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Time Extend: Kane and Lynch 2

Simple, stark and aggressive...

Kane & Lynch 2 is a pathologically single-minded game: no squad commands, no grenades, no collectable gimmicks, no driving sections, nothing but two days of relentless gunishment captured through the lens of a 2004 Nokia cameraphone. Dog Days is just so damn cohesive; every part exists for a very good reason .

The world, for instance. Every space feels cold and... ill, in shades of morgue green and corpse grey. The camera desaturates Shanghai's bright neons but lets chilly white fluorescent bulbs bleed all over your screen. IO have built perfect replicas of places you'd never want to be, and populated them with unfriendly thugs and unfriendly innocents alike.

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Sooner or later - likely sooner, at some point in level one - a fleeing bystander will catch a bullet. The weapons are ferocious and scattershot, the way they would be in the hands of unskilled clowns like Kane and Lynch. Inaccuracy is built in and compensated for. It was clearly a conscious decision to exclude the traditional 'tightening' reticle when you squeeze the left trigger; the guns are supposed to be indiscriminate. You're supposed to close the gap and fight up close. You're supposed to miss; innocent people are supposed to die.

And the death of innocents passes without comment or reprimand. There's no invisible Call of Duty hand ticking you off for killing innocents, but nor is the game a 'No Russian' airport massacre, inviting you to wallow in horror.

Bad things happen to innocent people when Kane and Lynch are around; some of them deserve it and some of them don't, but, hey, nobody's judging and nobody's counting, either. A bodycount would just be crass. Besides, these guys stopped counting their kills years ago.

DOGS ARE EVERYWHERE
It's a better piece of writing than it gets credit for, too. The story is always a slave to the action. That's a bad thing in movies - when the story exists only to frame the car chases and fights you get pish like The Mummy Returns - but games should always be driven by the needs of the action and more than anything, Dog Days is a good shooter.

You're forever under pressure, always tossing away your gun in favour of the next Right Tool For The Job which is only ever The Right Tool For A Very Brief Period before circumstances change again. You're doing nothing but light people up, but there's a lot of room for interpretation once the gun is in your hand. For a game of so few parts there certainly is a lot of stuff to do.

Let's be clear - the original Kane & Lynch was a mess, but that's not true of the sequel. It's so aggressive and angry at you for ever wanting to spend time in the company of such bastards that every level feels like a quarter of an hour spent getting beaten up by two or three big blokes.

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It's as if the game hates you for playing it, and so almost everyone hated it right back, us included. Inaccurate guns were taken as incompetence, the absence of gimmicks was seen as shallow, the short single-player adventure as poor value for money.

But Kane & Lynch 2 knew exactly what it was doing when it woke up and it goes about doing it flawlessly. What it does isn't to everyone's taste, but the execution is extraordinary. It's possible what everyone hates so much is good design rather than bad.

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