Kane & Lynch: Dog Days, the sequel to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was quite a ride. This time around, the story was simpler and the interaction between the two protagonists more interesting and more intense. The look and feel of the game improved greatly, and while there was still some snags with the controls, the overall gameplay experience improved pretty dramatically.
In Dead Men, Kane and Lynch are put together by The Seven, a council of top level, international crime bosses that Kane used to belong to. Kane stole money from them and he has to get the money back. The Seven stage a prison transport escape for Kane, who is en route to death row, where he is to be put to death for past crimes. They put Lynch, a wife-murdering sociopath, in the same transport and make sure that Kane is prepared to get busted out. After the escape, Lynch is tasked to help Kane retrieve the money he supposedly stole, while The Seven threaten to kill Kane’s ex-wife and daughter. Pretty soon both Kane and Lynch get burned by The Seven but manage to turn the tables and start hunting for them all over the globe, this time as partners.
In Dog Days, Kane is reunited with Lynch who now lives in Shanghai. Lynch is working as a thug for some a British smuggler named Glazer, has a girl and regularly takes his medication. Kane has been travelling the world, pulling heists where he could, but it becomes evident from the trailer to the game that the last heist went horribly wrong and his entire crew got killed while he got away, without the money. He wants to do one last job and then retire and so he gets in contact with Glazer, to smuggle some weapons and he is met in Shanghai by Lynch.
Before taking Kane to his hotel, Lynch asks him to accompany him on a little job he needs to do; having a chat with a local thug who has been talking too much. He needs to teach him a lesson, and before Kane knows it, he’s stuck in a gun fight that goes horribly wrong as they accidentally shoot the thug’s girlfriend, the daughter of an important politician/mafioso. That starts a chase through the sprawl of Shanghai as they are trying to flee the city.
Controls and Atmosphere
The reason I wanted to talk a bit about both the look and feel as well as the controls of the game is because they are very narrowly related. First of all, the game is absolutely beautiful, smothered in neo-noire that atmosphere that’s reminiscent of Miami Vice and similar shows and films. It shows both the glitz and glamour of a large city and simultaneously highlights that the shiny lights are only skin deep and that underneath that lies the filthy underbelly of a wicked, urban sprawl. The colours used in the game are all saturated neon colours of pink, blue and yellow and the setting is very rich and detailed. Also, the surroundings give a sense of endless openness and possibilities without letting you lose track of the path you’re predestined to follow. From the sweat shops you invade to catch a thug, to the low-rent apartment blocks you race through to save Lynch’s girlfriend, to the train yards, docks and airport you have shoot-outs in to get out of the city, all of them are covered head-to-toe in beautiful, rich detail.
The controls are a little tricky, but have certainly improved since the first game. The cover system works better and is more intuitive now, switching from one piece of cover to the next is also a bit more responsive, though the standard settings allow you to use the WASD buttons and RMB to walk and strave, you use the C to get into cover. All good. However, when you duck from one cover to the next, you use C+A to duck left, C+W to duck forward and C+D to duck right. I use the same finger (left-index) to hit both C and D. So a combo of those is a little tough.
The camera angle is also a bit problematic at times, but again, not nearly as terrible as it was in Dead Men. They actually chose a really interesting concept; a supposed third person carrying a portable camera to film everything. That camera man is always just behind whoever you’re playing at the time, be it Kane or Lynch, and sometimes ricochetting bullets hit the camera and make it go static for a moment. The camera is almost always moving, giving it a hard-nosed reality feel to it, and when the camera man is running behind you to keep up, the image becomes blurry and you can hear him panting. Sometimes, in the thick of it, he loses focus on what you’re trying to hit. The lighting becomes bad as fast-paced action leaves the camera struggling to keep up. The camera man is there, but he’s never part of the story. It’s very well done.
I thought this game was brilliant. From the rather brutal torture scene that leads into Kane and Lynch both running naked, cut up and bloodied into the streets of Shanghai, love handles and all, to the pixelated faces of the people you shoot in the head, supposedly because the camera man thought it was too gruesome for public consumption. The pace is fast and the panic on the voices of both actors is really well done, their frustration grows as they realise they are getting far too old for their gun-fighting antics. The only real complaint I have about this game is that it seemed a lot shorter than the first one, and that there was absolutely no end-of-game sequence, making the end of the game very anti-climactic.