If you are the kind of gamer that wants a shooter that feels like a gritty crime film, complete with colorful expletives and the murder of hundreds of Asian gangsters, then Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is for you. If you like a constant sense of danger and caution as you peer around corners and fire from behind cover, you should buy K&L2 immediately. If you like a nuanced story with varied gameplay, and you're not partial to torture or killing dogs, then you might want to pass. This is not a happy game. No double rainbows here; just lens flares and pixilated murderizing.
The story of K&L2 is barely worth summarizing, but I'll give it a shot. The shred of plot involves an arms deal in Shanghai that Lynch brokers with Brit gangster, Glaser, and Kane comes to town to execute. That's it. Plans go to shit pretty quickly, and Lynch has to fight his way out of every situation. With such simple story-telling, I suppose that I shouldn't have been disappointed with the campaign's shortness. But I was. Nothing really happens and the last mission doesn't feel like an ending at all. There's no closure or anything, just more misery, and, ultimately, that's not really fun. I guess, like many people, I don't play games because they mirror real life. I want my games to have more structure and not to feel as pointless as the rest of our existence.
That's the ultimate failing of K&L2. It tries so hard to portray a world so real and disgusting that most of us don't want to inhabit it.
Besides all that, it's actually a decently fun shooter. The cover mechanics are a little hard to get used to at first but, once you do get it, you find yourself peeking around corners to scope out the enemy positions. That's because if you run in, chances are the Lynch is going down. Hard. Thankfully, reloading after death takes less than ten seconds, and most of the checkpoints are adequately spaced so you don't have to go back too far.
That's good, because you will die a lot. K&L2 forces you to outsmart your opponents instead of just outgunning them. Flanking an entrenched position is sometimes the only way to get a decent chance of taking enemies out. I have to hand it to IO Interactive; it's not easy to prevent gamers from just blowing into a room and shooting everything in a blaze of bullets.
The downside is that almost every fight ends up playing out the same way. There are bad guys between Point A and Point B and you have to kill all of them to get there. The level design does try new things such as machine gunners and random dog attacks. There's even a now-cliche helicopter ride level! Yay! But these are mere bumps on the baseline gameplay of K&L2, which is hide, shoot, run to next cover, rinse, repeat.
The visual aesthetic of K&L2 works really well. From the menu screens to the phone conversation snippets in the loading screens to the visual effects that make the cutscenes and gameplay feel like user-generated video, the realism infects everything. It was a great choice, and the designers stuck to it throughout. But if you're pushing realism, it's especially disappointing when that realism is suddenly thrown out the window.
There's one sequence in particular which deserves comment. After escaping a gruesome torture scene, Lynch and Kane run through the streets of Shanghai naked and covered with open wounds. In the rain. The ludicrousness of that scenario destroys any claim of realism that the game might have made. The firefight through the mall occurs because the pair of naked bleeding men are looking for clothes which I personally would have taken from the first guy I killed. But hey, I'm no gangster.