Dead Men wasn’t the most innovative shooter even for its time (2007). It stuck to the standard third-person shooter formula, and it was quite unpolished in the gameplay department, with clunky shooting mechanics, an unintuitive cover system, and poor hit detection. So why make another one? Besides righting all those wrongs, there are things that made Kane & Lynch special and worthy of a sequel. First and foremost, it was an unapologetically violent game with some superb set pieces. Secondly, and rather refreshingly, the game had no good guys; not even the lead characters. Everyone was bad, and the only thing differentiating Kane and Lynch from the rest was that they were the ones who made it out alive.

In Dog Days, Kane and Lynch reunite for the first time since the events of Dead Men. While the first game took place across several locations, this one is set entirely in Shanghai. And while the first game revolved around Kane, this time, Lynch is at the center of things, with Kane joining him to carry out a seemingly routine arms deal. As you would no doubt have predicted, things don’t go as smoothly as expected, and the unlikely duo quickly finds itself in the crosshairs of what seems like the entire Shanghai underworld. That sets the tone for lots of cover-based corridor shooting, and eventually, that’s what Kane & Lynch 2 boils down to. It’s a corridor shooter, where most of the time, your objective will be to get from point A to B on linear maps, taking cover when necessary, and dropping as many bodies as possible on the way.

There are a couple of missions that stray from the monotonous cover-based killing sprees, and those missions are a lot of fun, but there aren’t enough of them, and that’s especially disappointing considering some of the memorable set pieces that the first game had. Since there’s so much of blood spilling and cover-taking involved, it’s a good thing that the developers have vastly improved everything from the shooting mechanics to the cover system. Weapons feel more powerful and gun shots sound appropriately punchy this time around. Aiming and hit detection are also vastly improved and there’s a hint of an aim assist on Medium difficulty. However, enemies do take an unrealistically high number of bullets to die, especially on the higher difficulties, and since the enemy AI isn’t the brightest, the game compensates for it by throwing them at you by the dozen.

So the shooting segments aren’t as much about skill as they are a test of patience, but there are a few gameplay variations thrown in to let you improvise. Every now and then, Kane and Lynch will split up and you’ll be left without back up for those segments. You’ll also be able to use combustible items like gas canisters and fire extinguishers to toss at groups of enemies to get easy kills. And if you happen to sneak up on a group of enemies unsuspected, you can take one of them hostage to gain an advantage in the ensuing gun battle. But for all of these little features, Kane & Lynch 2 does nothing to set it apart from the sea of third-person shooters already out there.

One of the things that do set it apart though is the setting. Shanghai is brilliantly designed and its many contrasting locations add a fair amount of variety to the levels. You’ll find yourself playing through everything from sweat shops and fish markets to office sky scrapers and air fields. But there’s one differentiating factor that makes Dog Days unlike any other game out there, and that’s its unmistakable visual style. The entire game looks like it was filmed through a cheap camcorder.

Gun shots and explosions cause the screen to get pixilated and bright lights show up as colored vertical bands on screen. Headshots are covered up with mosaic censoring similar to what you would find in news broadcasts and the loading screens look like a buffering video stream. And all of this is made to look grittier with a very convincing shaky-cam effect that almost feels like someone is following Lynch around with a camcorder. There may be some who find these effects distracting and even annoying, but we thought they were absolutely brilliant. They make the game a lot more immersive and they also do a great job of hiding the game’s otherwise bland graphics.

Publish date: August 23, 2010 4:30 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 6:39 pm

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