Censorship. It’s a topic that can get many normally fairly sane and level headed people lathered up into a sweat, and also one of the mainstays of Ben Elton’s comedy routine. Sure it rattles me a little when Five choose to show a film like Terminator 3 (as they did this weekend) only to then cut out all of the gory bits (here’s a tip; if you’re showing a gory movie at 20:00 which you’ll have to edit, and then a more family friendly film at 22:00, you’re probably employing the wrong person to sort out your schedule) but otherwise it’s never really been a topic that’s managed to get much of a reaction from me.
But, having now played through the entirety of the single player campaign of Kane & Lynch 2, I’m perhaps aware more now than ever of the negative aspects of censorship.
Censorship, more like censor****
Now there may have been an underlying story arc that I just didn’t pick up on, and if there was please don’t hesitate in pointing it out in the comments section below, but I’m totally lost as to why the visuals throughout the entirety of the game were in Youtube clip quality or why it was censored. I understand that it was a design choice that the developers chose to implement, but I don’t understand why.
Running around with a shaky camera following me made me feel nauseous. Playing a game that deliberately had the visuals of a low-spec Youtube clip (complete with pixelation and lens flare) felt cheap. Watching someone get shot in the head and then the head get covered up in small pixels so as to block out the headshot made me feel like my mum had come around and turned on some parental controls.
While the shaky camera effect can be turned off, neither the Youtube visuals or censorship can be (although I understand that the Youtube visual effect can be on the PC version). A quick scout of internet forums highlighted that some people prefer the censorship and Youtube/mobile phone video quality, mainly because the censorship made them think that what they couldn’t see was worse than they imagined or that the video quality was an interesting artistic choice. But many more didn’t. And neither did I as it detracted me from the experience. It felt like a gimmick, attempting to portray a more graphic game than the one I was playing.
Perhaps rather than censor the headshots and naked bodies, they should have censored the enemies that, having laid prostrate for a few minutes after being shot to death, suddenly decide to have a seizure and flip out on the floor until their arm clips through a chair. Or perhaps censored the sub-par environmental detail. Or how about the cars that turn at right angles? Perhaps the awful lighting effects? Shall I stop…okay then.
Kane & Lynch: They have issues
Aside from the artistic choices and visual flaws, Kane & Lynch 2 has other issues.
Generally the voiceover work is acceptable with both Kane & Lynch coming across well and the main villains stereotypically but reasonably acted. However the issue is with their delivery, with Kane speaking as though he has earphones in. You’ll walk into a small heavily guarded room, only for Kane to shout ‘KEEP FUCKING QUIET LYNCH’. The guards don’t notice, they don’t even acknowledge your existence most of the time until you get close enough to cue Kane shouting out another line that generally wakes them up from their slumber, but it’s yet another thing that takes you completely out of the experience.
Environmental effects are also quiet weak. You’ll seldom hear any footsteps, some guns sound as though they’ve been recorded through a cardboard box, and the city doesn’t sound as bustling as it should. It’s not a major but again fails to immerse you in the atmosphere that the game is so obviously trying to shove on to you.
What is a major is the lack of value for money. I’m not against short games; I’ve been quite vocal in the past about some of my favourite ever games being incredibly short (ICO) and that price shouldn’t equal length. I’m more concerned about the experience a game offers rather than how long it takes me to play through it. But Kane & Lynch 2 failed to deliver on either front.
The experience is nothing more than acceptable. Essentially I would describe Kane & Lynch 2 as a game that plays quite a lot like Stranglehold, only without the variety in levels and the lack of abilities. The AI is very similar to that game too, where, even when set to hard, it does little than try to overwhelm you with numbers.
The AI enemies either ran straight at me without trying to take cover or refused to move from their cover, even when I had successfully flanked them. Seeing an enemy with their back to the wall repeatedly popping up and down as though they were still in cover while I unloaded bullets into their face was amusing but it shouldn’t happen in this day and age. Likewise having an enemy run up to me and then ran rings around me while never shooting (until I put it out of its misery) is unforgivable. Funny, but unforgivable. Not that you’ll have to put up with it for long, as Kane & Lynch 2 can easily be completed first time through in five hours on hard and four on medium. As it’s one of the most linear games ever designed, there’s not even anywhere off the beaten track to roam or find collectibles, so there’s absolutely no way of making it last longer, unless you stop and pay your respects next to every fallen victim.
Other design faults include the cover system, whereby Lynch will often refuse to go into cover for no apparent reason, other than you’re not facing precisely 76 degrees towards the object. Then we have the, now rather infamous, naked level that follows Kane & Lynch after they’ve been tortured (with baby oil, if the visuals are anything to go by). Even though they're naked and say that they need to find clothes, you have to continue to walk past fallen fully clothed enemies in your quest for, you’ve guessed it, clothes, which results in you going to a busy shopping mall naked. Quite where they stash the spare magazines during this level I’ve no idea, but I’m guessing the baby oil doubled up as lube.
Aside from the single player campaign, there are also Arcade and online multiplayer modes to sink some time into in order to extract some much needed value for money out of the package. The arcade mode isn’t bad, but it’s the same thing over and over again; choose a level, take all of the loot out of the level, make it to the escape van and escape. Rinse and repeat this process as many times as you can on the same level with slightly more improved enemies during each playthrough until either a) you run out of lives, b) you reach level 10 or c) you lose the will to live having played the same level over and over again and decide that life is too short. To use another comparison, this mode is in some ways similar to the sort of experience that The Club offers, only nowhere near as much fun and without the high score frenetic action.
Online the modes are slightly more varied, with the same Arcade mode but this time with human team mates (but still AI bots), a Cops and Robbers mode which replaces the AI bots with human opponents and an Undercover Cop mode which, while sounding great on paper, really adds little to the experience other than one person trying to sabotage the heist. The issue is that with both the Arcade and online modes that use AI bots, they’re always in exactly the same place at exactly the same time, in very small claustrophobic levels and with a very tight time limit, thus removing any sense of variety or tactics. I do have to admit though that I found the online modes an amusing distraction for the two hours I spent playing them, but I can’t imagine putting much more time into them than that.
So why not one out of five?
It’s a fair question, as the above has been undoubtedly negative and I haven’t even touched on the ridiculous narrative trying to be gritty but instead ending up cringe worthy, nor how the characters are no longer interesting (the first game at least had that going for it) and instead bland excuses for lead characters. But it’s worthy of more than a one because despite all of the many, many faults, I still managed to get some entertainment out of the game.
It’s one of those really bad yet quite fun games to play. At no time during or after playing through the single-player campaign did I think that this was a waste of my time. This is by no means a recommendation to go out and buy it at full price – far from it. What it can provide though is a few hours of relatively fun entertainment, especially if you have a low threshold for faults and poor AI. It also improves when played cooperatively, either locally or online, where playing with a friend somehow made the foibles more amusing rather than annoying.
At times it felt as though locked somewhere deep underneath all of the odd design choices, the formulaic gameplay, the repetitiveness and the lack of any memorable moments (for the right reasons, anyway) was a fairly decent game crying to get out. Very muffled cries, but cries all the same. However you can get very similar yet more entertaining gaming experiences in the form of Stranglehold and The Club combined for less than half the price of Kane & Lynch 2 which therefore makes the game seem even more redundant. If you have little time to game and want a rental (or wait for the inevitable discounting) then there are worse options than Kane & Lynch 2 but, as highlighted above, there are better.