Format: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Eidos Interactive/ Square Enix
In serving its cold, dirty and gritty underbelly, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is met with a unique visual style. Shot to look like real-world documentary type camera work, there's no escaping the flair that IO Interactive have used to showcase the second in the Kane & Lynch series- the first having been received critically poorly. In trying to distance itself from others in its genre, Dog Days' hand-held camera aesthetic that accumulates strewn rough cuts, sharp movements, blinding lens flares and extremely fuzzy quality all help convey its added sense of realism.
And it works. As the demo's opening cut scene begins (once the loading screen has neatly portrayed a phone call), it becomes immediately clear- if you hadn't already guessed- the excellent tone that has been set. It's something that is expertly transitioned into the third-person, over the shoulder, cover-based action also, where the camera idles from side to side and waves to and fro as quality seeps and loses focus once the game play picks up.
Taking control of Lynch in the sequel, combat feels extremely well handled, from smooth transitions into cover, to the aim assisted shooting mechanics that do well to pick off enemies through the destructible cover. With the opening of the hands-on taking place in a Shanghai restaurant (more on that later), the explosive blend of action movie and grindhouse rough and tumble can be sampled. With sprinting seeing the camera jaunt up and down and side to side in trying to replicate the work of amateur cameramen, action is visceral and brutal with an unforgiving feeling of being a part of the action.
However, the short demo does little to forbade negativity coming its way. I wholeheartedly question the reason for the HUD elements when IO have gone so far in addressing the pervading sense of 'real'. Why not go all out in having that sense of documentary film making? It seems only a part of the intention has been carried out, since the remainder of the game is still blindingly eager in promoting unrealistic game play elements such as relocating weapons after a fire-fight using down on the d-pad highlighting dropped weapons, or choosing to use markers for points of interest. Not that the developer seems keen in becoming lazy in other aspects of the game's design- the attention to detail within the streets of Shanghai is simply fantastic. Stores are fully stocked (one shop has IO's previous work on store shelves!), and the shady streets are dirty and populated with well animated characters. The sense of location is further improved with the lights of monumental skyscrapers casting shadows down onto the action.
In addition to the sample of single player campaign, the demo also features a newly introduced singe-player 'Arcade' mode in which players must accumulate as much stolen money as possible with a team of ragtag NPC criminals against AI police officers within a four minute time period. Working together is the aim of the game if you're to make the escape vehicle in time, although with money split evenly between surviving members (used for buying additional weapons), you may want to increase your share by killing other members of your team- seeing you become a “traitor” and a walking target for everyone involved. Fail to escape the heist and you'll lose a life, with each of the three rounds given getting progressively harder. The multiplayer equivalent to 'Arcade' is the returning 'Fragile Alliance', whilst 'Undercover Cop' selects one player to be “cop”, tasked with stopping the other players from stealing the dough, introducing a dramatic multiplayer mode in which no one can be trusted until the cop is dead. 'Cops and Robbers', meanwhile, is Dog Days' take on team death match in a 6 versus 6 fight between the opposite sides of the law.
Whilst the first game was a let down by nearly all who played it, Dog Days looks really quite excellent. The cover system adds weight and refinement to the combat system whilst the presentation and immersive graphical style is well put together (unless you suffer from motion sickness that is!) The main problem I have is the sense of uniqueness- other than the visual flourishes, it offers very little different from the waves of other games already on the shelves. I can't help but get a feeling that it'll hog bargain bins in little time after its release.