Broken cover mechanics, a lack of online co-op, and a minor PR fiasco marred IO Interactive’s first Kane & Lynch title back in 2007, but that hasn’t slowed the brand down one bit. There’s a Wildstorm comic adaptation, a movie in the works, and now Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is here to justify the tie-ins with a much-ballyhooed aesthetic that looks like the Bourne franchise, as shot with a cell-phone camera. The detritus-strewn corridors of Shanghai are the setting for a deal gone sour that quickly sees the gun-toting titular odd couple kicking down doors and delivering streams of invective at Chinese mobsters, crooked police forces, and former comrades-in-arms. In Dog Days, players control Lynch instead of Kane, but the pill-popping psychopath’s hallucinatory tendencies have been curbed this go-round—as have many of the previous installment’s features, like light squad and inventory management, or the occasional split-up. Instead, Days practically runs on rails, and at times takes on the rhythms of an old-school duck-and-cover coin-op like Time Crisis. This wouldn’t be a problem if the much-maligned mechanics had been given the same overhaul as the game’s aggressively punchy visuals, but the destructible cover is uncooperative, and bullets have too easy a time finding Lynch even before enemies get wise and start engaging in flanking maneuvers.
With nothing to break up the running-and-gunning but serviceable, one-note cutscenes and the occasional decapitation (tastefully censored by mosaic), the game begins to wear. IO’s solution involves breathlessly rushing Kane and Lynch across the finish line, outfitting the game’s slim five hours of single-player campaign with an abrupt, unsatisfactory ending that will have players immediately scanning the multiplayer options for additional content to legitimize the price tag. The best of the three modes, Fragile Alliance, is a riff on The Dark Knight’s opening bank heist, with players asked to weigh the risk vs. reward of turning their guns on each other for a bigger cut of the take between breaks that allow for weapons customization. The co-op that fans craved is functional, though a bit undercooked, with little more than a few forking paths to instill a team dynamic. Like the YouTube videos that helped inspire it, Dog Days offers visceral thrills in small doses, but can’t stand up under repeat viewings.