Originally written for www.7outof10.co.uk
When I sit down to write reviews I always try and take a positive stance wherever possible. Even through their darkest hours, most games hold within them flashes of brilliance or originality that guided them to through preproduction and out onto the shelves of shops worldwide. There are occasions, though, where the sight of the end credits causes you to sigh in utter relief that your time with this particular title is through.
Kane and Lynch is not a bad game. It’s competently put together, handles reasonably well and offers an interesting visual approach. It also, however, stands as a monument to mediocrity as none of its composite features ever raise themselves above the decidedly average.
When first we meet our protagonists, they are in the middle of the seedy underbelly of Shanghai, about to rough up an informant. What follows is a chase through the backstreets, eventually leading the pair into a whole heap of trouble. You control Lynch in this third-person shooter, moving him from cover to cover, spraying bullets readily as he fights his way through the chaos unfolding about him.
Lynch may be a badass, but saunter out guns blazing and he’ll be on the floor in a pool of his own blood before he knows it. Levels must be tackled steadily, hunkering down behind a sturdy barricade, picking off rival mobsters one by one before pushing on to the next piece of cover. Follow this simple concept and as long as there are enough bullets in the clip then there’s a good chance you’ll keep him alive long enough to progress proceedings.
All through this, the action is depicted as though being filmed on a moderate quality camcorder. Bleeding light, shaky handicam points of view, and the wind rustling past the mic all reinforce the feeling that their adventure is being viewed on YouTube. After your initial exposure it’s easy to forget the effect is there, such is the subtlety at times; and it never hampers play.
What does begin to grate, nonetheless, is the repetitive nature of the settings that you stumble across through your grainy lens. Be it fish market, sweatshop, ironworks, airport or city street, they can all be stripped back to an uninspiring linear path with boxes of varying sizes stacked en route so both you and those opposing you have something to hide behind. Though this could describe many a game, the firefights were no different in the opening scene to those experienced in the closing moments. This was further exacerbated by perfunctory AI and enemies that only ever varied their evening wear and not their tactics.
It is easy to call out games for being repetitive, but many offer other elements to create a sense of variety. Halo is just run and gun, but the quality of the AI allows situations to play out differently each time; and Call of Duty might be a constant push through monster closets, but their set-pieces do an incredible job of hiding such trivial details. With Kane and Lynch, barring the penultimate level, there is not one memorable moment that I can recall.
Most disappointingly is that when the penultimate level does arrive, it’s such a welcome diversion to the standard stop-and-pop experience you wonder why it took them so long for them to mix things up, and just how many people will never make it that far – drained as they will be from the rest of Dog Days.
For a gauge of what could have been, the online multiplayer shows a great amount of potential with a variety of modes suited to Kane and Lynch’s criminal undertakings. There’s no tacked on deathmatch, instead there are a series of scenarios based around bank robberies, jewel heists and double crossing mobsters. After the ordeal of the four-and-a-half hours of campaign, the energy and fluidity of the action found online was a breath of fresh air.
It’s easy to be down on any single game, but these tones spring not from a vengeful hate but from disappointment. So much of it seems to be developers going through the motions, punctuated by a couple of genuinely arresting moments which only served to further condemn the rest of the package. Dog Days’ only salvation is found online with friends.