These days it's possible to buy glasses that don’t have prescription lenses in them. They exist, presumably, because people with perfect vision want the chance to experience the hassle that comes with visual defects, or because the bully’s union wanted to increase their number of potential targets. But as someone who needs eyewear 11/6 (I sleep a lot) I say why spend the money?
If you crave the authentic I-need-glasses-to-see-but-can’t find-them-anywhere experience, watch 3DTV without 3D goggles on. If you wish to replicate the effect of transition lenses, use the dimmer knob on your interior lights rather than the switches. And if you want to know what life is like for a bobblehead who lives in a wind tunnel and whose glasses are covered by a thick coat of treacle, play Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days.
Kane and Lynch are bad men. Although my path and theirs hadn’t crossed prior to the events of this game, I know this because one has a beard and wears sunglasses at night and the other has a large scar running over his eye (my money is on some kind of glasses and treacle-related mishap).
Dog Days reunites this sketchy twosome in Shanghai, where Beardy Sunglasses now lives. He’s trying to get some kind of arms deal together, but forgets the first rule of business: don’t murder utterly everyone you are doing business with as it will make future clients nervous. Poor Bungeye is dragged into this whole kill-everyone caper because, hey man, Beardy said he would drive him to his hotel, and he’d rather have all the blood of the greater Shanghai metropolitan area on his hands than catch a cab like some schmuck.
But enough with the jokes. As a great man who is no doubt a blast at parties recently said, “review[s]… are made primarily to inform,” [You’re talking about me here, right? – Ed.] so let’s dispense with the niceties.
As with the first Kane & Lynch title, Dog Days is a third-person co-op shooter with all that genre’s tropes: regenerating health, the ability to take hostages, a cover system, and awful dialogue. To this stock formula, IO Interactive have added the wackiest visuals this side of a kaleidoscope, all allegedly inspired by “documentary filmmakers and the user-generated era.”
Rather than a stable camera tracking behind you, the camera bobs and swings about wildly when following you, as if being held left-handed by a drunk, right-handed cameraman, trying desperately to keep up with you on a pair of stilts.
The camera he is using is actually a late-‘90s mobile phone, the footage from which you appear to be watching on YouTube through a filthy window with your monitor’s contrast set to one. The result is a frantic, flickering, sometimes-pixellated, artefact-heavy neo-noir assault on your eyeballs, which complements the grimy and visceral narrative. It is also the game’s best feature, not insignificantly because it disguises some woefully undercooked graphics. Those who activate the Steadicam option in the game’s menu will immediately understand.
This film motif creeps into other areas of the game too. Loading screens are akin to surveillance footage, we are reminded that all events depicted are fictional, and nudity and extreme gore are blurred out by pixilated boxes. Are the developers making some kind of statement about the media’s obsession with violence and the complicit nature of our relationship with it? I can say with 100 percent confidence: No, they are not.
IO Interactive do make a bold claim for “realism” in Kane & Lynch though, and on top of the art style, Dog Days certainly makes lunges at authenticity. There is no music, neither protagonist can commando roll or slide into cover, and you are limited to carrying two weapons and a handful of ammo for each.
Yet this claim is shown to be ridiculous by a number of design choices that frustrate play and remove players from the experience completely. To begin, forget about trying to kill anything that is closer than three metres away, as not only is there no melee attack, but aiming down to kill, say, attack dogs is all but impossible. Then there is the issue of actually shooting people.
Pistol and sniper rifles aside, all weapons available are outrageously inaccurate, even when you are crouching. Bullets seem to fly everywhere except within your large target reticule, and if you are lucky enough to graze an enemy, he will immediately change direction and sprint back to cover as if your bullet was filled with a cocktail of steroids and Matrix bullet-time juice.
There are no grenades, but fire extinguishers are just as explosive. Add to that the fact that - headshots aside - enemies eat clips worth of ammunition before they go down permanently, and you’ll decide that reality has well and truly checked out.
Your foes don’t have the same trouble plugging you, however. Pinpoint accurate from the most improbable distances, you’ll often take hefty damage before you can even see them. This is exacerbated by one of the worst cover systems yet invented – one in which you are never fully in cover and therefore can always be shot. Read that sentence again, because it’s important.
Now you’ve absorbed that, know that every bullet that hits you causes your screen to blur, like when you are punched in Perfect Dark. Yes, on top of the shaky camera. Running makes your screen blur too, as if you are accelerating to mach five from a standing start. So there is a lot of blurring is what I’m saying, and a lot of shooting at distant blurs. Sold yet?
What if I add that mission objectives often appear exactly where your crosshair does and linger for precious seconds while you are shredded by gunfire? That the dialogue is 74 percent screaming and 100 percent ridiculous? That genre narrative clichés abound? That the game is as angst-ridden and immature as a Good Charlotte album? That it is barely five hours long? That the ending is so anti-climatic as to be laughable?
I could go on. But instead I’ll just say that Kane & Lynch 2 is by far the worst, most frustrating shooter I’ve played in years. Even when I played in co-op mode there was no sense of fun or camaraderie, it was simply an utter grind from start to finish, and now my flatmate is refusing to speak to me for making him waste an afternoon on it. Hell, it’s making me angry just thinking about it.
Amazingly, then, the online sections of the game are actually pretty fun. Removing the AI and main protagonists works minor miracles for the game, although more multiplayer maps wouldn’t go amiss. The best of the online modes, Undercover Cop, has a randomly chosen player betray his bank-robbing team while their opponents play as the police. It’s far from flawless and no one will playing it in a couple of months, but next to the main campaign it’s a masterpiece whose very existence prevented me from microwaving my Kane & Lynch disc.