Kane and Lynch: Dog Days

8.0 Overall Score

Written by on September 20, 2010 in

There are games that are so good at what they try to do that they make it impossible to like the game.  This is the best way to explain my feelings about the third person shooter called Kane & Lynch:  Dog Days, the sequel to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.  The folks at IO Interactive have granted us a peek into a world that, in all honesty, I would rather not explore.  It is a world inhabited by people with very little in the way of redeemable qualities.  One such person is James Seth Lynch.  He is a reckless, self medicating mob enforcer with a rather nasty psychotic streak.  This is the man the player attempts to control throughout the game.  I say attempts because the controls are a bit on the awkward side, but more on that later.  The game begins as Lynch wakes up in a dirty apartment in downtown Shaghai China clothed only in a wife-beater shirt and tighty-whiteys.  He makes his way into the bathroom and the player is treated to watching him pee.  This is some of the ‘gritty realism’ I could have done without.  He does have one good thing in his life, his girlfriend Xiu.  This relationship seems to have a somewhat calming effect on the man.  All of this action is drenched in a sickly green hue and the shaky cam style film-making of the players movements can tend to add to the players queasiness.  It reminds me of the string of crime shows in the 90’s like NYPD Blue and Homicide:  Life on the Street.  If either of those shows were on your ‘must-watch’ list than you may enjoy this game.

The developers want to present a disturbing world and, in my mind, they succeed in that.  To Lynch’s credit he is trying to get out of the hole he lives in.  He contacts his pal Adam “Kane” Marcus.  Together they hope to do the infamous ‘one last job’ to make enough money so that they can be free.   Kane is the planner of the pair and tries to keep Lynch under control throughout the game.  He has a daughter that hates him and just lost his wife from living in the underworld.  The two meet up in Shanghai and Lynch immediately brings Kane to a run-down neighborhood to do a little shakedown of a local thug for an English mobster by the name of Glazer.  Things quickly grow out of control.  The pair accidentally kills the daughter of a very powerful and corrupt official.   Once this little bit of new gets out, Kane and Lynch are marked men that are in a desperate run to escape with their lives.

This begins the manic portion of the game where the pair must constantly race around the worst parts of Shanghai to avoid overly zealous efforts of thugs and corrupt police officers in exacting vengeance for the unfortunate death.  I mean typically folks don’t see choppers outfitted with rocket launchers shooting thugs in skyscrapers.  But in Dog Days, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  It seems Kane and Lynch have ticked off the whole population of Shanghai as wave after wave of enemies try to kill them.  In this game there is no pause, figuratively speaking.  The player must constantly progress through the environments.  There is limited amount of ammo and a horribly ineffective amount of cover to protect the fugitives.  Most cover they do find is destructible and very temporary.  Some players have complained about the very awkward cover system in the game.  I tend to wonder if the designers spent less time trying to create this system because they wanted to encourage the player to keep running.  Sometimes the best option in overwhelming odds could be to make a run for it.  Other times the player needs to stay and kill or be killed.  As a wise person once said, “There ain’t no rest for the wicked”.   Kane and Lynch continue racing through Shanghai and building a body count to rival that of Attila the Hun until the enemy strikes a crippling blow to Lynch.  His girlfriend Xiu is taken and now all bets are off.  He loses his very tenuous hold on sanity and vengeance overpowers him.  As if underscoring Lynch’s inability to cope, the player is suddenly switched to control Kane for the last portion of the game.  The move is an interesting, if not confusing, story-telling device by the designers.  Without warning the player sees only Kane and must understand Lynch has left the building, mentally speaking.  This is not the only curious technique the designers use in the game.

One feature of the game I mentioned earlier is the shaky handheld video cam style.  If this gets to be too much for the player they can shut it off in the options menu.  That is definitely a good idea for those who get motion sickness easily.  The next odd feature is the blurring of the camera shot when the player sprints.  I was confused by that for a while but I find it interesting as a technique to capture the tunnel vision one typically has when they are running.  These guys are older, out of shape and running constantly.  It makes sense that running would cause them to be unable to focus on anything else.  It also gives the player a sense of the desperation the characters are feeling.  The last interesting camera technique in the game is straight out of the reality TV world of COPS.   When the violence or nudity gets too graphic, the naughty parts are pixilated.   Strangely the pixilation seems to focus my attention even more on the gore and other parts of the game that they are trying to obscure.  This is definitely an ironic twist to a Mature rated game.  I am assuming that these features are all in an effort to immerse the player in the world they have created.  There are also gameplay techniques that are a little different from most shooter games.

One is the down-but-not-out technique.  Here the player falls to the ground but has a second chance to get up and find cover before the enemy can kill them.  Another way to get through some of the enemy filled areas of the game is to sneak behind an enemy and use them as a human shield.  As with the other forms of cover this technique is very temporary as the human is also a ‘destructible element’.  There is also the way they introduce new objectives.  Suddenly there will be a short typed message that literally spells it out for the player in very vague terms.  Objectives like “Stop that van” need to be immediately pursued before it is too late and the player must try it again.  Typically this just means shoot the heck out of the target or those pursuing the target in the case of Lynch’s girlfriend.  So far I have focused on the solo campaign of the game.  There are also online and offline ‘co-op’ multiplayer game modes.

I put the co-op aspect of the game in quotes since it seems more like an ‘every man for himself’ style of gameplay dominates these modes.  In the online modes of Fragile Alliance, Cops and Robbers, and Undercover Cop you are just as likely to get shot in the back by your teammate as a player on the other team.  Fragile Alliance is the multiplayer mode that came with the original game.  Here the players are on a team of up to 8 people that must execute a heist in money of several playable environments like a subway station.  Players are trying to grab as much money as they can and escape through police forces in less than four minutes.  But beware because there can be traitors on your team and if you get greedy you will need to kill them or be killed by them.  In Undercover Cop the rules are very similar to Fragile Alliance with a twist.  There is a randomly chosen player that will be responsible to stop the team from escaping with the loot.  In Cops and Robbers two teams switch off roles.  One team playing as the police tries to stop players on the other team from grabbing the cash and escaping on a chopper.  Fair warning, if the player finds the aim/shoot and cover controls awkward in the solo campaign, they will find them extremely difficult in the much faster pace of online modes.  At the end of each match players are able to buy new weapons from their heist money.

The offline multiplayer mode has to be one of my favorite modes.  I have to be honest and say that I am a noob to the online multiplayer shooter gaming and this mode gives me the opportunity to practice my skills playing a version of Fragile Alliance with AI team mates that seem to be at my same level and ability.  Here the player plays round after round until they are killed three times.  As the player progresses the levels get more and more difficult.  This is an amazing help that allowed me to practice and sharpen my skills so that I was not completely overwhelmed by the online play.  This is an idea that I would love to see in other games where their online modes differ greatly from the solo campaign and some lesser experienced gamers can practice without shame.  Sadly, once I got online I found myself in matches that had highly skilled folks that took great glee in proving how much I needed to practice.

Now I will discuss a few of my frustrations with the solo campaign.  For someone that is new to the franchise I was dropped into the story with no background and no attempt to catch me up.  They finally explain the situation in dialog after playing over halfway through the story, but by that time I had already looked up the previous story up online.  I am not sure why there is no attempt made to give the player any background to the characters they are playing.  I am someone who really loves a good story and want to have some sort of an idea why I am at a certain location, why I am doing what I am doing, and what my ultimate goal is.  I will try to give the designers the benefit of the doubt and say that they had one of two goals in mind.  Either they decided only people who played the first game would play the second or they, again, wanted to increase the confusion and desperation of the player.  If it was the former, I recommend allowing new as well as old audiences the opportunity to understand the background of the game.  If it was the latter reasoning, I would warn that desperation quickly turns to frustration when the player is constantly running around with no idea what is going on.  Knowing the story of the first game deepens the understanding of the main characters.  Without the background it is much tougher to fully understand what they have endured and why they are so angry.

One of the main difficulties I had with the game is trying to devise a reason to care about what my character was doing and why.  The designers have done an excellent job of creating tragic characters that have miserable lives.  They have done such a good job that I found it very difficult to care iuf they made it out of the mess they had gotten themselves into.  Accepting the fact that this is a game of disturbing realism may be something that people who look to video games as escape may find troublesome.  Otherwise, those who enjoy mowing down rivals at an incredible pace, this game is an absolutely a winner.  To give you an idea of the ridiculous body count, there is a trophy for 1000 kills in the campaign.  If this happened in most downtown areas there would be pandemonium.  In this game it is just another day at the office.

A copy of Kane & Lynch: Dog Days was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.

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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

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