This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days.
I've been quoted as saying that "the cruelest thing you can do to an artist is tell them their work is perfect when it isn't." It's a policy that has gotten me thrown out of a lot of fingerpainting classes. But reflect on what huge masochists the developers of Kane & Lynch must be, famously having gotten Jeff Gerstmann fired from Gamespot for not realizing that the Gamespot "Super Sellout Saver" advertiser package included a free happy ending on the review table.
Solidarity, therefore, was the main ingredient in my root beer float of reasons why I didn't review Kane & Lynch 1, with a hefty scoop of the ice cream of "couldn't be arsed." But now Kane & Lynch 2 is out I sincerely hope the developers don't intend to follow the same policy as last time, because if they do there will not be a reviewer left employed by the end of the month! Or, to put that another way, Kane & Lynch 2 is worse than deep-fried tampons.
Still, doesn't hurt to play safe, so here's a nice quote for the box art: "Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is a game so intense it literally physically assaults you!" Because after playing for the four or five hours necessary to complete it, it gave me a headache like I'd been skullfucked with Pinocchio's splintery todger.
The reason for this is because the game pretends like it's being filmed on a handheld camera apparently held by some unseen third character, an aspiring documentary filmmaker who no one ever acknowledges and is either a heavy drinker or constantly busting for a piss, because he wavers like a lifeboat with delirium tremens. And when you try sprinting, Christ it's like his kneecaps have been replaced with slinkies. And I suspect he found his camcorder in a bin. Bright light sources have vertical bar lens flare things that look awful, and characters all have this weird black haze around their heads like they're attracting swarms of flies. I know they're deliberately trying to make it look terrible, but they succeed so well it's actually sickening. If you want to smear shit on your face to make an ironic statement, then more power to you, but you still smell like arse.
Okay, I'm going to establish a new rule now. You know cover-based combat? You're not allowed to base your whole game around that any more. You can still have it, in all its chest-high wall, pop-up shooting gallery tedium, but you've gotta have something else, even if it's just a Cooking Mama-style minigame during the celebratory post-firefight barbecue.
Why? Because it's boring, it's overdone and I feel sorry for the artists. They go through all the trouble researching appropriate outfits for periods and the setting, drawing the concept art, painstakingly modeling and animating the characters, and then what? They get stuck behind bits of wall on the far side of murky rooms and you might as well have dressed them up in cardboard boxes and bunny slippers..
In all fairness, Kane & Lynch 2 does occasionally pretend to be a stealth game, the kind of stealth game where every enemy on the map becomes alerted to your exact position the moment one guard spots half an inch of your pimply bum. You know, the shit kind of stealth game. At all other times, it's got nothing but same old cover-based shooting and technically doesn't even have that. I thought the prerequisite of cover combat is that when you're in cover the enemy can't shoot you, but Kane and Lynch beg to differ. You think they'd be better at tucking their heads in, what with all the time they spend sniffing their own farts.
The plot is so flimsy it's painful, like a man with no bones in his arms trying to serve your coffee. Kane and Lynch, gritty realism's answer to Laurel and Hardy (if Laurel occasionally forgot to take his meds and shot the hostages), are in Shanghai for an arms deal and while idly passing the time shooting some locals (in a very gritty, realistic way) accidentally kill someone they shouldn't have and provoke the most powerful man in China. Ho ho, will those bumbling ninnies ever do anything right? A man so powerful he can enlist wave after wave of gang members, then police, then the fucking army in the pursuit of his personal revenge (they all having nothing better to do, what with China being such a notoriously peaceful, unmilitarized country and everything.) From there, the plot is like a recent car accident victim: staggering back and forth with bits of windscreen in its face for a while before finally collapsing and bleeding out into a roadside ditch. Kane and Lynch fight off various flavours of heavy, then more show up, then they swear at each other, then the camera man takes another pull of cheap whiskey, repeat.
Events have the mark of bad storytelling in that they rely almost entirely on coincidence and behavior that would take considerable solvent-sniffing to seem rational. Kane and Lynch are arrested by the army and are taken through the city center in a convoy of helicopters rather than in, say, one car. So they hijack their helicopter and immediately begin strafing nearby skyscrapers, where all the office workers apparently stash rocket launchers in the water coolers. Then they crash on the building that just happens to contain the big boss they've made an enemy of, and despite having spent the entire game desperately trying to escape China in fear of this guy they suddenly decide they might as well just drop in and kill him. You know, while they happen to be in the neighborhood.
The Chinese Army helicopters then continue strafing the building, apparently because Kane and Lynch made it look like so much fun, which would be difficult to explain to your boss even if said boss wasn't currently in the building, alone, unguarded, and making no effort to evacuate the building that is under direct aerial assault. Not the sort of thing that's going to look good on the quarterly employee evaluation, is it? And the confrontation with the big boss isn't even the climax! The game just potters around for another mission to pad out the pathetic playtime, constantly checking its watch before going, "fuck it, that will do." And I swear this is true, the final boss fight is two dogs. The biggest threat in the game could have been outwitted by chucking a fucking Bonio at it.
And then it just ends, cuts to black. The characters have achieved nothing, learned nothing, and will hopefully now jump into a big black hole and return to nothing. Just as the visuals succeed too well at being deliberately hideous, the protagonists succeed too well at being deliberately wankers. There's nothing fun about the game, no light relief, just one piece of nausating unpleasantness after another, like a roadside café breakfast special by Jeffrey Dahmer. I know IO Interactive are better than this; Hitman: Blood Money was a baldy-headed barrel of fun. Since then, though, IO were bought out by Square Enix, so I'm going to blame them. Fuck off, Square Enix! Kane & Lynch 2 sucks so many dicks it now breathes spunk instead of air!
Bitter about a receding hairline: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
But the good news is I've now done a review for every letter of the alphabet except Q and Y
So how about that Duke Nukem Forever business hmm