By CHONG JINN XIUNGintech@thestar.com.my
Kane and Lynch are back to pull off one last job in Dog Days. Expect it to go terribly wrong.
THE first Kane & Lynch: Dead Men game didn't do very well but that didn't stop the developer from releasing a sequel, Dog Days.
So, after a three years break, the criminal duo are back for more action and mayhem.
This time the action shifts to Shanghai, China where Lynch has been laying low since the events of the first game.
Kane and Lynch are hoping to do one last job, a lucrative arms deal, that will set them up for life and allow them to retire from crime. But once again the job doesn't go as expected.
Dog Days attempts to distinguish itself from other shooters by using stylised visuals. The graphics look as if someone followed Kane and Lynch and shot a video with a camcorder.
It works to a degree. The haphazard shooting - the camera sometimes swings wildly from side to side - adds to the chaotic feel of the game.
To make it look like it was shot with a camcorder, the developer has also added effects like lens flare, out of focus shots and artifacts.
However, the shaky camera effects can be distracting - it can throw your aim off and even induce headaches and motion sickness.
Luckily, the effects can be switched off if it's not to your liking.
However, the home video look can't hide the lack of polish in the game. The character models aren't very detailed and if you look closely, the character's lips don't move when they talk during in-game sequences.
This is quite unfortunate as the poorly rendered character models stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise believable game world.
Visually, everything in the game looks dirty and grimy as if they are covered by thick layers of dusts. And the game's depiction of Shanghai is a far cry from the modern city that it is.
The scenery also doesn't change much as Kane and Lynch will mostly be running through back alleys, slums and abandoned factories.
Trouble in Shanghai
Dog Day's story is a little uninspiring as it is just about two criminals pulling off their final job to get rich.
Playing as Lynch this time around doesn't feel any different from playing as Kane in the first game.
The game offers both online and local splitscreen co-op although you can still rough it out solo with an AI controlled character.
The game's co-op mode feels tacked on as you don't really have to work together to complete objectives. Instead it feels like you and your buddy are walking through a long shooting gallery.
Also, Kane cannot trigger a cutscene so you will have to wait for the player that plays Lynch to catch up with you.
However, this is not really a problem as most of the time you will be closely working together to flank enemies and draw fire away from each other.
Also, the various scenarios feel the same because most of the time you will be just be walking into rooms full of bad guys.
Dog Days plays very much like a standard third-person shooter with lots of long fire fights with seemingly overwhelming odds.
The game's controls scheme is serviceable but the cover system isn't. There were just too many times that we got shot even after taking cover behind barriers.
Some barriers are understandably destructible but we didn't expect bullets to penetrate even solid concrete ones.
Amazingly, enemies are able to absorb tons of bullets even when they are not wearing body armour.
To make matters worse, enemies are ridiculously accurate and almost psychic as they can target you the minute you pop up from cover.
This causes fights to drag out as you will have to slowly chip away the enemy's health and dive back to take cover and recover health.
The firearms in the game include the typical collection of pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles and light machine guns. Sad to say, there aren't any explosive weapons such as rocket launchers.
In fact, there aren't even grenades. Instead, you're forced to rely on objects like gas canisters and fire extinguishes littered throughout the levels to kill multiple enemies.
Also, Dog Days is a linear game set in a very restricted world, and it gets repetitive really fast.
Aside from one or two missions you will be going through scenarios that feel the same from start to finish.
Occasionally, you can choose to approach a situation differently by flanking enemies or getting to a higher ground to get the drop on enemies while your partner distracts them.
However, these moments are far too few.
For better or worse, Dog Days' campaign is relatively short and lasts between four to six hours depending on the difficulty setting.
We managed to complete the campaign in five hours and in just two sittings.
The short campaign may leave you feeling short changed but then again we wouldn't want to play this game any longer than we have to.
Call the gang
Once you are done with the brief campaign there are several multiplayer modes to try which can be played online or offline.
In Fragile Alliance, you play as one of several armed criminals in a heist and have to escape from the cops within a set time limit.
Players can pick a location for the heist and play multiple rounds, and each round grows increasingly challenging.
In between missions, you can shop for weapons using the cash you got from the heist.
The catch - players can backstab their allies to grab a larger share of the loot for themselves or abandon their mates upon reaching the getaway vehicle.
In Fragile Alliance you can never be sure of who to trust - as the rounds get progressively harder, it's every man for himself and alliances will be tested.
The two additional game modes - Undercover cop and Cops & robbers - are just variants of Fragile Alliance as players can now also chose to play as cops.
The multiplayer modes is interesting at first but it's repetitive and gets boring after awhile.
Kane & Lynch:Dog Days tries to differentiate itself from other third-person shooters with its gritty presentation and hard action.
The core shooting mechanics isn't particularly great but the system is definitely better than the first game. But it is let down by cover mechanics that don't function all the time and enemies that are almost bullet proof.
The Fragile Alliance multiplayer mode sounds cool but it lacks variety, and you will be playing the same scenario over and again.
All in all, Kane & Lynch:Dog Days is just a passable third-person shooter with a short campaign and boring multiplayer modes.
Pros: Realistic environments; includes local and online two player co-op mode.
Cons: Poorly rendered character models; boring multiplayer mode; cover mechanic doesn't work; short single-player campaign.
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
Third-person action game for Xbox 360, PlayStation3, PC
Price: RM190 (PS3, Xbox 360); RM160 (PC)
Review copy courtesy of Blackmango Games, (012) 396-5936 or www.blackmangogames.com