It's a rare day that I no longer want to play a video game. Oh sure I might not like a game that I'm playing but there are only a very rare few games that have made me never want to play them again. Playing through games like this becomes a bit of torture akin to having teeth pulled by a drunken dentist on the back of an ATV driving off-road. So far, in my time reviewing games, I have only had this happen a few times and none have given me quite so powerful an urge to just stop frigging playing like Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days.
At the possible chance of making myself a pariah of the gaming community I'm going to man up and admit to something; I like the first Kane and Lynch game. Controversies aside the game itself was a pretty damn good game. It had solid gunplay, an interesting storyline and some incredible set pieces that Michael Mann would have been proud of. The main weakness of the gameplay itself was that some areas were unnecessarily difficult, such as any area with snipers, and a really terrible pair of endings made it a bit hard to love. Even the Fragile Alliance, while praiseworthy for trying something different eventually got a little too repetitive and bland.
So obviously the solution to creating a sequel is to throw out all of that. Gone are the interesting set pieces, gone is the delicate balance between the guns and gone is the very well done difficulty. In its place are some running battles with gangs, running battles with police and then running battles with military. That somewhat interesting story is replaced by something of a retread of the first games story mixed with a really bad camera. On basically every level Kane and Lynch 2 manages to fail. But let's take this piece by piece before this turns into a rambling mess of a review.
Dog Days picks up a few years after the events of the first game. It seems to occur in some nebulous place between the two endings of the first game where Kane helped his associates but his daughter didn't die (apparently even the devs realized those endings sucked). Lynch calls Kane to Shanghai to help him out with an arms deal, they stop off to handle just a bit of business and things go wrong as they are wont to do. The two men fight for their lives, are captured, a loved one dies and they escape after taking revenge. Which is totally different from the first game. The main difference in the storyline is that they decided to take out one of the most interesting things by turning Lynch into a totally medicated character. This means you miss out on set pieces like Lynch's awesome flip out in the bank.
More or less every aspect of the actual gameplay is much like this done almost exactly like the first game but even worse.
The cover system doesn't really work at all. Even if you're totally concealed behind an object enemies have a pretty easy time hitting you if they're even remotely at an angle. Should you crouch behind a wall enemies will often pluck at your health anyways so if you were hoping to hide behind cover to heal up a bit then you're likely to be highly disappointed. Compounding this is that some walls can be destroyed by even light gunfire which reduces your hiding options yet more.
All of this wouldn't be a problem if your characters weren't made of wet tissue paper. Where the two player characters in most games are able to take some gunfire they do rather poorly in combat now. All it takes is a solid shot to knock you on your behind from where you can get up, get up into cover or shoot at enemies. This knockdown mechanic is really obnoxious in most situations since it can happen multiple times in a single fight. But all it takes is a small bit of sustained gunfire to take out either of your heroes so this knock down, which pops you completely out of cover, is often a death sentence. Also don't let any enemies see you get within a ten foot radius or you're going to go down immediately since, once again, your characters are pansies.
If this wasn't a big enough problem then you also have to deal with the fact that all of the guns in this game suck. Big time. Even if your reticule is dead center on an enemies' body you will often miss most of your shots with all but a few guns due to sheer inaccuracy and ridiculous kick back on any sort of sustained fire. This means that the only weapons that are of any use are the single shot weapons, notably the very few rifles in the game. Shotguns are actually just as useful if not more so at medium range than any of the rapid fire weapons could ever hope to be. With how useless the guns are the total removal of grenades, replaced by explosives you throw and then shoot, hurts even more so since clearing a small group of enemies takes far too much effort.
Frankly the only thing that this game really has going for it is its unique visual presentation. The entire game is shot as if by a handheld video camera, the sort of footage you might see on YouTube. Explosions leave graphical artifacts on the video, distorting the footage for a bit, and people who have very graphic injuries, such as shots to the face, have their faces covered with a pixilated blur. You can even leave on an option where whenever you run the camera basically has a heart attack, flailing and jerking all over the place like it was held on a piece of string behind your running characters back.
Of course even an interesting visual style doesn't mean a damn thing in the face of poorly done graphics. When you turn on the game you will see the environments all look really good. The buildings, the debris, the vehicles... it's all really nice to look at. The city of Shanghai has a realistic, dark and grungy look to it while also managing to be fairly brightly lit. It looks infinitely better than Army of Two: The 40th Day did in the exact same setting. Except in that game the character models didn't look like they were shaped plastic blobs that reflect light in the weirdest of ways possible. It looks, to be frank, like a bunch of toys running around a lovingly designed city. Those artists deserve praise while the character modelers really dropped the ball here.
The online is the exact same game it was three years ago. Exactly the same. To the uninitiated this is the Fragile Alliance game mode and it's one of the more interesting online game modes. A group of criminals arrive at a heist, gather loot and then run to an extraction point. But since you're criminals you can betray each other, killing people and taking their share of the loot if you feel like being a slime ball. If you kill someone they come back as a cop and attempt to take out the criminals for a cut of the money. So you have to gauge whether it's worth it to betray your allies, and risk them taking you out, or play it straight and escape with a bigger cut of the money all on your own.
This was interesting three years ago but absolutely nothing has been added to this. They've added a single player mode, called Arcade Mode, where you work with the AI to rob locations and a new mode called Undercover Cop.
Arcade Mode is interesting in theory but it flounders since the AI is too damn accurate with its guns. It's frankly almost impossible to kill them and escape with the loot since they are really damn good at cutting you down in short order. Since they always work together no matter what you are battling the entire team which is far from fun. Plus if you don't get enough money then the computer gets a bit... annoying to deal with. It's actually possible to get on their nerves by taking too much or too little money on your own. While a fun little diversion it's just okay. While not terrible it's can be more than a bit annoying so it's something to be done sparingly.
On the other hand Undercover Cop is totally broken. In this setup one of the crooks in Fragile Alliance is an undercover cop who must stop the crooks to get a cut of the money. This is an interesting idea but it's woefully broken in practice by the simple fact that the minute you act slightly odd they will gun you down. The only way to do your job easily is to get use an explosive against them but once you pick that up expect to be taken down. Unless your allies are just really stupid this mode is far from fun.
Making the online multiplayer more of a joke is a serious twofold problem: the first problem is lack of maps and the second is the rank increase system. Since there are only a handful of maps available things get repetitive very fast. Of course this is remedied by DLC being released almost immediately after the games launch which is totally not an attempt to milk this games sole redeeming factor. Worse still is the ranking system which limits you to what weapons you can use by your current rank. This means that higher ranked folk can easily gun down their allies while they're stuck with peashooters and there's nothing much you can do about it. Well you can remedy it with a different piece of DLC if you really like but that's just encouraging deplorable tactics on the part of game developers
Really Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is a failure in just about every aspect. While you can enjoy the game, especially the online or Arcade mode, a good bit there's almost nothing to make this game something that anybody should own. If you were a fan of the first game then this does nothing that the first game didn't do except it does it quite poorly. If you weren't a fan of the first game then this will do nothing to convince you that you should give the game a try. While I'm sure this will be in the bargain bin in a few months you can get the first game even cheaper and it's far better. Look past the stigmata that game has while giving this one as wide a berth as you possibly can. Fire might help with that.