A brilliant, all-too-short, journey into the violent and dark world of Shanghai.
In Dog Days, Kane returns to help out Lynch with one final job, where the score is big enough to set them both up for life. Unfortunately, within minutes, everything goes to hell, and the damned duo put events into motions that by the end of it will leave them shattered and broken (in more ways then one). The next 48 hours for them are... messed up, to say the least.
The story is pretty great throughout. It's presented as if it was recorded by a low-quality DV camera, with your vision filled with glitches and artifacts, and messed up lighting. It's a brilliant and ambitious way to present Shanghai to the player, and it works perfectly. From the outset, atmosphere is fantastic, as Shanghai is brought to life as a dingy and dirty place, the alleys and backroads far removed from the glitz and glamor. Soundwork is equally fantastic. The guns sound powerful, the ambience of the city is fantastic, and voice acting is superb, filled with emotion and nuance, completely believable.
Gameplay as revamped this time around. IO ditched the squad mechanic and now it's a straight third person shooter. The cover's been revamped and is now functional. Animation is much improved (though they could have done more with it).
The combat for the most part is functional and great, but it's a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it's unrelentingly intense, not giving even a moment's breath, but on the other hand, it can be murderously difficult and frustrating at times. Luckily, your AI controlled co-op partner is somewhat useful, actually killing enemies.
However, while I've been gushing about the production values and so on, there are a few nagging issues that sort of dulled the shine for me.
For one, it's short. Very short. You could feasibly run through the entire campaign in four or five hours (people have even reported finishing it in just over three). It's ridiculous. While the campaign is fantastic while it lasts, it leaves you wanting for more, and not in the best of ways.
Another issue is pacing. It's so fast, there's almost no moments to slow down and have characters develop properly (I can only recall one scene that properly dealt with the characters' emotions and psychology, but it was a doozy). If there is a future game, I really hope they work on the pacing. Instead of constant rushing and panicking, I hope they attempt a much more naturally paced game. They seemed to have ditched trying to emotionally attach us to certain characters in an attempt to keep the adrenaline rush up, and this was a mistake in my opinion.
Finally, there's an issue of variety. About 95% of the game is running and shooting. There are only really two points in the game that are unique and great. One is a level simply entitled 'A Thousand Cuts'. The other is a mid-air battle against a sky scraper. These two parts are probably the best in the entire game and if there were more of this kind of stuff, I'd give the game a much higher rating.
But as it is, it's still a great game. It'll be a bit of an acquired taste like the first one, but it's definitely worth a look for those in the mood for a much darker and bleak side of life.
*Note: you may have noticed that I only talked about the Single Player. I haven't had time to try the Multi Player and Co-Op, so I can't comment on them yet.
**Note: I accidentally posted my review on the 360 board. I own the PS3 version, so I posted again here.