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31 Reviews

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

There's life in the old dogs yet. This dubious duo are staging a comeback.

As you're half way across the enclosed car park, bullets begin thundering through it and a massed choir of car alarms begins. Flattening yourself against a pillar and watching the concrete chip and spit under the weight of men trying to kill you, you realise you can hear the terrified Lynch talking to himself.

"You're the man," he's whispering, over and over. From the other side of the lot Kane hurls a fire extinguisher into the crowd of police and detonates it with a single shot. As the smoke clears to reveal their bodies, the car alarms begin to stop. It's over, and you're left in crushing silence.

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Possibly taking its cue from Michael Mann movies like Heat and Collateral, everything you hear playing in Kane & Lynch 2 comes from within the world. That means there's no musical score, and not even so much as an audio notification when you hit a checkpoint.

Instead, an ungodly amount of time and effort has been spent solely on the ambient noises of Shanghai, where the game takes place over a draining 48 hours. Think the sleepy hum of air conditioning units, the warbling muzak and chatter from TVs, the roar of a tarpaulin getting buffeted by wind, distant car horns and clattering rain. And think of that soft ambiance being constantly traded for the repeated thudding of guns, the shouts of men, the tinkling of glass, and then back again.

Making the right noises
The audio here surpasses Dead Space in its craftsmanship, and it's one of the bigger reasons why, in contrast to the first Kane & Lynch, finishing a mission in Dog Days makes you want to take a breather for all the right reasons. Like, you're exhausted, twitchy with adrenaline and badly need to wipe the sweat from your palms before the pad shoots out of your hands like soap.

This is the kind of shooting Dog Days deals in. Forget anything you learned from Kane & Lynch's rickety first outing. The bizarre part is, this isn't the first time Danish developer IO Interactive has wrestled a flop of its own devising into submission. The very first Hitman game was buggy, confusing and unforgiving, not to mention Codename 47 speaking exactly how you'd actually expect a psychotic killer born and raised in a jar to speak. He sounded like he had two pairs of socks in his mouth at all times, and it's a minor miracle that IO found publisher support for a sequel.

But today, as everybody knows, that same developer has refined and polished Hitman into one of the world's biggest gaming licenses, and it's that exact same care and attention to detail that saturates Dog Days. The no-expense-spared attitude to audio is found in everything, from voice acting and writing, to visuals, to the shooting, to the level design, to the multiplayer, to the beautiful main menu (which, as everybody knows, can be used to judge a game in its entirety with an 85 per cent accuracy rate). Not many games feel like this; like they know they cost a lot of money and they really want to justify it.

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Non-stop action
The story, which centres around Kane reuniting with Lynch in Shanghai to help with a 'simple' arms deal, is notable for a couple of reasons. First, Dog Days knows it's an action game and never, ever holds you up to force-feed you plot. Occasionally characters will have minute-long conversations within a level, but it's always up to you whether to pause and hear them out or go jogging on to the next shootout.

Cutscenes, on the other hand, are dramatic, skippable and short. And second, despite this minimisation of storytelling, what's here is relatively affecting. The apologetic messages from Lynch that you hear on his girlfriend's answering machine during loading screens apply the softest of touches, yet summon more pity than any amount of cutscene-based weeping and snuffling. And while the game sees Kane & Lynch gun down hundreds upon hundreds of Shanghai locals and escape from increasingly ludicrous situations, the game does what it can to wriggle out from just being dumb action, and occasionally succeeds. It's not just that it feels well-written, necessarily. It just feels like it's written by adults.

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