Kane and Lynch (me please)

Here is a demo impression that does not seem to have a home. I was reasonably happy with it, experimented with a personal narrative and an in-depth analysis of the shooting mechanics, which are shit by the way.

Kane and Lynch: Dog Days

The camera shakes like a Youtube video capturing a storm. Through the motion I recognise one of the protagonists, the long-haired-psycho, Lynch. The visuals are good. Very good in fact. They are all dark and moody, the cinematography perfectly suiting the story.

So far so good, I’m impressed. But then they give me control of Lynch and here I see the major flaw in the game; the combat just does not work.

The shaky camera fixes itself on the back of Lynch, shotgun in hand, staring at a sea of riot cops who are charging through the quickly disintegrating Asian restaurant. I fumble with the pad as shots rain in on me. My screen quickly filling with a red wave. I see a green button on the screen and press A as Lynch swings into cover by the pillar – it looks and feels right, with smooth animation and a weight that was implemented so well by Gears of War.

My third-person-shooter training comes into full effect as I dip out of cover and take out a couple of cops. “This isn’t too bad” I think to myself. Just as that thought leaves my head I get dropped to the floor. I lie on my back and scan around to work out what happened. As it turns out a cop ran around behind me and shot me in the back. Bit unfair really.

I jump back to my feet and work my way out the room. Kane and I have to work our way through a sea of corridors until we get into the next fire-fight. I can see the door open in the distance as more police spread through the room seeking cover. I preempt this and bolt around the corner of a wall, hoping it would lead to a vantage point behind them.

It does, but sadly I get to watch the shockingly poor AI in full effect. The “enemies” pop out of cover in an almost sped-up fashion, jumping from wall to crouched cover in the blink of an eye – imagine a whole squad of soldiers moving like Captain Kirk. Then, when I get over my amused confusion, I open fire on them with a machine gun I liberated from an officer and watch them soak up bullets. One clip later I switch back to my shotgun and seem to be able to drop them from 20 yards. Strange.

After an extended fight we get to see the back alleys and streets of the city, and once again, it looks great. The lighting is wonderful, especially when we reach the neon lit streets, but it is always overshadowed by the AI. Whether it’s enemies jumping around unrealistically or pedestrians casually strolling around five feet from the bullets, some even wandering into your fight then realising what’s going on before sprinting away.

The toughest section of the demo lies in wait; a narrow street chock-full of police and bystanders. I get told I can grab a human shield, and I try, but it won’t work. It turns out, after a few failed attempts, that you can only grab police based human shields; which makes very little sense seeing as you’re two criminals who are fighting for their lives.

I eventually get my hands the shiled and step out of cover, expecting to be given some sort of safety to progress to the next cover, but instead the police shoot straight through their colleague leaving me and my “shield” dead. Again, strange.

I die numerous times on this section, too many to remember. It feels like the enemy can train their guns on you with ease, from an angle no matter how obtuse, and are able to hammer shots on you without stopping to reload. This makes any fight against large groups very tough and more importantly not very fun. Kane doesn’t seem to help any, in fact he seems to do nothing at all. The only helpful thing he did was distract them while I opened fire their flank, dropping them one at a time while not one of the survivors paid me any attention.

I honestly cannot describe how confusing the AI is. It’s haphazard and random at best. I did finish the demo but I actually had to enable the steady camera as the motion was really getting to me: a gamer who very, very rarely suffers from motion sickness.

My initial excitement turned into exhausted joy as I quit to dashboard. I still maintain that it’s a great looking game, but it needs to learn that form follows function; a game must play well before looking well; and in it’s present state it does not. Hopefully some work will be implemented before release to tighten up some aspects but I was left very skeptical.

The online, however, has some potential, although it still suffers from the same gameplay errors. That and lag. Horrible, horrible, lag. I can look past this as it is a multiplayer demo, so the servers should be improved by release. Dog Days looks at the standard multiplayer and skews it slightly by almost combining competitive play with co-op.

The three game modes – Fragile Alliance, Undercover Cop and Cops & Robbers – instill a sense of mistrust as your team-mates are often waiting for the opportunity to backstab you. In Fragile Alliance it’s for the loot, whereas in Undercover Cop it’s because one of you is, well, an undercover cop.

I played a few games of these with it taking a long time to fill the game – my pad battery actually powered down while waiting for the sixth and seventh player in a game of Undercover Cop – and then when I got in the games the lag was awful, with players disappearing and reappearing all around me.

But I did get a feel for the game and it’s very refreshing. You have to keep an eye on how much loot you have and then watch your back for trigger happy team-mates. Often games ended up with a genocidal shootout while waiting for the escape vehicle. The survivor taking the winnings. Annoying as getting betrayed is, you get to respawn as a cop and seek your revenge on your traitorous team-mates.

I can see a lot of fun with this, more so with friends rather than random players as I think the betraying may be a bit too prevalent. I would comment on Cops & Robbers but I couldn’t get a game. Not even in twenty minutes of trying.

As a demo, Kane and Lynch: Dog Days is not great, but it does show some promise – even if it is only in the online. I don’t know if I can look past the fact that a shooting game lacks good shooting mechanics; but you never know, the addition of online co-operative play might be the big selling point that the game needs.