Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days box art
System: PC, PS3, X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: IO Interactive 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Eidos Interactive 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: August 17, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 (2+ Online) 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Regardless of what you may have thought about the original Kane & Lynch’s design, our titular mercenaries are two of the more interesting (and unlikely) protagonists to grace the cover of a video game in some time.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days screenshot

On paper, neither character is particularly likeable; Kane destroyed the lives of his family, and was eventually forced to witness the death of both his estranged wife and daughter at the hands of some former business associates. Lynch is no saint himself, having allegedly killed his wife. Throughout the original game, he was prone to psychotic episodes that targeted police and even civilians. Though his psychoses were glossed-over in their debut outing, Lynch’s mental instability made him something of a wild card. Regardless, despite some questionable A.I. and the bizarre vive la revolución direction that ended the first game, the duo’s second outing, Dog Days, is shaping up to be quite a bloodbath, and a good one at that.

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Some years have passed since Kane and Lynch parted ways, and Dog Days sees Lynch now settled in Shanghai with his girlfriend, Xiu. Though the demo I recently checked out was light on story, Lynch seems to have mellowed out, ditching the pedophilic early-nineties glasses for a more contemporary style and seeming generally less psychotic. Kane is meeting him in Shanghai for a weapons deal when things go south. “I f—ked up bad,” Lynch says in a phone call to Xiu that serves as the loading screen. “I love you,” he finishes, throwing into question how insane he may or may not still be. In any case, the cops bust in on Kane and Lynch in a shady-looking, low-lit restaurant as the demo opens.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days screenshot

Of course, by now you’ve heard about the visceral changes IO has made to Dog Days’ visual style, which crackles with low-res aplomb. The whole game looks like it’s filmed with a poor-quality shaky cam, the kind of cheap recording device that would probably be used to make low-rent bootleg videos of theatrical films sold in the alleyways of the Shanghai slums. As you move around, the camera jostles the screen, reacting to lighting and effects with visual noise, color desaturation, interlacing imperfections, and lens flare. Taking damage also lessens the visual fidelity on-screen, further scrambling and distorting the image rather than simply appearing as the familiar red ring that’s used to monitor health in nearly every other game.

Perhaps the best parts of Dog Days’ new visual system come from explosions and particularly graphic shows of violence. If a fuel tank explodes, the video feed “lags,” temporarily pixellating the explosion and obscuring a clear visual by populating the screen with noticeable artifacts. Should you choose to shoot someone point-blank in the face, the image is instantly censored with pixellated blocks. The effects are intentional, giving the game a raw edge that’s reflected in both subject matter and style. Instead of feeling unnecessary, as the censorship was in Manhunt 2, it comes across as a calculated choice of artistic expression. Needless to say, everything I’ve just described looks much better in motion.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days screenshot

Dog Days’ gameplay is just as gritty as you would expect from a Kane & Lynch sequel. You step into Lynch’s shoes this time around. Although it has the feel of an open shoulder-cam third-person shooter, both cover and strategy are more important than ever. The violence is much tighter and more visceral, and, more importantly, the enemy A.I. can be downright vicious. Dog Days separates itself from many other cover-based shooters on this fact alone, because your foes refuse to stay in one place. They will advance on your position enough to make you uncomfortable, though you can seize one as a human shield, either killing or throwing him when the others get too close. Regardless, if you think you can just take comfortable potshots from one position until everyone is dead, you’re wrong. Don’t even think about rushing out into the open with guns blazing, because it’s suicide.

Screenshots / Images
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