I had high expectations for the Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. Hitman was one of my favourite games, and I was looking forward to what the boys from IO Interactive could offer. Unfortunately, Dead Men was plagued with terrible AI, an awkward squad and inventory management system (this ain’t no Freedom Fighters), and a pretty stale plotline. Don’t get me wrong, there was drama involved, but it felt like a series of inspired scenes stapled together (the bank scene from Heat, the nightclub scene from Collateral) rather than forming some kind of coherant story arc.
Anyway, what’s done is done and Square Enix must have seen some value in the brand, and so Dog Days came to be.
Truth be told, the changes made to the game makes it all feel so much more accessible. The cover system, the weapon selection, the camera view, the health system, even the button mappings – if you’ve played any other third-person shooter in the past few years, you’ll feel right at home. Perhaps it makes the game that little bit more generic, but at least it’s playable and, God forbid, enjoyable.
The squad management system has been stripped clean out, and instead it’s just the mercenary odd couple butting heads while they get shot at, cut up and generally fed through a meat grinder of Shanghai mobsters and special police. Their demeanour hasn’t changed much from the original (I’ve yet to count the number of times where they say the word “fuck” compared to the number of times where they say “push forward”), so by the end of the modest campaign length you’ll be well past the point of “shock value” and erring more towards the side of “background noise”. That said, the story is simpler and easier to stomach.
What I really liked, though, was the presentation. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea – some gamers will be gnashing their teeth at the low-res textures, the random video artifacts during firefights and the tactful mosaics over headshots and genitalia. I, on the other hand, quite liked the “low budget camcorder” look and feel – it was minimalist and refreshing in a sea of game engines saturated with bloom and HDR, all framed by overblown HUDs. I thought it was unique and IO Interactive did a good job pulling it off.
The multiplayer game modes are short, sharp and sweet, but the appeal wore off on me after a while. There are more captivating multiplayer experiences out there. The concept of exacting revenge on players is a novel one, though.
Overall, it’s definitely an improvement over Dead Men. If you are mildly interested in the series then this will fit the bill.