The original Kane and Lynch: Dead Men launched in 2007, this action shooter focused on the exploits of two protagonists: one mercenary, one medicated psychopath, who despise each other, but forced to work together to survive.
The sequel is a bit different, shot as if it’s being filmed by an on location cameraman. This bold and revolutionary presentation is one of the things that elevates IO's sequel from basic cover shooter to genuinely thrilling experience.
Two disreputable ex-cons get embroiled in a Shanghai heist, the job goes awry and all the guns in China are suddenly pointing in their direction. It's Lynch who takes the lead this time and he's as engaging as he is unstable. With lank, receding hair, a dishevelled suit and a crazy person limp he is a refreshing antidote to the smooth talking, stubble jawed heroes that populate nearly every other shooter out there.
It's Shanghai that emerges as the game's best character though. The plot scampers across the capital's seedy underbelly like a hungry tick, taking us from disreputable factories to neon lit streets to neglected wastelands. It's as alien and dangerous a place as any distant galaxy. One thing's for sure; you'll be too busy just staying alive to have time for sight seeing.
Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days: Single player
The mechanics at play here are immediately familiar. Run, gun and duck behind something solid when the lead starts flying. It's here though that the jittery camera work does its magic. There's a rawness and urgency to the action that pixel sharp, high def visuals could never hope to better. You feel every impact and, for that matter, every near miss. This is thanks to the blurring and stuttering of the display as it struggles to keep up with the frantic action. The splashes of blood, smearing of light sources and clatter of the microphone are particular highlights.
Digging in and popping up for an easy headshot is a one way ticket to the morgue. Being inventive, dancing around cover, shooting through flimsy walls and planning and executing carefully orchestrated pincer movements is the order of the day. It's here that the game's co-op really shines. There are no gimmicks, there's just gunplay. Like the rest of the game there's a refreshing purity to it. No collectibles, no special moves, no intrusive and overlong cinematic sequences. Just. Gunplay. It's a short, sharp, shock of a campaign that's heavy on action but light on variation.
There are also problems that should have been ironed out. Taking damage often results in so much blurring and obscuring gore that it's very difficult to see your attacker. It's also true that, aside form the daring visual style, there's very little on offer here and what there is has been done better elsewhere
Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days: Multiplayer
Luckily this is a sequel that manages to justify its price tag with its online component alone. IO employed two separate teams to manage the single and multiplayer games, and it shows.
There are three modes to choose from, all of them built around heists based on real-life cons. Standing in for team death match/capture the flag is Cops and Robbers, which is pretty much as you'd expect
More impressive is the returning Fragile Alliance mode. Working as a tight knit unit of criminals you must secure the loot and escape within a tight time limit whilst contending with an onslaught of cops and the greed of your team mates. Occasionally one of your number will turn traitor complicating matters further. Worse, if someone dies they respawn as a cop. But the ever present suspicion this breeds is as nothing when compared with Kane and Lynch 2's crowning achievement.
Undercover Cop matches play out like Fragile Alliance with an added dose of paranoia. Among your number is an undercover cop whose job it is to take out all the criminals. Picking his moments carefully he can gradually take out the entire team, but he'll have to reassure his teammates that he's on the level to do so successfully.
Like all the best multiplayer games, it plays with your head as you play. Everyone will get twitchy. Those who act suspiciously will be watched carefully, or worse, gunned down without question. It's like nothing you've ever played and it's absolutely electric.
It's this element then that will silence critics who claim that Kane and Lynch 2 is getting by on its distressed looks alone. The main campaign is gritty and, for all its faults, exciting stuff - but the multiplayer mode demonstrates a near peerless mix of explosive action and prickly psychological warfare. In short: Kane and Lynch 2 is a vast improvement over the original and a multiplayer must.
Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days is out now for xBox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC