If you are the kind of gamer that wants a shooter that feels like a gritty crime film, complete with colorful expletives and the murder of hundreds of Asian gangsters, then Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is for you. If you like a constant sense of danger and caution as you peer around corners and fire from behind cover, you should buy K&L2 immediately. If you like a nuanced story with varied gameplay, and you’re not partial to torture or killing dogs, then you might want to pass. This is not a happy game. No double rainbows here; just lens flares and pixilated murderizing.

The story of K&L2 is barely worth summarizing, but I’ll give it a shot. The shred of plot involves an arms deal in Shanghai that Lynch brokers with Brit gangster, Glaser, and Kane comes to town to execute. That’s it. Plans go to shit pretty quickly, and Lynch has to fight his way out of every situation. With such simple story-telling, I suppose that I shouldn’t have been disappointed with the campaign’s shortness. But I was. Nothing really happens and the last mission doesn’t feel like an ending at all. There’s no closure or anything, just more misery, and, ultimately, that’s not really fun. I guess, like many people, I don’t play games because they mirror real life. I want my games to have more structure and not to feel as pointless as the rest of our existence.

That’s the ultimate failing of K&L2. It tries so hard to portray a world so real and disgusting that most of us don’t want to inhabit it.

Besides all that, it’s actually a decently fun shooter. The cover mechanics are a little hard to get used to at first but, once you do get it, you find yourself peeking around corners to scope out the enemy positions. That’s because if you run in, chances are the Lynch is going down. Hard. Thankfully, reloading after death takes less than ten seconds, and most of the checkpoints are adequately spaced so you don’t have to go back too far.

That’s good, because you will die a lot. K&L2 forces you to outsmart your opponents instead of just outgunning them. Flanking an entrenched position is sometimes the only way to get a decent chance of taking enemies out. I have to hand it to IO Interactive; it’s not easy to prevent gamers from just blowing into a room and shooting everything in a blaze of bullets.

The downside is that almost every fight ends up playing out the same way. There are bad guys between Point A and Point B and you have to kill all of them to get there. The level design does try new things such as machine gunners and random dog attacks. There’s even a now-cliche helicopter ride level! Yay! But these are mere bumps on the baseline gameplay of K&L2, which is hide, shoot, run to next cover, rinse, repeat.

The visual aesthetic of K&L2 works really well. From the menu screens to the phone conversation snippets in the loading screens to the visual effects that make the cutscenes and gameplay feel like user-generated video, the realism infects everything. It was a great choice, and the designers stuck to it throughout. But if you’re pushing realism, it’s especially disappointing when that realism is suddenly thrown out the window.

There’s one sequence in particular which deserves comment. After escaping a gruesome torture scene, Lynch and Kane run through the streets of Shanghai naked and covered with open wounds. In the rain. The ludicrousness of that scenario destroys any claim of realism that the game might have made. The firefight through the mall occurs because the pair of naked bleeding men are looking for clothes which I personally would have taken from the first guy I killed. But hey, I’m no gangster.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s an entire cutscene, one of the longest in the game, that’s acted out by Kane & Lynch naked and still covered with open wounds. At least the designers had the foresight to cover all nudity or graphic violence with big pixels, so I didn’t have to see everything, but still the wisdom of writing that sequence is questionable.

If you are going to have a sequence where your two main characters are running naked through the rain, you really have to pull it off. K&L2 did not. Seriously, I wish that I could unsee what I have seen. I’d laugh, if I didn’t feel crying.

And even though Lynch later points out the absurdity of the situation by saying, “We’re two blood covered white guys in China,” I have to wonder if the people who made Kane & Lynch 2 got the joke.

There were technical issues as well. I played the PC version available on Steam and it crashed to desktop more than a few times. And I’m not sure if it’s a feature or a bug that the graphics turned all pixeley when there were a lot of shots fired. It’s nothing that a few patches or an updated graphics card driver can’t fix but these issues didn’t make me like K&L2 any more.

The multiplayer options are interesting this time around, with several modes added to the somewhat popular Fragile Alliance from the first game. Cops & Robbers plays out just like it sounds, but I thought Undercover Cop was fun, especially when you play as the one good guy in the middle of a heist. Matchmaking was easy, but again, there were some issues with the Steam integration. Some modes just didn’t load and I played a few matches before I realized that all of the other “players” were just bots. Knowing that made my dastardly backstabbing attack on “Tom42” way less satisfying.

K&L2 is a good shooter. It breaks the mold of WWII and other military-based titles by offering players the chance to outthink opponents and the distinct shaky-cam style was well-done and refreshing. Beyond the technical issues, the very bleakness of K&L2 is its biggest failing. I don’t want to be Lynch, clawing for survival with nerves frayed so close to breaking, and, if I do, I want there to be something redeeming about the experience. The lack of a “happy ending” isn’t what bothered me, it’s just that there is almost no reason for the story to be told at all. There is no big realization or growth for the characters, nothing really special about the gameplay, and, therefore, nothing really special about Kane & Lynch 2.

Bottom Line: Kane & Lynch 2 is a decent game, with some fun cover mechanics and tactical complexity, but the visual realism kind of shoots itself in the foot with unrealistic situations and tedious level design.

Recommendation: Buy K&L2 if you want to play in a gritty crime setting, love cover shooters, or can get traction from the many multiplayer modes. If not, rent it just to see some naked man ass.

[rating=3]

Game: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
Genre: Shooter
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square-Enix
Release Date: August 17th, 2010
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC (Steam)
Available from: Amazon, Steam

This review was based on the PC version of the game.

Greg Tito loves Pulp Fiction but doesn’t really want to play a game as the Gimp.

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