Kane and Lynch: Dead Men is one of gaming’s most notorious recent entries, but not for the “usual suspects” reasons. Sure, IO Interactive’s new IP was violent and crime-ridden, but it didn’t stir up the moral furor that accompanies a GTA or even a Doom. Dead Men is infamous for the hype dust-up it instigated.
To make a long story short, Jeff Gerstmann, one of Gamespot’s most senior editors, gave the game a rather low score. Apparently there were some advertising deals behind the scenes between Gamespot and Dead Men’s publisher Eidos, and as a result of calling it straight Gerstmann got fired. Thankfully He landed on his feet, starting a new gaming website called Giant Bomb, but the whole nasty situation saddled Dead Men with more bad press than it really deserved. Yeah, it was a mediocre game with several issues, but it had some good ideas too.
While I never played it, I felt Dead Men got a bad rap for the stir it caused, so I went into the sequel, Kane and Lynch: Dog Days, with as open a mind as I could muster.
Dog Days falls squarely into the 3rd-person cover-based shooter genre kicked off by Gears of War. Most of these games are inherently designed for co-op, so I like to call them “buddy shooters.” The two buddies in this case are once again the titular Kane and Lynch. Lynch has settled down as much as is possible for a medicated psychopath, getting a girlfriend and job as a low-level enforcer in Shanghai. He rings up his old buddy Kane for one last smuggling job that is very obviously too good to be true. Once again both criminals are royal screwups, and you don’t get five minutes into the game before they’ve made a big mistake and have half of the Shanghai underworld gunning for them.
The gameplay on offer is very typical for a buddy shooter. You play as Lynch this time, and a friend or AI partner takes over for Kane as you battle through a series of cover-based firefights. The problem is this gameplay is too typical. The enemies run the gamut of hired thugs to private military security, but have little actual variety in tactics or intelligence. The weapons you pick up are pretty standard, including pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, shotguns and the occasional sniper rifle. The only real distinction between weapons is whether they come from the thugs (they invariably suck) or the military/police (they’re halfway decent).
The weapons only differ in overall accuracy, with the thug guns wildly inaccurate and the more professional guns only competent, which makes the combat rather irritating. Occasionally you’ll find a propane tank to hurl at enemies and then detonate with gunfire, but these few-and-far-between explosives are rather weak. In addition the enemies are unrealistically resilient even on easy and medium difficulty. The locusts in Gears of War were aliens and understandably hardy, but these are average scumbag thugs and rent-a-cops.
Gears of War may have similar gameplay to Dog Days but it broke it up occasionally with epic set-pieces and boss fights. Dog Days has its rote third person shooting and that’s really about it. The squad-based combat, bank heists and stealth segments in Dead Men may have gotten a lot of flack for only half-working, but instead of fixing those elements IO simply removed them altogether. What’s left is a very brief, very basic shooter that ends up feeling almost rudimentary compared to its peers in the genre. Shanghai is a suitably gritty and realistically designed setting for the game and in its own way the city is just as stark and stunning as the alien vistas in Gears, but Dog Days never does a whole lot with the setting. Aside from a few well-placed firefights and a helicopter segment toward the end, there aren’t any big moments to break up the shooting monotony and Dog Days tries to use its creative visual style to carry the entire single player campaign.
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