Preview

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days Preview (PC)

If you're unscrupulous and deceitful enough to backstab your way to the top, crime can most certainly pay in Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days' uncompromisingly treacherous multiplayer. While Kane & Lynch: Dead Men didn't quite strike the right note amongst gamers and critics alike upon its release, the core concept in its multiplayer component was always an intriguing and deeply compelling one, with the element of innate paranoia surrounding who might turn on you, who will betray who and whether you'll even make it to the end alive providing a steady injection of adrenaline to an otherwise conventional third-person shooter.

Despite the relative success of the first Kane & Lynch's multiplayer component, Dog Days aims to build upon those strengths, keeping the foundations intact and tuning the experience to make it more engaging and exciting. The game's multiplayer director, Kim Kroth is on hand at a special London event to take us through the three multiplayer modes promised for Dog Days starting with Dead Men's Fragile Alliance wherein you and a gang of criminals have to snatch millions of dollars and escape with the loot before the cops take you out. Greed can take over though, and if you find yourself a little light on stolen funds you might consider putting a bullet in the back of your closest ally's head. Conversely, if you're carrying the most money, you'll represent a more desirable target, so you'll need to watch your back at all times and trust no one.

Die in Fragile Alliance and you'll respawn as a cop, ready to seek out and exact revenge upon your betrayer

Fragile Alliance is a remarkably smart 8-player co-op game that constantly keeps you on edge, second guessing your team mates and planning you next step ahead of time. Betrayal inevitably happens to every player at some point, and when it does, you have the chance to get your revenge by respawning as a cop. A lot can happen in four minutes, which is all the time you're given to grab the swag and sprint to the escape vehicle. It's tense and fast-paced stuff that keeps you constantly hooked, which is why the other multiplayer modes – twists on the core Fragile Alliance concept – are equally as engaging.

Undercover Cop is the next mode that we're introduced to, in which one of your seedy band of loose principled villains is a dirty rat: a cop in disguise. It could be any one of you, and if it happens to actually be you, your task is to delude your team into believing otherwise. Fellow law enforcement won't fire upon you, and if you kill a fellow officer, you fail your mission. You'll need to aim shots to ensure that they don't make contact, but are convincing enough to look like you're actually trying to hit your target. Getting in, stealing as much as possible and staying tight within the gang is the secret, but isolating each criminal to dispatch them one-by-one is a difficult challenge. Choose your moment at the wrong time and you'll end up giving yourself away, but then if even one felon escapes, you fail your mission. Of course you have to witness the crime take place and pick your moment to strike carefully, or you risk ending your undercover career prematurely.

Successfully deceiving the team is incredibly tough then, as is taking them down one at a time, so it seems a little off that you're rewarded a disproportionate amount for finishing top in Undercover Cop when actually playing as the cop. Winning two consecutive matches as the cop netted us only something in the region of $2 million, whereas a criminal can earn that in one match without the excess effort. When rival players at the recent multiplayer event are crying foul because they think we deserved more of a reward for our efforts, you know something isn't quite right. Hopefully, this will be balanced when the game launches this summer.

It's a fantastically fun and compelling multiplayer game type that ramps up the paranoia levels to stratospheric heights, as you watch for clues in player's behaviour and constantly question their motives. Why is one of my team lagging behind? Is he (there are no female characters in Kane & Lynch 2's murky multiplayer) the cop? Why is he running ahead? Shouldn't he have more money? What's he doing that for? Your mind ends up racing, trying to consider who could possibly be the cop and if you do manage to weed out the rat, the reward is huge and you also get to take the dead cop's big bag of loot, provided someone doesn't come along and steal from under you. If they do, shoot them quick, but watch you don't get a yellow card for doing it as you're fair game for anyone that wants to kill you and loot your warm, twitching corpse.

Happily, there's now a single-player Arcade Mode in which you can practice all of the multiplayer game modes alongside and against AI allies and enemies to learn the ropes. The mode started life as a tutorial, but evolved into an independent game type where you can try and beat your own offline scores or post them to the online leaderboards to see where you rank. Arcade Mode is a great idea that will help players get to grips with the nitty-gritty of Kane & Lynch 2's Fragile Alliance and accompanying modes, and should prove indispensable for nailing the best approach to take with you into games of Undercover Cop.

Sprinting to the escape vehicle is scary stuff, as death can come from anywhere. Most likely from your own team trying to grasp some extra dollars

Cops & Robbers is the final mode we're given extensive hands-on time with, and again Fragile Alliance is the core around which Kane & Lynch 2's team deathmatch game type is formed. One side again takes the role of the thieves embarking upon a dangerous heist, while the opposing team are the police who must prevent the criminals from escaping in the back of a van or via a precarious climb to a helicopter waiting on a rooftop (on the airport stage). Once again for the criminal team, the objective is to collect as much money as they can while avoiding betrayal. If any member of either team dies, they drop their swag and respawn, having to scrape together some cold hard cash all over again. It gets incredibly chaotic, and the levels are designed in such a way that you often end up in action-packed choke points where massive gunfights take place.

The first stage we play is 'Subway', which as you might guess is an underground metro train system, where an exploded wall alongside a platform gives way to a vault packed guarded by police officers and packed with millions. Make off with the goods and you'll have to fight past armoured police and vicious attack dogs along the train platform, leading to a tough shootout against more kevlar-clad cops at the top of the escalators near the subway entrance. The aim is to make it out alive to the streets where the escape van awaits, but with the clock ticking away, it can be a frantic dash to make it.

Luckily there is more than one escape vehicle, and if you happen to make it before the others and you're confident that you have enough currency to go 50/50 with the driver, you can press Y and he'll drive off with just you in the back. This is hilarious when someone's running to the van and you slam the door in their face, but frustrating if you're on the receiving end and all you need to do is jump in the back to survive and win the match. You can still try and hold your own until the next van arrives, and there's a good, robust cover system to back up the very solid shooter mechanics ensuring that you always have a chance to gun your way out of a sticky situation. Get shot down, and you can still potentially survive if you're fast and able to aim at your aggressor with precision before he finishes you off, thanks to a mechanic called, 'down but not dead', which is pretty self-explanatory. The name says it all really.

You can also take human shields if you're wily enough, although taking fellow team mates as makeshift bullet sponges will highlight you as a traitor and you'll paint a target on your own head. If you're careful enough though, you can use the human shield grab to take out members of your gang that have more money than you, steal their loot and potentially get away with a king's ransom. If your plan goes awry however, you could end up looking stupid as you're mown down by the rest of your team like a prisoner in front of a firing squad. You also have to bash X to keep your human shield subdued and he can struggle to break free through his own button-mashing mini-game – something Kroth dubs 'human shield for real'.

'For real' is evidently the vibe Dog Days is shooting for with it's stylised shaky cam that looks uncannily like amateur footage. Sporting extensive lens flare, picture noise and saturated colours, the style is incredibly effective and conveys the gritty nature of the game superbly. The constant movement of the camera can result in mild motion sickness after extended play, but you're able to switch the swaying camera effect off if you find yourself feeling like you might lose your lunch.

With a duffel bag full of cash on your back, you're a soft target for absolutely anyone, making Dog Day's multiplayer a constant source of paranoia

Besides, the aesthetic – inspired by user-created content like YouTube videos - fits the winding alleyways of a Shanghai fish market, an airstrip and pristine hangar, a financial district, harbour, bridge and the aforementioned subway – the six multiplayer stages that will feature in the final game. And going hands-on with 'Subway', 'Fish Market' and 'Airport', we were mighty impressed by how the unique visual style made the locales look eerily cold, inhospitable and realistic, much like Michael Mann's Collateral, which used DV cameras to capture LA after hours.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days' multiplayer is bearing up rather nicely then, with better gameplay mechanics than its forbear and only a few discernible balancing issues that need to be addressed before the game ships. Consequently, it looks as though the sociopath duo might be down, but they're far from dead.

Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is out on parole at the end of August 2010.

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Comments

By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 05, 2010
Wowerine
Not many people liked the first game. I did.
By BoneArc (SI Elite) on Aug 07, 2010
BoneArc
I didnt even play it , The name was too funny for me :D
but this looks like an improvement , nothing like "Dog Days "

no but seriously this game looks totally Badass.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Aug 07, 2010
Wowerine
Which part didn't you play? Dog Days is a really cool game to me. Now since they swapped the dev teams thing might even be better than before... How can the name be too funny for you lol