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Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days Demo Impressions

Now, if you’re an IncGamers regular, you’ll most probably know that we’ve been looking forward to Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. You can check out our reasoning in our column on the game, but to summarise, it’s this: Kane & Lynch was an above-average idea that became a below-average game. The idea of a gritty, dysfunctional crime duo is appealing and Lynch, God bless him, is a fascinating, if somewhat repulsive, character. Unfortunately, while IO’s first game in the series got some things right, it got an awful lot wrong and players were left with a game they really wanted to like and a game engine that made it impossible. What made it worse was that this was IO Interactive, the studio behind Hitman and Freedom Fighters, and we knew it could do better. From just a few minutes with Dog Days, it’s clear IO has brought its ‘A game’ to the table.
The most notable improvement is in the way the game handles the action. And, let’s face it, Kane & Lynch is a game about action, and if you can’t get the shooting right, you’re left with… well, Dead Men. Thankfully, IO has clearly spent a lot of time on the feel of the shooting – movement, aiming and firing feel much more responsive this time around and the combat is undoubtedly satisfying. Not only do the enemy ragdolls crumple convincingly, you’re also given a visual indicator (in the form of a wee ‘X’) to show where you have hit the enemy’s body. It’s a simple but effective addition that helps the gunplay to feel considerably more precise than it did in Dead Men. Of course, it wouldn’t be a modern third person shooter without a cover system and you’ll be glad to know that this has been suitably overhauled too. Snapping to and from cover now feels more fluid and, while you may still encounter the occasional awkward moment, it’s much improved.

While IO obviously concentrated on addressing perceived problems with the first game (and there were more than a few), it has also seen fit to add some new features. The Down Not Dead mechanic is one such addition and gives players a chance to save themselves before they die. Take too much punishment and you’ll fall to the ground where you can attempt to take out your attacker (and gain a health boost) or get up into cover, if there’s any around. It’s not a revolutionary feature by any means, but it does add a bit of tension to proceedings as you hit the floor, squeezing off desperate rounds in all directions in the hope that you’ll hit your enemy before they finish you. It also feels like a fair concession  to the player as, on the higher difficulty levels, Dog Days is damn tough. In the single player level we are given access to in the demo, enemy AI seems pretty switched on and, with a couple of exceptions, we were generally impressed with the way enemies concentrated on covering fire and  flanking rather than simply charging straight towards you.

It was during this single player level that Dog Days really started to pile on the atmosphere and, if the full single player campaign continues in the same vein, we suspect the sequel will be a compelling solo (and co-op) experience. The awkward, fractured relationship between the protagonists is the star of the show and as we see  them eating dinner silently together at the start of the demo, you’ll want to give IO some plaudits for avoiding the odd couple/buddy scenarios that have been so overplayed in gaming and cinema. Instead, Kane & Lynch are two people who don’t seem to mesh well together, at least socially. However, once battle breaks out in the restaurant, as it’s invaded by what appears to be a SWAT team, they come alive, and begin sparking off each other. It’s a relationship that is entirely dependent on danger and violence. Talk about dysfunctional.

This brief taster of the single player game makes its biggest impact when the action moves out onto the streets of Shanghai with our duo forced to deal with local police and panicky civilians. Here the gunplay becomes more visceral and intense and we can only hope the rest of the campaign avoids the standard shooter cliches when it comes to level settings. We suspect it will as IO is clearly attempting something a little different from the game and that much is evident from the new Youtube-inspired visual style. In practice that means fuzzy filter effects, visual glitches and a shaky-cam sprint that will undoubtedly leave some motion-sickness sufferers reaching for the chunder-sack. It’s difficult to adequately describe the full Dog Days visual experience as it’s something you have to see yourself. Not only is it pretty innovative, it’s also a very shrewd move by the developer, hiding solid-but-not-spectacular visuals behind some nice effects. It adds even more gritty realism to the game, and compliments the single player narrative well.

Of course, while Dead Men may have been villified for its single player campaign, its multiplayer got off more lightly, thanks to the innovative Fragile Alliance game mode. Fans will be glad to know that it makes a return in Dog Days alongside two new modes, Cops & Robbers and Undercover Cop. IO has cleverly looked at the standard multiplayer modes on offer on shooters and thought about how it could throw a spanner in the works. The answer, it seems, is give the player a chance to behave like a complete bastard. For example in Fragile Alliance, you’re tasked with robbing some dudes with your gang and then escaping with the cash. IO makes things interesting by allowing players to rip off their gangmates by killing them and grabbing their cash or simply splitting the money with the getaway driver and leaving your comrades behind to rot. This simple game mechanic has a profound effect on the game as you’re forced to keep a close eye on your team as well as the enemy, as you try to predict who will sell you down the river. Undercover Cop works similarly with one player attempting to thwart the team’s plan while Cops & Robbers plays out like a team deathmatch.

As a package Dog Days already seems like a much better deal than its predecessor and IO has done a good job making the game more playable, while maintaining the character and atmosphere of the original. Factor in the co-op and come August, we’ll be looking forward to losing our minds in Shanghai.

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