Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days
Xbox 360 (Review Copy) PS3, PC
Hollywood would have you believe that everyone in the world is impossibly beautiful. Hell, you've heard the term "TV ugly" haven't you? If not, it goes like this: People who are supposed to be unattractive in-story, are still pretty hot by regular standards. While the same is mostly true in video games, third-person cover shooter Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days gives that a hearty middle finger. Everything about this game is ugly. And that's mostly by design.
After the events of Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, self-medicated psychopath Lynch has found peace in the slums of Shanghai — until Kane arrives, that is. Needing Lynch's assistance with an arms deal, Kane promises a big payday. Suffice to say, events spiral out of control, and the two small-time thugs find themselves at war with not only the cops, but the entirety of Shanghai's criminal underground.
With light blooming and visual artifacts, everything looks like it was filed with a cheap camcorder. This establishes the mood perfectly, because, while technically the protagonists, Kane and Lynch are not good people, and they do ugly things in an ugly world. The lo-fi approach to the presentation is striking, and easily the best part of the game. While the game makes the visually "ugly on purpose" approach shine, unfortunately, the gameplay isn't pretty either. Lynch himself controls fine, but both cover and aiming systems are terribly wonky. While offering a lot of action, the game AI borders on idiotic, and is terribly linear. The "Fragile Alliance" multiplayer, on the other hand, offers some interesting ideas, As a team of bank robbers you can only trust yourself, because at any time, another player can shoot you, and steal your cut of the loot. Most of the other play-styles are a variation of this, and offer a level of tension not found in the single player campaign.
Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days ain't pretty, but it's not supposed to be. The problem is, if something is going to be rough around the edges on the outside, there'd better be a strong core. Visually, the grit and grime is a positive, but there are gameplay issues that scream for more refinement.