Unique style is something that I really haven’t been noticing much of in my last few years of gaming. Sure, there have been games that have innovated in the way of gameplay, but as far as style goes, games just seem to be bleeding together for me. While there’s no doubt that the Halo games look amazing and have some interesting set-pieces and enemies, they just don’t seem to break away from the same stylistic conventions we’ve been seeing in sci-fi games for years. This is not to say that I dislike the games as I feel Halo 3’s multiplayer is some of the best there is. Recently, I’ve just found myself wanting something more than just solid gameplay when I’m in the market for a new game.
This is where Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days comes in. If there’s one game that has been on my radar ever since I first caught a glimpse of it, it’s been Kane & Lynch 2. Having played the first game when it launched, I know I’m not the only one who felt rather indifferent towards it. One of the things that bugged me most was that the whole game, including its style just struck me as extremely bland. Now, looking at its sequel, the two games couldn’t seem more different, but does that mean that this iteration may fare better than the original did? Read on to see if there’s enough substance here to complement the style.
While the plot here may not rival that of Palahniuk novel, that’s not to say that it doesn’t fit the game like a glove. Two escaped convicts – Kane and Lynch – end up in Shanghai some time following the events of the first game. You take on the role of Lynch, a medicated psychopath who is no stranger to brutal violence and murder. It turns out that he’s come upon a job that he believes will pay off more than he could ever imagine. It is at this point that his partner and the playable main character from the first game, Kane, shows up. Needless to say, when these two murderous psychos are reunited, things don’t go as planned, leading to an incredibly angry crime boss who wants the two convicts dead. This means that Kane and Lynch will have to fight through all of Shanghai’s hired men and police if they hope to survive the next 48 hours.
Throughout the game, I can’t say that I was incredibly interested in the story as it just felt like a simple thread holding together each of the separate action sequences, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t pulled in by the two main characters, particularly Lynch. Where the story itself struck me as uninteresting, I just loved seeing Lynch’s reactions to everything going on around him. There just seems to be a level of realism in his character that I rarely see in games. Yes, it’s not every day that you run into a medicated psychopathic murderer, but Lynch behaves exactly as you’d expect one to behave and, despite his penchant for murder, he still remains an extremely likable character. While it feels strange to feel comfortable being in control of this clearly unbalanced man, there’s just something human about him that I wasn’t able to shake while playing through the game.
If there’s one thing that really struck me about this game, it was its unique presentation. If you’ve seen any footage of this game, then you will know what I’m talking about. While some may look at stills of the game and dismiss it as just another third person shooter, they’d be missing a lot of what makes this game unique, with the first of which being the quality of the images.
What you’re seeing is not some sort of video encoding error. Kane & Lynch 2is supposed to look pixellated and grainy as if it’s being shot from a portable camera or cell phone., complete with over the top light flares and the auto-adjusting brightness of the camera that help to disorient the gamer. Like all the other design choices in this game, this may deter some potential buyers, but give it time and you’ll see that there’s a reason for every seemingly strange choice that was made in the game’s development. As a game taking place in an extremely dirty environment and in the slums of Shanghai, the developers are not trying to show you the environment through rose-tinted glasses. Instead, they want you to see the area for what it is and hopefully align you with the protagonists. In other words, they want you to feel disgusted and want to get out of the city as quickly as possible. While this design choice will definitely push some people away, I love that developers are starting to use techniques seen in the film industry to better convey their narrative and characters in-game.
The next thing you may notice is the camera itself. Unlike a traditional camera which generally seems tethered to the protagonist, it seems to have a life of its own in Kane & Lynch 2. Complementing the handheld camera look, you also get the handheld shake. Even when your character is not moving, the camera will bob in and out behind the character as if someone is following you around documenting your every move. Like the gritty look, this helps to create a sense of uneasiness in the player, further creating a disconnect between the player and the environment. In particular, I was reminded of low budget exploitation or snuff films. Nothing feels safe and you’re never given time to catch your bearings. It makes everything all the more hectic and keeps you from ever feeling any sort of comfort as you’re crawling your way through Shanghai’s alleys.