Kane and Lynch 2 contains so many uses of the word fuck I almost mistook it for punctuation. Imagine the infamous crime-investigation scene from the first series of The Wire, only stretched out over a period of several hours. And rather than mumbled passively under Dominic West’s faux-Baltimore breath, the F-bomb is screamed in your face, with added spittle, audible above the sound of gunfire and actual bombs.
Now, I’m hardly what you would call prudish, but I like variety in my swearing. Kane and Lynch 2, however, has an agenda in it’s monochrome cursing. It wants you, desperately, to believe it’s a game for adults, for mature people, who drink alcohol and have boring jobs and stuff. Sadly, it’s plain to see that Dog Days is really a six-year old girl wearing it’s mother’s make-up, and wearing it poorly.
This isn’t to say Kane and Lynch 2 is a terrible game. Actually it’s a solid shooter with a unique visual styling and the occasional inspired moment. But the equating of maturity with the number of fucks you can cram into a sentence (other swear words get a cameo at best) is just one of many instances where Dog Days falls short of its ambitions.
At its core, Dog Days is no different from the burgeoning number of third-person shooters on the market. The over-the-shoulder camera, regenerating health and cover-based combat system could have been cut and pasted from Gears of War, Mass Effect etc. In fact the only thing that slightly distinguishes Kane and Lynch 2’s gameplay from other games in the genre is the fact that cover actually works like cover, and not like an impenetrable wall that you can safely hide behind until your adversaries poke their heads out and await to be blessed by your bullets.
What really makes Kane and Lynch 2 stand out is how it looks and, to an extent, feels. The visuals are styled as if somebody was filming the action from behind with a cheap video camera. As such, the camera shakes as it follows Lynch through the streets of Shanghai, juddering violently when you break into a run. Additionally, nudity and particularly violent scenes are pixellated out, adding to this idea of the game being amateur footage playing out after the events portrayed have occurred.
Frankly, it’s a gimmick, but it’s a very good gimmick. Not only is it currently unique in gaming, it also genuinely affects how the game feels. For example, you might locate an enemy in your sights, only to have the camera rocked by a nearby explosion. Furthermore, the handycam style fits perfectly with the relentless pace of the plot. Kane and Lynch are constantly on the move as they attempt to seal a lucrative arms deal that will set them up for life. That is, until the accidentally kill the daughter of a powerful gang boss, after which everything begins to unravel, and the pair are caught up in a whirlwind of set-ups, betrayals, and gruesome revenge.
Unfortunately Dog Days’ gritty styling can’t make up for it’s shortcomings, foremost of which is that the game is far, far too short. Even on the hardest setting you should expect to be seeing the end credits in less than four hours, and shave another hour off if you’re playing with a friend. This has major implications for the story.
Aside from the abundance of hysterical swearing, dialogue is pretty sparse, and so, as with the first game, Kane and Lynch are never properly developed. There are glimpses of emotion amid their unstable partnership, but they are little more than token gestures toward character. Most annoyingly, Lynch’s supposed psychosis is barely apparent at all, pathetically excused from the story by the fact that he is taking new medication.
The end result is that, for all its adult themes, Dog Days feels rather puerile, sipping at the wineglass of maturity before staggering around, pretending to be drunk. Ultimately this does not make it any less fun, but there is no escaping the fact that Dog Days could have been much better.