I really don’t know where to begin with this. I have played Kick-Ass 2 for about seven hours. I’ve finished it. I’ve replayed one level solely to record it, and I’ve replayed other bits to record them. I’m still lost for words. (Post-insanity note: After writing this, I lost all of my save games, possibly because clicking “New Game” actually erases all progress. So I’ve had to replay most of it to get some footage and screens. Closer to nine hours, now.)
I suppose we should start with the obvious: Kick-Ass 2 is terrible. You could be kind and say that it’s a nostalgic trip back to the days when film tie-in games were cheap, barely playable cash-ins. I’m not that kind, so I’m just going to say that it’s irritating, buggy, unpolished, dull, uninspired, and a wholly unpleasant experience from about five minutes in to its ultimate close. I did actually enjoy the first five minutes, but that’s mostly because I was laughing at the voice acting.
Journey with me now into the heart of darkness as I go through Kick-Ass 2, from start to finish.
Level 1: Entrance Exam
First thoughts: “hahahaha what”. Okay, so the intro sequence is a series of still panels (just like a comic book!) with far-too-large speech bubbles that dwarf the minuscule amount of text inside. Text that looks like someone put it there using MSPaint. It’s all narrated by Kick-Ass himself, who sounds like he has a heavy Spanish accent. I’m not great with accents, so I might be wrong! I’m fairly certain that’s not a typical accent for a blonde, white, New York resident, though. I’ve embedded it above, so you can judge for yourself. And you should. It’s a really apt way to begin.
After that brief hilarity, we’re into the game. I’m using a gamepad because I refuse to play a third-person brawler with mouse and keyboard, so this at least means that the controls are fairly self-explanatory. X attacks with batons. Y kicks. B is a counter-attack. A is a dodge-roll. Apparently I can also use the left bumper to disarm enemies once my combo multiplier is high enough, and I can tap the triggers to, uh… fry myself with a taser? Which apparently boosts my attack power through the magic of electricity? I didn’t realise Kick-Ass had actual superpowers, but there you go.
My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to walk a linear path and punch everyone who gets in my way. The controls are kind of sluggish and enemies take quite a lot of hitting before they finally go down, but it’s not too horrible. It’s basically a slow-paced version of any given Batman: Arkham game’s combat, only without anything that even looks like depth.
Also, some of the finishing moves take a full 10 seconds to perform and provide no noticeable benefit, so I’ve very quickly learned that whatever button appears above a weakened enemy is the button I do not want to press. One kick to the head will suffice, instead of an elongated animation of Kick-Ass unconvincingly punching them in the face, and then unconvincingly kicking them in the head, and then unconvincingly breaking their arm.
Also also, everybody appears to be clipping through everything and the camera enjoys looking at everything except the action. I can’t blame it for that, but it’s not particularly helpful. Bonus points go to the finishing move that took place despite Kick-Ass and his target being a good couple of metres away from each other.
Kick-Ass is here to take down “Shorty’s Gang” which is run out of a car repair shop. At the urging of a Hit-Girl who doesn’t sound like a native English speaker and who doesn’t sound like a 12-year old, I’m to cut the power via something that is a mini-game in description only – I go up to an electrical panel, and then press a button at the right time to zap it with the taser. This will apparently turn off the lights, and cause them all to rush out, where I can ambush them!
This is not what happens, obviously. I fry the circuit and the door opens, and the inside is still rather well-lit, and the only hint that the plan ever existed is one of the thugs saying something like “Hey, why’s it suddenly so dark in here?”
Spoiler warning: despite not actually working as intended by the dialogue, this is still probably the single cleverest moment in the game.
Each level is actually split into multiple separate “scenes”; this is just the first bit, and it ends with Kick-Ass rescuing Dr. Gravity from some goths. I recorded the entirety of the second scene/level/chapter/whatever below.
That scene only lasts a bit longer than what was shown, but I had to cut the video short because I ran out of hard drive space because I forgot to delete recordings of other, better games first. Oops.
Still! All you missed was one more fight and the dangers of crossing a road in New York, with identical cars that never slow down or stop driving past in a repeating pattern. Also, this place seems weirdly depopulated for New York. Post-apocalypse?
That’s followed by a jaunt into the subway which involves – sigh – running along subway rails. And fighting interminable battles against huge groups of thugs that aren’t at all challenging, but take forever anyway. And venturing through the sewers. This scene is particularly hideous because its clipping issues are so bad that, near the end of the stage, I fell through the floor and ended up in grey space. This didn’t kill me, so I had to quit out and restart. The. Entire. Scene. Again. Sisyphus has nothing on me.
Then there’s the boss fight. In case you were wondering: no, boss fights are not good or interesting. They are, in fact, just a single fight against a group of thugs, and one “boss” thug who can’t be staggered, so you can’t just combo him or her endlessly. These are easily the best levels in the game, which isn’t because they’re well-designed and enjoyable, but because they’re incredibly short and only involve one fight. And because they’re bookended with another hilarious comic strip-esque cutscene.
Level 2: Raid in Chinatown
Yep: level two is set in Chinatown, as we go to take down Genghis Carnage. Really. And yes, this involves a lot of absurdly offensive accents, so it’s kind of ironic that Kick-Ass starts the level by commenting about uncomfortable racial stereotypes.
This level also introduces firearms, which… don’t actually change things up much, despite being the second-to-last enemy type revealed in the entire game. So let’s talk combat, in detail.
There are really only two basic enemy types: normal guys/girls, and big guys. Big guys take a few hits before being staggered, and (supposedly) do more damage. Either type can be equipped with melee weapons; if they have one, then pressing the counter-attack button only dodges the attack rather than hitting them. Either type can also have a gun, which is something they will occasionally shoot at you. If they fire, you’re almost certainly getting hit. You can dodge the gunfire with your dodge roll (or rather, the dodge roll makes you temporarily invincible) but good luck pressing that before you’re shot.
Fortunately, you can disarm them just the same as everybody else: get a five-hit combo, press left bumper. And no, you don’t have to worry about other enemies picking up the dropped weapons, or be aware of positioning, or anything like that. What did you think this was – Batman?
So combat basically revolves around you tapping X and Y in alternating patterns. When an enemy winds up a big exclamation mark appears above their head, you tap B instead. This will get you through the majority of the game’s fights, although considering your attacks are incredibly slow and feel like they have no power whatsoever, you won’t even get the thrill of rampaging over a group of foes through the use of perfect, lightning fast dodges, and bone-crunching attacks.
All the while, Kick-Ass himself will be shouting a lot of very odd and uncharacteristic combat barks, as will the foes. Enemies have all of three “being punched” grunts, so you’ll hear a little repeating symphony as you smack each one 15 times to make them fall over.
Oh, and these are the combos:
So yeah, not much going on there, and I genuinely have no idea what any of them are. I’ve never found a reason to attempt a specific combo, because it’s not like they do anything special. I think one or two of them knock enemies down, or break bones? (Which disables enemies for about 5 seconds, because broken bones mend really fast.) I don’t know. Doing that sort of thing just elongates fights.
Other than the clipping and animations and how sluggish and unresponsive everything feels, it’s worth noting that there are also some wonderful bugs in combat. Like, uh… when combat ends, you automatically regenerate all of your health, just like in real life. However! In a fight, if you’re a little distance away from where combat started, the game seems to think you’ve left the combat area and so you get full health again. This is something that will happen quite a lot, because it takes so many attacks to take enemies out, and every attack pushes them back.
It’s very rare that you’ll need to get your health back, but y’know.
The Chinatown level has the magical power to be both incredibly short and far too long and boring. Unlike most of the game’s levels, it’s only two scenes followed by a boss fight. Unlike most of the game’s levels, it also uses pretty much the exact same environment for those scenes, so you don’t get any variety in the way things look.
Then you’re onto the boss fight with Genghis Carnage. Remember when I mentioned uncomfortable racial stereotypes? Welp, this guy wouldn’t be out of place in South Park. Only South Park actually has self-awareness and tends to mix this shit up with actual humour, satire, decent writing, and the like.
I recorded the joy of this boss fight below. And no, I have no idea why my health shot back up several times. I can only assume it was the aforementioned bug where the game kept thinking combat was over and hey I should have all of my health back because otherwise I might have to play the game again.
Also also: wasn’t one of the points of Kick-Ass – the comics, at least – that the actual criminals thought the masked do-gooders craze was ridiculous, and they didn’t take it seriously? Rather than a Chinese Triad leader dressing up like a Mongolian emperor (with magical tattoos that only appear on his in-game model and not his cutscene appearance)? I realise that looking for this game to do anything properly – even when regarding its source material – is ridiculous, but…
Level 3: Under Seige
Yes, they spelled “siege” wrong. Yes, they spell “siege” wrong every single time they use that word. No, I don’t know how. Yes, the very first level of this is – once again – the fucking subway. Because subway/sewer levels are fun, so let’s have another one!
This level is all about getting back to Justice Forever’s inexplicably massive headquarters to help them out against a mysterious and poorly voiced attack. I am not going to talk about the first level because, seriously, it’s another sewer/subway level and I refuse to give any more words to that shit, but it is notable because it introduces Kick-Ass 2‘s final enemy type: Guy With Shield.
You may be surprised to hear that Guy With Shield is a guy with a shield. This means that he is completely impervious to attacks until you disarm him, which completely changes the way you play, because instead of just attacking five times and then pressing disarm you have to… oh, no, wait. No, it basically means you’re still doing exactly the same thing. Again.
On the second level, we’re back to the streets of New York again! After going through the subway. And the sewers. And climbing up a ladder. Because I suppose getting on a subway car is impossible. I mean why would you want to do that, when trying to hurriedly get from one part of the city to another? Much better to just walk along the rails and through the sewers and climb up a ladder. Totally not because the game really needed an extra bit of gameplay.
The streets of New York present absolutely nothing new whatsoever, so this is probably a good time to quickly discuss the BONUSES. You see, because this is a videogame made in 2014 (although you might not believe me if you’ve read this far or glanced at the screenshots) it has collectibles/bonuses/hidden whatevers to find.
There are two types. The first is the spraypainted word “MOTHERFUCKER”, because that’s the name of the villain. These appear all the way throughout the game, even though the first boss tells you that the big villain hasn’t decided on his name yet. Admittedly, complaining about this is sort of like eating a gigantic plate of shit and moaning that there was too much corn. The problem isn’t that there’s too much corn, the problem is that you’re playing Kick-Ass 2 and it’s shit. I mean, you’re eating a plate of shit. Whatever. I forget where I was going with that, but basically, Kick-Ass 2 is rubbish.
The second are places with wi-fi signals, which let you “Weet” – the hilarious in-game version of Twitter. Each level has one. They’re usually tucked somewhat out of the way, and then you find them and get to see what Kick-Ass Weets at his followers. This is significantly less interesting than it sounds.
Finally for this level, we visit the headquarters of Justice Forever, which has been attacked by the Motherfucker’s Toxic Mega Cunts. It’s basically a big warehouse, and as such is of no interest whatsoever.
Then we’re onto the boss fight, and the next hilarious cutscene! This time around, the boss is Mother Russia, the gargantuan Russian ex-KGB, ex-Spetsnaz member. The one that Hit-Girl could barely take on, in both the comic and the film. The one that Kick-Ass really shouldn’t stand any chance against, whatsoever. So obviously she’s a complete cakewalk.
Then, in cutscene-land, she pulls out a gun and shoots Colonel Stars and Stripes and then the police turn up and I guess everyone just shakes hands and leaves.
Level 4: Requiem
We rejoin our laughable heroes at the Colonel’s funeral, which is promptly attacked by the Toxic Mega Cunts. Despite the fact that the cutscene has a van driving up, with people pouring out of the back and firing off automatic weapons, you start the actual level in a vast expanse of crushing loneliness, with absolutely no van, villains, or… actually, there isn’t even any space for a van in the area you start. I have no idea how the hell it’s supposed to have driven there, or where it went post-cutscene.
Fortunately, Hit-Girl is standing there! She comments that you have to leave “fast as shit” and that you should go on ahead and she’ll follow you. Because Kick-Ass is totally the pro at this sort of thing, and the mass-murdering ninja pre-teen needs his guidance. She then resolutely refuses to move from the spot. Ever. Considering what happens at the end of this level, I’d like to assume she actually doesn’t move.
The police turn up, and Kick-Ass opts to just beat them up too. They are basically just reskinned versions of the other enemies, and thus there is absolutely no point in going into detail about them. There are two interesting things, though! First is that magic cartography strikes again, with police cars being sat in spaces that no police car should reasonably be able to reach in a narrow, winding graveyard full of gates a car cannot fit through. Second is that groups of police officer enemies are usually sandwiched between groups of gang member enemies. So, uh… I guess they just drove past them, and figured they’d wait for Kick-Ass instead of fighting the roving gangers with automatic weapons? Hmm.
It’s maybe interesting that this is the worst-designed graveyard on the entire planet, but considering the absurd layout of the city streets, subways, and every single other level in Kick-Ass 2, I’m not sure that comes as a surprise.
Reaching the end of the scene introduces you to The Tumor, the boss of this particular level. He is a short, fat, bearded guy in Batman pyjamas. He runs away from you immediately, and you have to… oh, for fuck’s sake.
You have to follow him into the sewers. Because there aren’t enough sewers in this game already. But don’t worry, because THEY LINK UP WITH THE SUBWAY SO YOU GET TO RUN ALONG SUBWAY RAILS AND DODGE TRAINS AGAIN.
On the plus side, this third sewer/subway area has some of the game’s “best” “jokes”. Here is a verbatim transcript of one:
“Only a dipshit like The Tumor would think of going through the sewers! Did you get it, Hit-Girl? He’s a dip-SHIT! And sewers are full of shit!”
I laughed until I wished I’d died, which didn’t take very long at all. Soon after, Kick-Ass mentions that hey, the sewer hooks up with the subway again, and he thought that only happened in games as a cheap way of repeating levels as extra content. Well, no; he says “a cheap way to reuse similar scenes”, but that doesn’t actually make any sense because reusing similar scenes is a cheap way of adding content to the game, so I’m assuming that’s what he meant.
Once out of the sewers for the LAST TIME IN THE GAME, you’re in Central Park. Which is basically the graveyard set of assets again, only without any graves or tombs, and with the fog from Turok making a cameo appearance. This is also the point when people stopped proof-reading the script or subtitles.
The fog mysteriously vanishes when you fight your way through to the boss battle with The Tumor, which – oddly – is one of the most difficult battles in the game. I mean, it’s still not hard, but he’s small and flops around the battlefield in a very irritating way. When you beat him, Hit-Girl shows up to torture him until you find out what’s going to happen next. Except she doesn’t actually show up, because the developers apparently couldn’t be arsed having her model walk on screen to do this, so she just speaks out of the void. Possibly because they couldn’t be arsed giving her a walking animation, because at no point in this game is she anything but stationary.
Level 5: Confrontation
And now, the level I’ve been looking forward to since I started playing Kick-Ass 2: the last one. The Motherfucker is about to launch a devastating attack in the heart of New York City!
Which is entirely deserted. After a comic-book cutscene depicting all sorts of heroes and villains facing off, you’re… on a street. Which is totally empty. So you just have to walk through and occasionally beat up gangs of thugs who are just standing around doing nothing.
Fucking hell, game. Couldn’t you have managed to put a civilian or two in? Maybe show some actual signs of devastation? No? Fair enough then.
This eventually leads you to The Motherfucker’s headquarters, which is a gigantic warehouse with a huge symbol sprayed on the front, so how nobody noticed it before now I do not know but goddammit I’ve nearly finished this game and I’m not about to digress into another lengthy discussion of improbable game features.
Before you can go inside and face your destiny, though, you find Hit-Girl, all beaten up and crouching on the ground. Apparently her fight with Mother Russia went badly, so you have to take on Mother Russia and a group of assorted thugs in a boss battle! Because if Hit-Girl can’t do it, Kick-Ass obviously can, because he’s… wait, no; he’s a guy in a wetsuit. Of course, she’s incredibly easy to beat and Hit-Girl remains eternally useless.Kick-Ass 2 invokes another gaming trope here, with the cutscene breaking from gameplay by depicting Mother Russia kicking the shit out of our glorious hero until Hit-Girl finishes her off. Um, game? Game, Hit-Girl was useless. She was just sat there bleeding, and I was the one beating up Mother Russia, and… you know what? Forget it. I’m done arguing with you. That entire scene follows in the screenshots below, though, because the art is too hilarious to pass without comment.
So we’re finally into The Motherfucker’s lair, and the game designers finally learned something about pacing! Rather than being a gigantic sodding labyrinth with multiple detours into sewers and subways, it’s a single fight in a big room, followed by the final boss fight. More terrible dialogue ensues, you beat up The Motherfucker in the standard boring way, and then you get the fantastic final cutscene.
Fantastic because the subtitles refer to The Motherfucker as The Tumor. Game, the Tumor was the boss of the previous level. He’s not in this level. He’s definitely not the main villain of the game. I know I said I was done arguing with you, but… seriously, what’s wrong with you?
And that’s it. There’s another rubbish cutscene which isn’t funny anymore because I’ve now been playing this game for seven hours and I will never feel joy again, and then an ill-advised credits screen which means I know exactly who’s responsible for this, and then you’re back on the main menu.
Kick-Ass 2 is terrible. It is lazy, derivative, poorly designed, poorly written, and doesn’t display a single atom of creativity throughout the entire thing. The combat has all the raw tension of painting a fence, the cutscenes are laughable, and the voice acting is atrocious. It doesn’t even take its source material seriously, managing to turn Hit-Girl into someone who needs to be saved (presumably so that you can have a boss fight against Mother Russia which you canonically lose), reducing the battle of Times Square into a comfortable stroll through some deserted streets, and…
No, I’m done. It’s terrible. If you’ve read this far and don’t believe me, no words here can help. Do not buy this. Not as a joke. Not as anything. Not even if it’s cheaper than a packet of peanuts. Just don’t.
But I know that won’t have convinced some of you, so… well, if that hasn’t helped and you still want to buy Kick-Ass 2, and I can’t dissuade you, and you’re absolutely sure… click here.