchise, I'd beg them to base an entire game around Kane and Lynch's unique multiplayer dynamic rather than toiling further on the forgettable story of two wholly unlikable thugs.

That would be a grave offense but not necessarily a fatal one if it did that shooting well, but Dog Days falls woefully short there too.

For the moment, though, it seems the developer's focus is mainly on Dog Days' really inventive presentation, which replaces a steadied, clear camera with a grainy, shakier one among a few other effects. Think less "Hollywood blockbuster" and more "two crazy dudes being taped with a cell phone camera." Provided you aren't put off by the toggleable shakiness (my motion-sickness prone wife managed about three-and-a-half-seconds before closing her eyes in abject terror), it's a supremely immersive effect.

The trouble with this top-flight presentation is that it never feels like it's supporting or heightening a superior action experience, it feels like it's trying to mask a hollow one. Dog Days can throw out all the light blooms and shaky cams it wants, but it all seems a vain attempt to hide the fact that this particular enchilada is little more than a stale, rolled-up tortilla.

This review is based on the 360 retail version of Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days provided by Square Enix.

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