Have You Played… Kane & Lynch 2?

And then, the murder starts.

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Scurrying through grubby neon streets like the vermin you are, scrambling from cover to cover that’s too low to conceal your lumbering body, desperately trying to find more ammo as you ineptly spray bullets, that’s when Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is at its best. Its Shanghai is still one of my favourite video game cities. And then IO Interactive (them wot do Hitman) slightly spoil things by giving you fancy rifles towards the end.

The feeling of ineptness is splendid. You might spray a whole magazine with your machine pistol and not hit anyone. You’ll frantically scramble towards enemies to find ammo or a new gun because your lousy revolver is empty again. Your big stupid body isn’t even fully concealed by most cover. Gunfights are loud and messy. You’ll shoot unarmed pedestrians and motorists because you saw movement and panicked. Get hit enough and you’ll fall down – not ‘downed’ and in need of reviving, just down like a middle-aged fuck-up who needs to pick himself up.

The whole game looks like a cameraphone recording uploaded to YouTube. The colours are dreary, the lights overexposed. Compression artifacts dance across the screen or glitch out at intense moments. Nudey parts are pixelated out. The camera jostles and lurches. It still looks gorgeous.

The plot and characters are somewhere between unpleasant and loathsome. That is on purpose, if it’s any comfort. But it has its moments. Not just that one absurd level where you’re nude and streaming blood from dozens of slashes.


  1. ArthurBarnhouse says:

    Kane and Lynch 2 is a way better game than people think it is, though that’s not the same as it being an amazing game.

    I really liked the idea of playing as these two guys who say to themselves “I really want to get out of this life of crime. You know how I’ll do it? By committing some more crimes”. Just digging deeper thinking you’ll somehow get out of the hole.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Yes! Even the triumphant ending leaves them so, so fucked, worse than ever before.

    • Endsville says:

      Definitely not the same as being a great game, no, but I did enjoy my time with it, especially compared to the game before. But even if I didn’t particularly like that, the one thing I do “love” about both is, as you point out, the way the characters find themselves deeper and deeper in shit.

      In a way, I think of the depressing scenarios of both games as kinda like the Max Payne series in that regard – only without any sense of irony about the situations they find themselves in or even an angle of bad luck to it all, which Max is at least plagued by. As someone else pointed out, they’re perhaps the two best complete antiheroes to be found – rarely characters to sympathise with in either game and even then, not for too long as they head towards their next fuck-up.

      But if nothing else, this second game should at least be played for the audio visual design, which is simply amazing. Any other game that I don’t know of tried a handicam style like that?

    • Oozo says:

      It is really a stellar example of why judgements limited to “good” vs. “bad” and using “fun” as a metric is pretty much, well, limiting.

      Is Kane and Lynch 2 “fun”? Not necessarily.
      Is it a “good” game? Well, it’s complicated…
      Is it one of the most interesting and daring aesthetic and atmospheric experience this genre has produced, though? You bet.

    • oh god bees says:

      This is a wonderful way to put this review. Maybe Kane & Lynch 2 is just a shabby skin for a game that is really Trailer Park Boys: The Video Game underneath.

  2. Harlander says:

    It had some pretty fun multiplayer modes, as I recall.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Some looked really interesting, but I never found players. A shame!

      • Terragot says:

        A great potential that was ruined by day one DLC guns.

      • Fatbubba says:

        I think I got the game during a sale and was lucky to be able to play it in a time when a few people were active. The MP was indeed a lot of fun and that missing heisting itch made me sad when there were no more people afterward. Payday has since quieted that itch a bit, but I do still miss that possibility of betraying your fellow heisters or coming back as a cop and making their life a living hell.

        Even if you didn’t like to betray your partners, the fact that they could at any moment gave it an extra edge.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      I played the multiplayer demo a lot when it came out. You work with a team to get cash to a van. You can kill anybody at any time, which increases your share, but less teammates means that you are less likely to get through the level. Also, you have to physically pick up downed teammates’ cash, so it’s not always advantageous to kill them. Oh, and you played as schlubs, just like in the main game.

      It was tense, and I’m not sure that I’ve seen anything like it.

  3. DrGonzo says:

    Really underrated game, I really like the Kane and Lynch series.

  4. kwyjibo says:

    Kane & Lynch 2 is a game about future shock, about the new China and how you’re alien to it. Surprised that the author actually enjoyed the shit shooting – that was a mechanical failure, the game would be true to its theme even if the shooting was half-way decent.

    Grizzled old men in Heat, and all those Westerns might be ugly beasts whose era has passed, but they still know how to shoot.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I found the shooting to be great- loud, angry and innacurate.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      The characters in Heat were consummate professionals, likely with special forces training and top notch equipment. They still missed a lot more than they hit in the big shootout.

      The character s in Kane and Lynch were like Waingro, except worse. They are fuckups, they are not in the best state of mind most of the time, they are out of shape, and they’re forced to use whatever equipment they find on the ground.

  5. Eukatheude says:

    Finally, a games writer who gets this game.

    • Ross Angus says:


      Just to pick one aspect of the game: the menu screens. Amazingly atmospheric. They’re often dull in their subject matter, but that make them all the more vivid. Lying in the back seat of a car, looking at the boring road pass. Looking out into a crap courtyard, while a tinny radio plays in the background. Rain on a single-paned window (the sound design for each is wonderful too).

      And yet, the game is colourful and vivid. Horribly so. Some levels have rain, which lands on the camera and refracts light to make it even more colourful.

    • gruia says:

      k, im gonna try it

    • malkav11 says:

      Not that Alice isn’t awesome, but finally? I’ve seen a bunch of articles celebrating Kane and Lynch 2 for pretty much these reasons. And they’re so right.

  6. El_MUERkO says:

    Something that really bothered me was the flashing red x’s when a shot hit, it’s a hard 18 of a game, give me splashes of blood and screams of pain. Also throwing a few less enemies, who were slightly better shots, at the player would have made for a better game that didn’t bend believability so much.

    • Eukatheude says:

      Yeah by the end it gets a bit ridiculous. You can turn off the X’s IIRC.

  7. CelticPixel says:

    Nice to see this on here. I only just finished a replay of this last week then convinced a friend to buy it and we’re currently playing through it again in co-op. Your description of its inept protagonists stumbling clumsily through its gleeful chaos from one fuck up to the next is spot on. My ultimate K&L2 moment was crouched behind a desk blind firing an LMG at an attack chopper, our combined fire tearing the office furniture around us to shreds as the sound cut and distorted while glitch distortions and blood spatters obscured the screen. Actually hitting the attack chopper was of secondary concern to just buying into that gleeful, visceral moment.

  8. brulleks says:

    Gah, ok. I give in. Next time they’re on sale I’ll give them a go. Happy now?

  9. crazyd says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone say anything positive about this game before. It’s always on sale for a song, maybe I’ll actually pick it up one of these days.

  10. iyokus says:

    Don’t bother with K&L1, though. I just played it this week and it’s all bad. Can’t comment on Dog Days.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      They’re both awful games, though Dog Days is at least a little more fun to play. But Alice is still right in that everyone should give them a try.


        Wait… there are three Kane & Lynch games? I bet I’m going to buy the wrong game in the series AGAIN.

    • jonahcutter says:

      On the whole the game was not good, but there were a few standout levels in K&L 1.

      The first, intro level was pretty good. Getting sprung from a prison convoy and having to scramble to fight through the streets was a fun set-up.

      The big bank heist when you go in through the glass, fight your way down the tower, and out through the streets is probably where the game is at its best.

      The first half of the club level is great. Having to immediately play back through it again in a shameless rehash of the content isn’t.

      I can’t remember much about the others though, other than how bad the latter jungle levels were.

      And I agree with Alice and others about K&L 2. It’s a great neo-noir, drag-race of a game.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        The bank heist and the club were fantastic ideas, and in many ways you could see IO trying their best to realise them, but the horrendous random bystander AI just killed them both for me. Once I noticed the screaming people in the club were just milling around like some ancient 1990s simulation of a school of fish trying to escape a predator I simply couldn’t take it seriously any more, and the bank heist was almost as bad.

        EDIT: Cuba or wherever the jungle levels were supposed to be wasn’t so much bad in comparison as kinda bizarre, as if some clueless exec had demanded the game go HAM for the climax in the most incongruous way imaginable that was still vaguely plausible. At least those endings were tonally brilliant.

        • nearly says:

          I gave up on K&L1 on the Cuba level. It just felt so weird to be in generic dudebro shooter body armor doing all this fighting without any real reason. Also, I kept getting killed / couldn’t find ammo / something. Was not fun so I stopped. That’s about as far as I could recommend playing, since I think just before that feels like the ending with the construction equipment, etc.

          K&L2 I played all the way through and generally enjoyed it. The game wasn’t perfect but it was usually playable and not really aggravating in a way that certain bad games can be. I’d recommend it to anyone on a sale if they want to spend some time playing a pretty well realized, interesting game. If I was disappointed at the ending, it was because of how short it was and anticlimactic.

    • rapchee says:

      I think the first one was decent enough too, and the ending(s) made it totally worth it. Well, in a soul-crushing way

  11. Eight Rooks says:

    It’s odd because I disagree in that I think they’re frequently awful games – shooting is poor (both mechanically and the way firefights play out), level design is terrible, set-pieces are frequently ruined by bugs and glitches, AI is nonexistent – and yet I agree in that I think everyone should give them a shot. These grizzled old men are the closest any developer has ever come, IMO, to doing actual antiheroes who are… well, a little sympathetic – they’re not devoid of morality and they kinda just want to be left alone – but at the same time are frequently legitimately monstrous. As has been said, the story pretty strongly reinforces how hapless and near-incompetent they are, and it’s really never interested in explicitly making their terrible exploits seem like Awesome Things To Do. They’re rarely, if ever, any better than the people they’re killing. Shadow of Mordor this ain’t (much as I am enjoying that game).

    And yes, even with the flaws I just pointed out, Shanghai in the second game is a stunning piece of design – both the city itself (aesthetically, at least, if not mechanically) and the YouTube style overlay. Sure, it’s dumb (who exactly is holding the camera?), but it looks awesome, and it’s one of the few manshooters of any stripe to actually stand out from the crowd, even now.

    EDIT: Forgot the terrific sound design, too, with the specially recorded faux-Mandopop a particular highlight. Absolutely brilliant.

  12. Alevice says:

    It was definitely short, but I really loved the execution of the whole game (maybe health regen not much but eh, it breaks less immersion than health packs). I very liked all the points stated by Alice, I think they really nailed what would it feel to be someone like Lynch.

  13. mikmanner says:

    This is a fucking ugly, ugly game but it executes its aesthetic ambitions perfectly. Audio is fantastic especially the drone music.

  14. int says:

    No but I did play the old first person adventure game called DogDay.

  15. derf says:

    Only played it through once, and it was on co-op with a buddy.

    Singlehandedly one of the most ridiculously stupid games i’ve ever experienced. We were laughing our asses off the entire time at the random cutscenes and “coop moments” where the story would insist we open a door together. Running through streets killing countless henchmen completely naked, buttocks oiled and glistening for no apparent reason. Unexplained “plot” leading to more violence and shootouts without any sign of local law enforcement.

    It was so bad, the comedy value made it pretty good.

  16. Jediben says:

    I liked K&L 1 until you were leading a guerilla army. That was just weird.

  17. mandaya says:

    I used to argue the game wasn’t meant to be fun and got in waaaay too many arguments with angry internetpeople refusing to acknowledge that a concept like this was, you know, possible.
    link to videogametourism.at

  18. heretic says:

    This is such an amazing game, for the atmosphere and the art direction really. Yes the mechanics get a bit dull by the end, but I felt the same way as Remember Me (which I just bought and finished this week), yet it can be amazing just taking in the atmosphere and scenery.

    Dog Days has some harrowing scenes too but they are very effective. The soundtrack is just great as well, from chinese pop to industrial ambient I ripped the sounds from the game files using the same app as for the Bloodrayne titles.

    Even the main menus were great!

    Big recommendation if you like atmosphere and special art direction in games, recommend just setting it on easy and enjoying the ride.

  19. Danda says:

    I LOVE this game! It does immersion better than anyone else.

    I agree with what the previous readers said. The only thing that I don’t like is that I have to empty a whole clip to kill a guy in just a wife beater with no visible body armour. Even shooting them in the face barely does anything!

    Also, it clearly inspired Max Payne 3, which is actually a masterpiece IMHO. The final airport levels in both games are eerily similar…

    But back to K&L2, great multiplayer (even if it only worked for the first few days), great ending, great game!

  20. crbnz says:

    Played through this twice (console, PC) and loved it. I really liked that it didn’t stick around too long (unlike the first one) and the characters + presentation + art direction carried it a *long* way for me. Is it perfect? Hell no, but it’s an uncomfortable and strangely engaging ride.

  21. DXN says:

    The brilliance of K&L is expanded upon in this great and uncharacteristically straight-forward review on ActionButton.net.

  22. RegisteredUser says:

    I have played or rather tried to play both parts I and II and both of them are terrifyingly repetitive and not particularly fun-done third person cover shooters. If you want that kind of thing, you are infinitely better off playing the Max Payne series instead.

    Why this is a play recommendation is utterly beyond me, as I didn’t walk, I ran away from Kane&Lynch 2(and I gave it more than a fair shake in terms of hours invested before seeing it was not getting better).

    I have no idea what game all the positive comment posters here got to play instead of me(not to be mean or anything, but for K&L 1 it turned out the positive review was literally bought and paid for), and I am very sad for all those people who even begin to think it might be a semi-decent game worth a punt after all.

    I guess if you can get it as a giveaway or inside of a bundle along with actually decent things, go for it.
    Its just that one could name 10 better games at 5$ when on sale that would be better done easily and more worth anyone’s time instead.

  23. TheSplund says:

    I still cannot get the demo to work – Gamersgate have it on sale at the mo but even £2 is too much for a game that I can’t get to work (and I’ve been scouring the net and tweaking files for hours) – shame as another co-op game would be nice.
    Update ! just tried the ‘disconnect from internet approach’ and it worked – I’m off to GG to buy a couple of copies

  24. pund says:

    The first K&L got bad & boring near the end. I never completed the second one but maybe I should give it another go.What bothered me as well was that bullet damage on enemies was too low. If they’d tweak that I believe it would be a more fun ride. The cover mechanic was crappy in some locations. I like grimy crime stories so that’s definitely a big + if you’re into that.

  25. Zero_hu says:

    Am I the only one who enjoyed the first game, to the point of replaying it multiple times?

    I really liked the movie references. The bank heist and escape on the streets was Heat. Lynch shooting the girl in the parking lot was straight from Jackie Brown. The final levels were like Sniper or maybe Commando. The inept main characters, and their getting into ever deeper shit was as close to Tarantino, as you can get in a game. And there are dozens more I can’t really put my finger on/don’t remember right now.

    And it had some great visuals, too. I really liked the skyscraper rappelling, and the nightclub. Yeah, the AI was dumb for the crowd, but IO did the same in Hitman Blood Money, and nobody complained about it then. On top of that, not many developers even TRY to make a big crowd of people, so I really appreciated the effort.

    I don’t really understand the hate. I enjoyed it more than, for example, Gears of War. I think you all are a bit biased because of that paid IGN review… It really is a decent game, if not the best TPS there is.