Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days – Style Over Substance

When this title came out there were people at the Realtime Worlds office creaming themselves over it. Kane & Lynch 2 offers some of the highest visuals with highly styled camera work. Quite clearly the art direction has led this project. However not everyone liked the game. For some playing was a nausiating experience that was overlayed on a sub-par title.

Greyer than Aberdeen on a misty day

I found myself sat firmly on the negative side of the debate. Whilst I do agree that visually thegame looks intense and high octane, I didn’t experience that when playing. The shakey camera looks like something from a Bourne film but in truth, it was poorly done and added very little other than a hinderance. I don’t know about many gamers, but I’ve tried the whole sprinting thing before and managed it without the whole swaying and impaired vision. Maybe this is what John Terry was like in Moscow 2008?

During a conversation someone remarked on the quality of the visuals being a massive selling point. Having played it on the highest specs, I can see where they are coming from. However when they stated that the visuals = realism they lost me. I lived in Dundee, Scotland for a long time. It is a grey and dull city but compared to some of the settings in Kane and Lynch it is practically Miami. Saturising everything as grey may create a picture perfect view, but that is not necessarily realistic. When I look around the real world I see a plethora of colours. Even when foggy, there’s a richness to the real world. Just because post processing effects make the environment more attractive or grittier, it most certainly does not make the graphics more realistic or the game “better”.

Strawberry sauce

One of the major turn offs for me was the good ol’ strawberry sauce effect. I still don’t fully understand why there is such love for covering screens in red when you take damage. Blood is a viscous and dark red, which of course you can hardly see through. As such a lighter and more translucent red is used and to be blunt, this just looks like strawberry sauce or fruit juice has splashed up on my screen. Its a dreadful effect, especially when in third person.

I’ve played plenty of games down the line without this and never had difficulty telling when I take damage, so why cover my screen in this shit? Many games don’t even provide any useful information with it. If there’s no direction, all it does is block you from taking cover.

Red mist descends

Ah yeah, cover. Part of the whole stylings of Kane & Lynch 2 is the use of cover. As with many other games, it is key to surviving gun fights. However I just found it to be rather dragged out and slow. When a game, such as K&L2, is built around using a cover system, levels and fights are designed so that you are putting yourself in cover regularly, leaning round, shooting, missing, ducking back and repeating until you get the kill(s) then moving forward to the next cover. If the set up has been done well, fighting in any other method results in a big bag of fail so everything gets slowed down. For some set pieces this can be good fun, but for an entire game the pace of an action shooter just isn’t there.

I do think that cover works much better in K&L2 compared to many other games. Not because they’ve done an exceptionally better job than on GTA IV or because their camera is much better than Crackdown’s, but because K&L is all about style. The cover works well with the stylings and it doesn’t matter if it fits in with the gameplay, cos there’s little of that.

Black and white and red all over

There are certainly positives to the game. I thought the HUD messages informing the player how to pickup weapons, get into cover and alike were absolutely fantastic. Of course they aren’t a new concept, but they were crisp and clear. The key and action were both included and it was possible to quickly read them and react.

Whilst rather nicely displayed, I was a little surprised at the use of a HUD to display weapons & ammo counts. For a game so intent on looking and feeling like true gritty shoot outs and action, they’ve displayed your ammo.

There were also hit indicators, which provided solid feedback on whether you’ve hit someone. Again, nothing new but it does provide solid feedback on whether you are hitting or missing. This can be especially useful in games where you have substantial recoil or otherwise low accuracy.

Personally I prefer these to be left out as they are a little too gamey for my likings. Perhaps that sounds a little strange coming from someone who would happily sacrifice realism for more enjoyable gameplay, but I don’t feel the need to show when and where I hit. It should be visible from the enemy’s hit / dying animation, sound and maybe a blood spurt. Displaying a hit mark is for arcade games thank you very much. It is also a little odd for Kane and Lynch, given that the game is so stylised yet they display when you hit someone in an apparently intense and realistic gun fight. Meh.

You can turn some of the effects off, however every time I’ve looked to fiddle, it has came off worse. Okay, I can get rid of some of the effects that make you feel like on a drunk prone to sea sickness taking a trip on the ferry across the North Sea but given that they’ve all been balanced, removing one part has a knock on effect. Unless completely downscaled, you can’t turn the game into something clean and playable. To be honest I don’t think you’d want to anyway as it would expose the sub par nature of the game beyond its show-off effects.

I can’t deny that the cinematic stylings give Kane and Lynch a movie style feel to it. However it looks a bit more like a B list movie and plays like one too.

Source: PC [Demo]

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