When the BBC’s lead film critic Mark Kermode reviewed the Liam Neeson action thriller Taken on his radio show back in 2008, he noted that during the film’s finale there featured a rather glaring error, and inadvertently created a catchphrase that has become synonymous with goofs of a similar ilk. Whenever any of his fans or listeners observe any comparable blunder in any movie these days, they tend to immediately get in touch with him so that they can all ask together in unison, “Who’s driving the boat?”

Kane & Lynch 2 is an incomparably stylish videogame, and one that boasts a visual aesthetic that is at once ingenious, frequently inventive and generally pulled off with real creative aplomb. The whole thing has been made to look like the Youtube upload of footage taken from a scrappy camcorder (or high-end camera phone) and the results are often downright uncanny. But quipsters the world over are destined to ask one rather similar question in reference to it. Namely… Who on earth is filming all of it?

The answer to this question is never answered or even addressed, and in the game’s defence, it’s never even slightly important. It’s purely a stylistic device, and it’s an original and wholly successful one. You’ll see artefacts of flaky digital compression and colour separation, and in one sequence – in which we hurled and detonated an explosive canister a little too close to a glaring halogen light – the screen dissolved into a mess of blinding light streaks and frame-rate sketchiness. It looked, put simply, rather incredible.

The story opens with Adam ‘Kane‘ Marcus meeting his self-medicating, psychopathic ex-cohort James Seth Lynch on a dank Shanghai high street, as the pair reunite for a that classic action movie staple; the final job with the final score so momentous that it’ll leave both of them set for retirement. It’s surprising (and impressive) to note just how austere and awkward this first meeting is, and the most notable aspect of Kane and Lynch’s relationship is set in stone once again: these two men emphatically know that they’re the only person on the planet that the other man can trust. But friends they most certainly are not.

After that, it’s a helter-skelter free-fall of non-stop action set-pieces, with gunplay that feels wooly and indistinct at first, but whose intricacies just take a little adapting to. Initially the machine guns are wildly inaccurate from long distances, so battles can sometimes seem like they’ve been ripped straight from the ludicrous annals of the lunk-headed 1980’s Hollywood landscape that developer IO Interactive seems to hold in such high regard. After a short time though, you do realise that you can pull off pitch-perfect headshots if you are completely refined with your aiming.

Dead-on hits are denoted by an extra, miniature Call Of Duty-style crosshair, and once you get to grips with just how precise you need to be, the shooting is compulsive in the extreme. The game’s story mode is punchy if a tad short, although the four difficulty settings do add value. Even on the standard difficulty level though, the AI of your enemies is extremely aggressive, with most of them taking advantage of any opportune moment to rush or flank you. You’re constantly kept on your toes, and sitting back and trying to play the long-range game isn’t going to cut it.

Perhaps best of all, you can play through the campaign cooperatively online with a friend, and the game’s multiplayer modes are novel and strong. Fans of the original Kane And Lynch will remember the promising but iffy Fragile Alliance mode, which is improved tenfold here thanks to the spiky refinements to the gunplay. It involves executing a bank heist and escaping before the clock runs out – but at any moment, any one of your team can attempt to take one (or all) of your squad out and steal your share(s) by turning traitor. Players who are taken out then re-spawn as police, so the traitor’s path is an extremely demanding one.

The fact that turning traitor is such a burdensome undertaking means that online games are often entertaining, albeit strangely civil affairs. Brilliantly, a new mode called Undercover Cop makes this gruelling conflict an outright necessity. It’s the same deal as Fragile Alliance, except that in each round one person at random is tagged as an undercover cop, and has to dispatch everyone else before they’re rumbled. The atmosphere during each round’s opening few minutes is hilariously tense, and of the five-plus games that we played of this mode, the way that each one panned out was completely different.

Kane And Lynch 2: Dog Days
is stripped right down to the basics, and the results are refreshing. There are no weapon upgrades to worry about, no pointless collectible trinkets to search for, and aside from an excellent helicopter mission and a couple of protect-the-hostage offshoots, the game tries to avoid shoehorning in needless diversions in the interest of creating an irksome me-too illusion of gameplay variance. It’s all about the gunplay, which is never less than utterly stellar, and entirely enjoyable. But be warned: this is adults-only stuff.

Watch the Kane and Lynch 2:Dog Days trailer here…

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Team Zavvi

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A collection of thoughts, opinions and news from the staff at Zavvi.