Review: Kane and Lynch: Dog Days (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Kane and Lynch: Dog Days
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: IO Interactive
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Release Date: 08/17/2010

The first Kane and Lynch game caused a bit of a controversy when it came out, although it had very little to do with the game itself. Because of that, I was a little surprised to hear that a sequel was in the works, and kind of shocked when it actually arrived. Do we have a master criminal on our hands, or just another thug looking to get paid? Let’s find out.

1. Story/Modes:

Picking up some time after the events of the first game, the action begins in Shanghai. In a twist from the first game, this time around you’ll be playing as Lynch instead of Kane. Seems that Mr. Lynch has semi-retired from being an internationally wanted felon, and is living in semi-peace with his lady, Xiu. He’s still pulling the occasional job though, and that’s where Kane comes in. Lynch invited him to town to help out with a gun-running job. Things turn almost immediately south, as Lynch has to go lean on a guy for violating some code of the street. This simple intimidation run turns into a bloodbath, and the bullets don’t stop flying for the next six hours or so. Kane and Lynch: Dog Days features a story that takes about two days in game-time, but about six to seven hours in real-time. There aren’t a whole lot of twists or surprises to hold your attention, and the single player really drags near the end. Even the characters were complaining that they weren’t done yet, and there was still another level to fight through. In a bizarre change, you switch from playing psychopath Lynch to playing as Kane in the last level-for no reason whatsoever. The campaign ends suddenly, with nothing to separate it from finishing any of the last few chapters. The story really just stops for no reason.

There are a pair of extra modes along for the ride. Multiplayer, which I’ll discuss later, that actually has some fun to offer. There is an Arcade mode also, but is just a re-play of the multiplayer done offline. The Arcade and Multiplayer offerings are far more fun than the single player game, so be ready to breeze through the main game to warm up for the online fun.

Story: Modes: Mediocre



2. Graphics:

Graphics are still one of the most important aspects of a video game. It’s certainly the first thing we tend to notice. So each game that comes along now has to try to set itself apart from the rest. Kane and Lynch: Dog Days does this by putting a hazy filter over the screen and making the camera shake like it’s a camcorder in a documentary or a security camera. The result? A mess. Every light source in the game casts a vertical lens flare that makes it hard to see. It’s a pain to aim your guns because the screen tends to flicker and “snow” at long ranges. The shaky cam can be turned off, but the main filter effect can’t. The developers also decided to feature pixilation effects over dead bodies and nudity. This game is a great example of style over substance in this aspect. The graphics might look more like a movie, but it hurts the gameplay. There are also massive slowdowns and hitches if you manage to blow up enough things on the screen. Not everything is terrible though. The bullet impact effects, including shattering glass and splintering wood and office supplies, are pretty cool. In the end though, a lot of cookie-cutter effects and bland, repetitive backgrounds don’t make up for one or two neat changes.

Graphics: Mediocre

3. Sound:

For the most part, the sounds in this game are fine. Bullet and weapon sounds are solid across the board, and vary from gun to gun. The shouts and cries of the wounded work just fine during combat. What doesn’t work so well is the voice acting by anyone other than Kane and Lynch. Voices fade in and out during explanation scenes, and a lot of the characters are hard to understand. Kane and Lynch themselves sound just fine, but be aware that every other word out of their mouths are expletives. There’s also no option for subtitles. Aside from the obvious reasons for understanding the shoestring plot a little better, what about people that are hard of hearing? The music is also a bit weird, as it was either appropriate to the setting or an odd, one-note theme.

Sound: Below Average

4. Control and Gameplay:
Third person shooters with a cover mechanic are all the rage now. When done well, they are great. When not done well, you end up with Kane and Lynch: Dog Days. When rushing into cover, you have a horrible tendency to jump right over small barriers. The act of reloading often puts body parts out of cover and keeps you from healing back to normal. Leaving cover or moving along cover before the gunfight is completely done is often a fatal proposition, as you have to completely pull off the wall, turn to face the direction you want to go, and then start lurching that way. There are some neat things, such as shooting from the ground when you get dropped. Your character will be struggling to get up and firing back while you pound the A button to get back up into cover. Unfortunately, you don’t always get up in a good cover position, and more than a few times I got into cover in clear line of sight to my enemies. You can grab a human shield with relative ease, but almost every time I did it one of the guy’s friends would rush straight behind me and shoot me in the head. Shooting and aiming seems a little off, but that probably has more to do with the weapon selections. These guns are supposed to be whatever you can scavenge off of the fallen bodies of your attackers. This means that more often than not you are left with a cheap sub-machine gun or shotgun as your weapon of choice. That wouldn’t be an issue, but the aiming for those guns is definitely along the lines of “spray and pray.” Most guns don’t have any difference in technique outside of their respective categories either, aside from the amount of bullets they hold. All SMGs shoot the same for a very similar damage amount. As do all shotguns, pistols, etc. The gameplay itself is as linear as these characters are crooked, with pretty much one path that gets you through the levels. At times I completely felt that I was playing a light-gun game like Time Crisis IV that was ported to the consoles halfway through.

Control and Gameplay: Below Average

5. Replayability:
So, with weak controls, adequate graphics, and a swear-a-minute approach to dialogue, is there anything that makes Kane and Lynch worth coming back? Actually, there is. The multiplayer eschews the typical Deathmatch play types and offers up a cops and robbers simulation. The game type is called Fragile Alliance, and it starts with everyone on the same team. You’ll start the match on one side of the map, rush into a vault, hangar, money train, etc, and start looting while killing guards. The catch is that as soon as you start looting, you can start betraying your fellow thieves. If everyone works together, everyone gets a good sized share. The flip side is that if one person betrays the others and gets away alone, that person gets a huge share of the loot. Most matches typically see everyone work together in the first round, but then in round two people start backstabbing and looking out for themselves. The best trick is that if you do get killed by a fellow crook, you’ll respawn as a cop and can hunt down those who left you for dead. There are a few other modes, but they all boil down to basically the same thing. That’s not a bad deal though, as the fun and tension of taking part in a heist is almost enough to make up for some other shortcomings in the game.

Replayability: Great


6. Balance:

There is a certain problem with AI in games like this. You enter an area, fifteen guys spawn at all corners of the map, and instantly all of them know exactly where you are. You can shoot one or two guys at once, but the other dozen will send their bullets after you like trained marksmen. Add that to the weak controls and the fact that you don’t absorb much more damage than the people shooting at you, and that’s a recipe to restart the checkpoints every few minutes. The single player game is embarrassingly short as well. It can be beaten in about six hours, and even the characters start to ask when it will end near the finish line.

Balance: Pretty Poor

7. Originality:
On the surface, Kane and Lynch: Dog Days follows a wonderful tradition in film and literature. You have the intelligent, planning crook, and his blood-crazed, mad-as-a-dog sidekick. There are examples of this type of duo all over the place in movies. Sadly, it’s either ignored or driven home with all the gentleness of a sledgehammer to the skull in here. There is very little interaction between the characters aside from encouragement during the gunfights, and as soon as those are over they resume either moping or regretting their involvement. Here’s a hint: When the characters in your game start to question why they are still associated with each other, you might have a problem. The only original thing in the game is the Fragile Alliance multiplayer mode, which returns from the first game.

Originality: Pretty Poor

8. Addictiveness:
Aside from the Fragile Alliance mode, there’s very little to keep you involved here. Lynch is not a nice person, but he’s almost pathetic at the same time. He whines when things don’t go his way, but it is entirely his fault that things are so bad. It’s almost a blessing that the game is so short, if it went for another three hours I’d have been ill. The multiplayer will keep you hooked though, at least until you play a few matches with the usual complement of Xbox Live jerks. Fragile Alliance is fun, but it isn’t enough to justify the price.

Addictiveness: Poor


9. Appeal Factor:

This game is one of the few that puts you in control of a pair of truly irredeemable sociopaths. Even the Grand Theft Auto series typically starts you out small and works up to murder, despite all of the gnashing of teeth about violence and cop-killing. Kane and Lynch are a pair of characters that you really don’t care about unless you love hurting people, being hurt, and shooting everything that moves. There isn’t any identification or empathy for these guys, and that keeps you from caring about the game and what happens to them.

Appeal Factor: Bad


10. Miscellaneous:

By now, we’re all aware that post-release DLC is extremely important to a game’s bottom line. There’s a lot of money to be made after the initial rush of release day. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the way that this game advertises for it makes me sick. There’s nothing wrong with having an info-crawl that says something is coming soon, but the menus for levels and weapons for this game all have a common thread: “This item is coming soon via DLC.” That is such an insult, such a marketing forward approach to the game that I’m sickened. The game clearly shows that the resources for all of the top-tier weapons and maps are in the game but locked. So I’m going to have to spend some money in a few weeks to unlock them? No thanks, no sale, no chance. If you want to add more gear later via a download, great, but this is a painful example of “We made ten maps, let’s lock four of them until we get paid again.” Not only are things locked, they are tauntingly displayed. This is inexcusable and an abuse of your fans and playerbase.

Miscellaneous: Worthless

The Scores
Story/Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Below Average
Control and Gameplay: Below Average
Replayability: Great
Balance: Pretty Poor
Originality: Pretty Poor
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Worthless
FINAL SCORE: POOR GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary

Kane and Lynch: Dog Days tries to provide all the intrigue and danger that a pair of arch-criminals can muster, but bad design and poor gameplay hamstring the game at every turn. Aside from a compelling experience playing cops and robbers with friends there is very, very little to make this game worth your time and money. Everything from the graphics to the controls seems phoned in, and there’s nothing that makes you care about these characters. The game also manages to offend even the most jaded gamer by dropping profanity constantly. Keep this game in solitary confinement.

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