Like a Tarantino film without the sharp dialogue, a Scorsese crime drama without the compelling characters, or maybe the frenetic pace of a “Cops” episode, minus the realism. All of these descriptions more or less apply to Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. About as subtle as two to the chest, a sequel to an uninspiring franchise only gets worse thanks to a terrible aiming system, boring combat, and a story that can only be described as the product of a poorman’s Guy Ritchie.
Available on the OnLive gaming service, it’s a shame that the first title to simultaneously launch for the Mac (through OnLive) and other platforms is such a disappointment.
So, first, the plot: after psychotic killer Lynch and his fellow deathrow escapee partner, Kane, survive a run in with The7 and their own betrayals (depending on the ending you chose in the last game), they’re now in Shanghai when a deal goes bad. They’ve “accidentally” killed a very important crime lord’s daughter, and now many of their old friends, various Chinese mafia types, and the entire police are after them. In my book, it’s fine to start off with moral ambiguity but you at least need to have some redeeming qualities for your characters. Kane and Lynch, as characters, possess none of these.
Unlike the first game in the series, for the majority of Dog Days you play as Lynch, the balding, sunglasses-wearing psychopath who can be counted on to shoot every person he encounters. Spoiler alert: he shoots a lot of people. The plot essentially involves a revenge arc in reverse. Since Kane and Lynch killed the mob boss’ daughter, the mafia kills Lynch’s woman (in a gory and remarkably emotionally dead sequence) and tortures Kane and Lynch. The two then set off to kill him so they can escape. Even Kane admits that there’s a code and they’re breaking it by going after the daughter-less mob boss, but they still do. After that’s done, they battle through the airport to escape. It’s at this point the dramatic second half of the game kicks off…
…except then it doesn’t. The last part of the escape is ridiculously easy and after slogging through an office building full of soldiers, its anti-climactic. The five or six hour campaign is short, forgettable, and features a variety of grimy locations in the worst parts of Shanghai.
It also doesn’t help that the cutscenes further little of the plot and the “deal” that brings Kane out to Shanghai in the first place is never fully discussed. The dialogue and writing, where every other word is four letters and not repeatable in this space, is ambiguous and hackneyed, so like Kane, you have no idea what the heck is going on. People are angry and they’re shooting at you. The moments where the two characters talk to each other and try to make sense of this, an entirely noble goal, is frustrating because unless you’re close to your partner during combat, you can’t hear him. You only hear your half of the conversation.
Stylistic and story issues aside, this is a pretty standard third-person shooter. People often knock the genre for its heavy use of cover. Seemingly every environment in Gears of War and Rainbow Six: Vegas have something about waist high you can crouch behind and shoot from. Well, Kane and Lynch’s vision of Shanghai is similarly cover-happy. Unfortunately, a game like Kane & Lynch: Dog Days makes you appreciate titles like Gears of War for the smaller things like do right. In Gears of War, for example, the sprint function works and is well integrated into the cover system. Hear you can run around and switch to a strange documentary-style camera while trying to dodge bullets and then stick to the right side of cover. It’s awkward and rarely works as it should, though the graphics do look much improved over the original title.
The boilerplate guns in this game are also fairly useless against enemies, who are smart enough to hide behind cover forever and content to take pot shots at you. The game becomes a game of hide and seek and attempts to flank them usually results in the realization that even though you can see your enemies’ exposed backsides, doesn’t mean you can shoot them and register hits. Each battle plays out exactly the same— just change the dingy setup for another.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest assets of Dog Days is its multiplayer, which won’t be available on OnLive until August 31st. The various modes of multiplayer allow you to take part in heists, betray or support your teammates, and try to make off with as much money as possible. Kane and Lynch’s multiplayer is only partly about shooting and grabbing the loot—the real thrill is in maintaining or betraying the alliances you have with your crew members. If you work as a team, you all end up with a cut of the money. But if you betray them you could end up with more and they could end up with nothing.
While I enjoyed fighting my way through the various heists with AI bots, the AI doesn’t behave as deviously as your fellow humans—I could count on my AI teammates to stick by me throughout the maps. Which, of course, made it all too easy to betray them. One of my favorite moments of Dog Days was robbing a train with my team of AI criminals, getting to the chopper first, and then bribing the pilot to take off without the rest of my crew. I lost some of my money due to the bribe but everyone else ended up dead and broke.
Macworld’s buying advice
There’s a dearth of good third-person shooters available on the Mac. Still, this doesn’t mean Kane & Lynch is any more worthy of your time and money. Games can be gritty and raw, but Dog Days’ gameplay is an unpolished and sloppy mess. What could have been a chance to improve and expand a franchise with promise has instead given gamers a fresh reason to deride publisher Eidos.
[Chris Holt is a Macworld associate editor.]