Kane & Lynch: Dog Days is a standard third person shooter with amazing art direction. For every gun blast, blocky artefacts pop up, corrupting the screen like it was filmed on a cheap video camera. Light sources smear vertically, and the viewpoint lurches like the cameraman is running along behind the player. It's brutal on the senses, but it's startling enough to make me like the game more than I should.
You're the psychotic Lynch. You get a job in your new home, Shanghai, and ask Kane to help out. Within ten minutes of meeting (after a brilliantly awkward hello), you've accidentally murdered the daughter of a powerful crime baron and go on to spend the remainder of the game fleeing his minions. From then on it's you vs Shanghai. Criminals, corrupt police, and eventually the army all get in the way.
It's at least a better shooter than the first game, but it still has major problems. Running through a market, pushing up against tables, blind-firing over the top and tossing explosive petrol cans… this is all stuff that games have done for years. But with Lynch's inaudible gibberish, Kane's reliable presence as the buddy AI, and Shanghai's neon lights bending and warping under the maddening digital distraction, the style shoulders more weight than the substance.
Duck and cover
Dog Days is heavily cover-based, so it relies on spaces filled with cleverly disguised low walls, such as cars and ice-blocks. That's not a problem if it works, but the cover still feels insubstantial, like there's always a bit of your body exposed to the enemy.
This was a big problem that made the original's gun battles a miserable experience, and while I've only died a few times when under cover this time around, it's maddening that they've yet to make it truly feel like a tactical advantage. At least it goes both ways: in one restaurant fight, the flimsy wall sections break under fire. Blasting away at the corrupt cops to force them out of their crumbling cover and into the open – that was a lot of fun.
But moments such as these are rare. There are twists, and when they arrive they show just how good IO are at coming up with disgusting yet funny scenarios (you spend the entirety of one level naked and bleeding), and Shanghai is used beautifully, but the game mostly sticks you in large spaces with inaccurate weapons.
You only have what you can scavenge, so there's no comfort when you do find a gun that's accurate: you'll eventually run out of bullets, so unless you kill an enemy using the same weapon, you'll need to swap it for another. Conceptually, it fits in to your mad dash for freedom, but it chips away at the fun a little bit.
The various multiplayer scenarios, Fragile Alliance, Undercover Cop and Cops and Robbers use paranoia (see: Keep Your Friends close) as a game mechanic, telling the criminals that they can make more for themselves if they take out their allies and grab the loot. Undercover Cop even asks one player in the gang to stop the heist without being caught. I was caught out, because I wasn't shooting at the police, and they weren't firing at me. It'll be interesting to experience that mode online with strangers as, amazingly, there are bigger jerks than me out there. As fun as it is, Undercover Cop suffers from the same coverbased problems as the main game.
IO are heading in the right direction and, if the base game were tighter, K&L2 could have been astonishing. As it stands, it's a 65% game with an art style of 90%.