Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days will take you through 48 hours of hell within the twisted Shanghai underworld, and in the last 48 hours, I’ve played this game damn near non stop.  I feel sick, depraved, violent, ruthless . . . and I want more.

Just as I was about to step out my door last Thursday night and embark upon my own 48 hours of madness, I walked outside only to find a small package on my doorstep.  “Fuck”, I said to myself, “that’s gotta be Dog Days . . .”

Sure enough, it was.  “God dammit”, I moaned aloud, what the hell was I going to do now.  I had plans, big plans!  Places to go! People to see!  There was no time for video games, not even ones I’d been waiting for, for what seemed like more than just a few years.  I wanted to stay, but I had to go.  “Fuck it” I said, glaring at the still shrink-wrapped game, “I’ll be back for you.”  And with that, I walked out my door, leaving the game behind.

Sometime Saturday afternoon I awoke in a strange (albeit cute) girl’s apartment, somewhere on the upper east side of Manhattan.  The time for fun and games was over, it was time get into some serious gaming with my two criminally insane friends Kane and Lynch.  But there was a problem.  I was still here, far from home, in the bed of a girl whom I hardly knew. Worse yet, I was fucking handcuffed to it, and neither she or the key were anywhere to be found.

I didn’t have time for this!  How did I get here?  What the hell had gone on these past 48 hours?  Where were my goddamn clothes, why had this girl handcuffed me to her bed, and where the fuck was she!? In between pulses of extreme migraine-like pain, I had flashes of memories from the nights past.  I saw cars, cabs, fists, boots, drugs, alcohol, and finally her face.  Her adorable face . . . but for the life of me I could not coherently make out just what the hell I had been through, but I somehow knew that it was both insane and intense.

Such is the same feeling I soon came across while playing Kane & Lynch 2.  When it was all over, I put down my controller, breathed aloud, and said to myself … “Holy shit, that was insane.”

It’s almost as hard for me to explain just what draws me to this game as it is for me to fully explain what happened to me during the 48 hours before I was able to finally play it.  I suppose the truth of the matter is, I found it increasingly hard to find anything that I didn’t like about the game.  The story, the characters, the visual style, the sound, the gameplay, they all managed to only immerse me deeper into the world of these two madmen.  Yet perhaps my own altered state had clouded my judgment?  Perhaps in some way I actually identified with these fictional criminals?  Nonetheless, I played on and on into the wee hours of the morning . . . it was now Sunday, and I had finally made it home only hours before.

I had no idea what I was in for as I started up Dog Days, I had played the demo, sure.  I played it at E3, I had played it on my PC, hell, I even replayed it on my 360.  But it did not prepare me, and it has not prepared you, for the entire experience.

You cannot talk about Kane & Lynch without talking about, well … Kane and Lynch.  These two men have evolved.  IO interactive has taken the narrative and the character driven gameplay to a new level.  They have created characters whom are not believable in the sense that you think they exist, but are in the sense that you believe in what it is that they are.  As you play through the reasonably short single player campaign (5 hours or so), you will believe in the insanity and unpredictability of Lynch, whilst also believing in the steadfast determination and iron clad will of Kane.  You will become drawn into their world, and you simply must know more, the deeper you go.

I had started playing at roughly 2am Sunday morning.  I “wanted” to stop playing.  I desperately needed to sleep, but I simply had to press on.  “One more chapter, then I’ll stop” I would say to myself.  But it was no use, I felt myself getting more deeply immersed in the world of Kane & Lynch, just as they continued to get deeper into their own personal hell within the game.  Before I knew it, the sun had risen and the credits had rolled . . . I could finally rest.  I couldn’t believe I had played through the entire game in one sitting, and had loved every minute of it.

Everything in this game adds to the immersion.  Not just the gritty visual style that we have all seen on display, and not just the brutally intense storyline and characters.  Even the sound (or lack thereof) draws you deeper into the world.  There is no music in this game, only noise. There is no need for music to lead the way, the game itself is a constant crescendo.  In place of notes and melody you have footsteps and gunfire, sirens and screams.

Each level is not simply designed to let you progress through the game, each is a carefully constructed set piece designed for the most intense shootout you’ve ever had, over and over again.  The game is linear, sure, but there is so much room for improvisation and tactical coordination (especially in co-op) that you will sometimes marvel at your own blood spraying genius.  For the most part, you must simply focus on staying alive and pushing forward into the next intense gunfight which is sure to be waiting just around the corner.  Luckily the cover system works almost flawlessly, which is damn convenient because the AI is ruthless and clever.  Stick your head out for long and you will be shot.  Stick anything more out and you’re almost sure to be taken down in a hail of gunfire.  This game will challenge you more so than the typical 3rd person shooter, of that you can be damn well sure.  But I digress . . .

Sleep did not come easily.  The game had stayed with me, as does a good movie, yet I somehow forced sleep upon myself. 

4 hours later, my doorbell rang.

Who the hell could that be?”  I mumbled, still half asleep.  It was still Sunday, couldn’t be the mail, “fuck this, I’m going back to sleep.”

But seconds later, it rang again!  This time in rapid succession.  Some god awful human being was madly ringing my doorbell like a fucking woodpecker!  I fell out of bed and made my way to the front door.  It was my friend Mike and his girlfriend.  Apparently I had invited them to the beach on Sunday.  Wouldn’t you know it? It was still Sunday.

Mind you, it was completely overcast and in no way, shape or form a day befitting of a trip to the beach, but they showed up anyway . . . what good friends.  So being a good host, I showed them upstairs and began to make coffee.  From my living room I saw Mike hold up my copy of Dog Days which I had left on my coffee table.  “What’s this?”, He yelled at me from across the hall.  “This some game you reviewing?”  “Yeah”, I said. “It’s pretty bad ass.”  “Oh yeah?, what’s it about?”, he replied.  “Kind of hard to explain”, I said.  “You want me to show it to you?”  “Sure, why not?”, he replied casually.

Now let me tell you that my buddy Mike is no gamer, in fact he doesn’t own a single gaming console or a PC for that matter.  He’s a hard working electrician (union of course) and has relatively no interest in video games whatsoever.  Yet something about Dog Days must have piqued his interest, as he agreed to sit down with his girlfriend and watch as, for some sick reason, I load up Chapter six of Dog Days, titled “A Thousand Cuts.”

Those of you who have played the game are undoubtedly asking, “Why in the hell would you show anyone, let alone two innocent people who have no clue as to what this game is about, that fucking scene, let alone the entire chapter!?”  Well for one, I may be just as sick and twisted as you assume, and two, quite frankly … they woke me up.

Now, if you came here looking for plot points, you won’t find any.  Suffice it to say, if you’re looking for a game with a story that plays out like one of the most intense, gritty and brutal action movies you’ve ever seen, then you’ve come to the right place.  There are parts of this game (the aforementioned part in particular) that will be talked about for some time to come, and I simply will not ruin it for you.

“Jesus fucking Christ” Mike said with eyes wide as he stared at the screen.  “Is this what videogames are like these days?  This is more like a goddamn snuff film . . . what the hell happened to happy little Mario!?”  “Do I have to watch this!?”,  his girlfriend shrieked.  “Fuck no, you don’t have to, nobody should have to, why would anyone play this, what the . . . just what the fuck man.” He replied.  “It’s not for everyone”, I said trying to hide my smirk.

And it’s not for everyone.  In fact this game may not do it for a lot of people.  Whether it be the Cloverfield-esque camera direction, the uncompromisingly ruthless enemy AI, or the gritty and sometimes disturbing storyline, Kane & Lynch 2 may in fact turn off a lot of gamers.  However, for the rest of us bastards, there is one hell of an experience to be had here.

Not long after I had thoroughly disturbed my friends, it started to rain.  Mike’s girlfriend, a med student, decided that it was as good a time as any to head home and study for her upcoming exams, leaving poor Mike behind with the demented gamer upstairs (me).  But then, the unexpected happened.  “This shit got 2-player?” he said as he came back into my living room.  “Thought you’d never ask,”  I replied.

And just like that, I dragged my poor friend with me as I once again followed Kane & Lynch down their demented path of greed, betrayal and destruction.  It took him some getting used to, as he had only minor gaming experience and almost no clue how to use an Xbox controller.  But after a few chapters, and more than a few deaths, he had the hang of it, and was hooked.  Five or so hours later, the credits rolled again.  But this time it was Mike who put down his controller and exclaimed, “Holy hell, that was bad ass.”

Co-op play in Dog Days is something to behold.  Not only does it work extremely well both in local split screen and on Xbox Live, but it adds an entirely new dimension to the game.

There is nothing new added to the actual story when you play co-op, but the tactical advantage you gain over the enemy with two human players can be profound.  The enemies will react to your covering fire and you can draw their attention away from one player so that the other can take them down.  Subsequently you can usually flank enemies and use the many points of cover during each firefight to take them down as well.  Simply put, if you are a fan of co-op play, then Dog Days delivers for you.

To my surprise, Mike wasn’t yet done.  “So what’s the online part like?  Is it just the same thing with more people?” he asked.  “Damn good question”, I replied.  “It’s not like that at all!  In fact, I think you might really dig it.”  “The fuck are you waiting for, then?” Mike said triumphantly. “Start it up, brother!”

So we did, and I introduced Mike to what I believe to be one of the most original and fun concepts in multiplayer gaming today, Fragile Alliance.  If you’re not familiar with this multiplayer mode from the first game, then I’ll give you a quick rundown.  In Fragile Alliance, you are set on a team and given four minutes to grab some loot and then make it to a getaway car without getting killed by the police . . . or your teammates.  You see, that’s the “fragile” part of it all.  After the looting has started, anyone can turn on you at any point, kill you, and take your share.  And just when you think you’ve got anyone or anything figured out, trust me, you don’t.  I’ve played multiple rounds with people I thought I could trust to watch my back, or simply “not kill me”, only to have them blow me away during the last round and take all my cash for themselves. There is really nothing else out there like Dog Days’ Fragile Alliance mode, and although you’d think people turning on one another randomly for the sake of greed and ranking would incite intense nerd rage over Xbox Live, the majority of games I have played ended in civility, or at worst with a simple, “Oh you fucker!! You’re going down next round!!”

There is also an Arcade mode which is basically Fragile Alliance with NPC’s (this mode let’s you unlock weapons, learn maps and get a general feel for the style of play), not to mention Cops and Robbers mode, which is (you guessed it) a straight up deathmatch.  Last, but not least, there’s the all-new Undercover Cop mode.  Undercover Cop is basically Fragile Alliance with a twist.  Each round, one player on the team will be chosen as the undercover cop who has to stop the heist without letting the other players know, and of course without getting killed by them.  You can almost feel the tension in this mode as you know one of these sons of bitches is going to turn on you at any minute . . . it’s just a matter of who.  Just remember, there’s no “I” in “team”, but there is an “I” in “traitor“.  Now, I know what you’re saying: “Wow, that actually does sound pretty different from what most multiplayer in 3rd person shooters are like!”  Well you’re right, congratulations.  Now back to my fucking story.

 

So there we are, failing away at Fragile Alliance, and Mike has damn near had enough.  “That guy’s a fucking traitor!” I yell at the screen.  “Where!?” Mike yells.  “The fucking guy shooting at you!! Kill him for fuck’s sake!!” I yell back.  “I’m trying . . . fu . . . fucking . . . ahhhh god dammit he killed me!!” Mike moans.  “Well you’re a cop now”, I say. “Go get some revenge!!”  “With pleasure!” he replies, right before being killed again by the exact same guy.  “God dammit!, I suck at this!” Mike yells.  “Yeah, you’re not too good”, I reply.  “Fuck you”, he says. ”Let’s go to the pub.”  “Best idea you’ve had all day” I say.  And so we were off; by now, it was close to 9pm on Sunday night.

Upon returning from said pub a few hours later, I disappeared into my office to check my emails, feeds, leads and such, only to hear some familiar noises coming from my living room.  It was Mike; he was upstairs, and he was playing Fragile Alliance, terrible as ever.  Yet there he stayed, until he passed out right on my couch.  A complete non-gamer, totally immersed in Kane & Lynch 2 for nearly 12 hours in a row.  If you ask me, that says a lot.

By the time I woke up the next morning, Mike was already gone.  I also had a message on my machine.  It was from her. She wanted to know how the hell I’d gotten away, and why I never called.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to tell her, it was time for me to write this review.

Here’s the rundown:

+ Come for the brutal and gripping single player campaign

+ Stay for the excellent & original multiplayer

-  Being sick, depraved, violent and ruthless is definitely not for everyone


Beg to differ?  Or just want to tell me that you think I’m fucking nuts?  Go for it.

@DaveOshry on Twitter or Email me at Dave@Ripten.com


That said, being as into a game as I am into Dog Days right now simply is not conducive to my productivity.  Therefore I have decided to give away our copy, complete with the review materials that we got straight from the publisher, to you.  Well, maybe not YOU, but one of you.  All you have to do is Like Ripten on Facebook or follow us @Ripten on Twitter and then leave a comment (with a preferred email address) right here.  I will personally choose the winner this weekend, and mail you the game myself.  Easy enough, right?  Well … what are you waiting for!?  Get to it, you greedy bastards!!