Kane & Lynch 2 Xbox 360 Demo Impressions

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Instead of watching fireworks for the 4th of July, I spent a good chunk of my holiday weekend mowing down coppers on the grimy streets of Shanghai, playing and then replaying the exclusive Xbox 360 demo of Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. Not very patriotic, I know, but I’ve been dying to see what IO Interactive has in store for its sequel to arguably this generation’s most controversial game, so I just couldn’t resist.

Featured in the demo is the Restaurant level from the game’s single-player campaign, which sees Kane and Lynch ambushed while grabbing a bite to eat, and then fighting their way out of the restaurant and engaging in an intense sequence of shootouts down the streets of Shanghai and through a construction site.

It’s an incredibly powerful sequence, and in this one level alone the game already surpasses its predecessor in its ability to immerse you in a cinematic crime drama filled with intensely realistic gunplay and cinematography.

Indeed, the first thing that stood out when I started the demo was the game’s distinct visual design, which presents the game as sort of a live, in-progress documentary, complete with shaky cam, film grain, dust and scratch filters, and a little recording timer at the top of the screen. The game’s graphics are downright filthy, and in this case that’s a very good thing. I can certainly see how the effects may turn some players off, as the shaky cam (particularly while sprinting) and thick layer of grit on the screen can be somewhat nauseating at first. But to me they add an authenticity and grittiness that this type of experience needs to thrive on. The camera bob can also be turned off if it becomes too much of a distraction for you.

More importantly than the new presentation style, Kane & Lynch 2 thus far appears to address every single flaw that hamstrung the first game. What was once an inconsistent cover system is now rock solid thanks to the fundamental change from context sensitive auto-cover to traditional button-based cover attachment — walk up to cover, push a button, and that’s it. Plus, the addition of destructible walls makes gun battles even more dynamic and unpredictable.

The original’s loose targeting controls are much tighter now as well, though perhaps still polarizing in their realistic implementation. You really can’t run and gun, because firing shots in rapid succession drastically reduces accuracy. Instead, the action is more thoughtfully paced, in that you are best served taking cover and judiciously spacing out your shots instead of wildly spamming bullets. As I’ve learned from the harsh criticism of Alpha Protocol, that style of gunplay seems to be an acquired taste. I happen to like it this way.

Another area of improvement is with the AI. While I did encounter a couple brain-dead AI moments, enemies in this sequel are far more aggressive than I ever remember them being in the last game. Kane helps out a lot as your AI partner, and if you don’t play off of his actions and movements to outflank the enemies or keep them pinned down, they are very quick to turn the tables and outflank you.

After playing through the demo a few times, Kane & Lynch 2 has surged to the top of my current list of most wanted games, and I am now 100% convinced that it will succeed where the first game failed. And that’s based solely on the lone story mission, as I’ve only dabbled with a few rounds of the new Arcade Mode, and, since I haven’t gotten around to re-upping my Xbox Live Gold subscription, I haven’t even tested out the three multiplayer modes included in the demo. But that just leaves more for me to look forward to when the final game ships on August 24th for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Watch for your chance to play the demo on your platform of choice when it goes public closer to launch time.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!