“In all my times as a cop,” intones meek police officer Tony Giardino in the 1993 comedy So I Married An Axe Murderer, “I’ve never gotten to, like, chase a guy across a crowded city square. I’ve never hung on to that part of a helicopter. You know that part? Underneath the thing that it lands on? I’ve never hung onto that. I’ve never even commandeered a vehicle.”
It’s a sad fact that most 21st century men will never hang from the underside of a helicopter, or commandeer a vehicle, or any of those things the action men of Hollywood get up to. In fact, the digital realm of videogames is the closest most of us will get to living out our macho fantasies of running across rooftops or gunning down bad guys.
Which best explains the enduring appeal of games like Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, IO Interactive’s 2007 third-person shooter which first introduced the titular anti-heroes, a pair of escaped death row convicts who sought to exact bloody revenge on a brutal gang called The7, and got to handle plenty of heavy artillery in the process.
The hugely popular Hitman series established IO as a developer that knew how to put together a quality third-person shooter, and Kane & Lynch was its attempt to build on that earlier success with a new property that offered two-player co-op gameplay and plenty of cinematic, gritty shootouts.
The game that resulted, however, was released to only middling reviews, with many critics citing Kane & Lynch’s shooting and cover systems as particular causes for concern. What was clear from that first outing, however, was that IO had hit on a pair of characters quite unusual in the current videogame scene. While macho anti-heroes are hardly rare, having two protagonists who are both physically and emotionally flawed is comparatively new, particularly in a medium dominated by characters as handsome and clean cut as, say, Resident Evil 5‘s Chris Redfield.
By contrast, Kane & Lynch presented a pair of men who were neither clean-cut nor handsome. First, there’s Kane, the guilt ridden ex-mercenary who only wanted to get out of jail to put things right with his estranged wife and daughter, and then there’s Lynch, the balding, foul-mouthed psychopath with a real ale drinker’s physique.
Clearly, these were characters too unique to leave on the shelf, and IO has given the pair a new lease of life in Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. It’s also evident, from several interviews with the studio in the wake of the E3 expo earlier this month, that IO has been playing close attention to the criticisms aimed at the first game.
“We’ve reworked the shooting mechanics, the control scheme, and rebuilt it from scratch,” said art director Rasmus Poulson in an interview with Dual Shockers. “And we have a cover system which is much more natural now, and button activated. Of course, the cover will get shot to pieces, so you’ll have to get out of the way.”
And where the first game had a tendency to bog the player down in a series of long range fire fights, Dog Days reportedly brings the action up-close and personal.
“What we’re doing this time around is we’re getting more gritty, more in-your-face, and more over-the shoulder,” Poulson continued. “We’re inspired by YouTube and user-generated content in general, and we’re very inspired by glitches and mishaps you get when you record something on your mobile phone when you film stuff.
“Realism and credibility were very important to us because we feel it’s interesting to be these two criminal psychopaths in a world you can believe in, where emotions and what you do matters. It’s all about getting you in there with the game, and throwing the player to the ground with the camera.”
The Dog Days trailer revealed at E3 establishes the new game’s tone with hilarious economy – it’s unlikely you’ll see a videogame promo clip more packed with swearing and violence all year – and also relates two other important facts. First, the game’s narrative perspective shifts from Kane to the decidedly more unhinged Lynch, a switch which, if the trailer’s face-on-an-oven-hob scene is any indication, will make Dog Days even more violent than Dead Men, and second, Dog Days’ action appears to take place primarily on the neon-drenched streets of Shanghai.
The sequel’s plot takes in a similar kidnapping-and-revenge scenario seen in the original, but it’s also clear that, stylistically, Dog Days is very much its own game, with the camera quaking under the strain of heavy gunfire, blinding light bleaching out portions of the screen, and scenery exploding in a shower of glass and debris.
From what we’ve seen so far, Dog Days promises to fulfil Rasmus Poulson’s reassurance after the trailer’s E3 debut: “Kane & Lynch 2 will throw you around like a little girl,” he said, “and you will like it.”
But don’t just take Poulson’s word for it. You can view the E3 trailer right here. Be warned, however, that the video contains considerable cursing and testosterone-fuelled action which may be unsuitable for younger viewers…
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is due for release on 27 August for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.