If pulling off the ultimate heist is one of those video game fantasies on a par with saving the universe, then we’re all doomed. Well, probably not, but movies like Reservoir Dogs and Heat sure make a life of large-yield crime look sexy. But if you’re like us, you’d like to stay out of jail, so where better to indulge those fantasies of being an international heist mastermind with a snappy suit, large caliber automatic rifle, and a duffle bag over your shoulder than in a game?
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is the sequel to a game that tried very hard to recreate that sort of heist movie tension, to somewhat varying effect. IO Interactive has a few tricks up its sleeve, and one of those is a greatly improved multiplayer mode. Playing together as part of a team seems like a key component of recreating the spirit of a professional heist, and Dog Days takes some of the ideas put forward in the first game and brings them into better focus with the additions of gameplay improvements and new modes. If you and your friends are looking to pull off the crime of the century, but would like to avoid all the real-world pitfalls like getting shot at and going to prison forever, then the multiplayer modes of Dog Days may be for you.
The mode introduced in the first game, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, was called Fragile Alliance, and it focused on an innovative gameplay element that allowed for the possibility of one of the team of criminals to turn on their gang and become a traitor, stealing more than their share of the original haul. In Dog Days, Fragile Alliance mode is the beneficiary of some distinct improvements, from overall design to small but significant game tweaks, all of which should make for a richer online experience.
In Fragile Alliance, you are one of a freelancing group of guns-for-hire called the “Ex-Pats” who are taking on jobs at the behest of Mr. Glazer, the game’s main villain. There are six unique heists you can take part in, on six maps that are unique to the mode and not to be found in the single-player campaign. Each of these heists is based on a real-world thing that happened according to the developers at IO Interactive. These narratives seem like an interesting idea for distancing your gameplay even further from the traditional single flag capture style seen in so many multiplayer-focused games. The level we played at an event hosted by publisher Square Enix last week in San Francisco was a good example of that, setting up an interesting scenario where our team first took on another team of criminals who were about to escape their own heist into waiting vehicles. After ambushing them, my teammates and I then picked up the loot then fought our way through a couple waves of cops to get to our own personal getaway van.
The potential for someone going traitor is always there, whether it be your teammates or yourself. If you do decide to go traitor, you could hang back and silently assassinate teammates -- just make sure no one sees you do it. Or you can grab a human shield, keeping your teammates from shooting you by making it crucial for them not to accidentally shoot the buddy being used as a shield. If a teammate shoots a teammate, he can turn traitor, and the guy who gets wounded has a certain amount of time to get his revenge on the shooter without becoming a traitor himself thanks to a function called “yellow card." Even if he “kills” him, there’s a “down not dead” status which allows you to keep shooting from the ground or get up and charge the guy who just wronged you. Still, if you die, you’ll have one more shot at revenge when you get respawned as a cop. Revenge is sweet indeed.
All this rampant Benedict Arnoldism adds a pretty interesting wrinkle to the gameplay, and the way it works here in the sequel is far superior to how the game played before. Arcade mode is simply the same as Fragile Alliance, but for the single player. It’s round-based and increases in difficulty as you go, something to remember when you die and have to start the level over again. Still, good practice for the real deal. Cops and Robbers mode has one of the gang playing undercover cop, who must not only stop the gang from getting away with any of the money, but must remain undetected to do so -- kind of hard when you can't shoot innocents or cops and they won't shoot at you.
The multiplayer modes for Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days are bringing some new twists and wrinkles to the traditional types of gameplay modes mainly to give gamers a real feeling of playing a type of game that just has never been done well before: the heist (well, except in that one GTA IV level). But if they get it completely right this time, they could maybe start a new sub-genre of their own.