Returning to the main focus of the game, Kane & Lynch 2 is primarily designed as a co-operative experience. To IO's credit, the developer recognises that a co-op orientated console game requires decent local play options, so it's good to see that the oft-neglected split-screen mode has been included. Curiously, this part of the game was omitted from the playable demo, but any suggestion that its absence was due to overall quality can be dispelled now: it's there, it works and IO has once again targeted 60 frames per second with fairly decent results overall.
There is a frame-rate deficit up against the single-player mode and there's still a corresponding gap between the PS3 and 360 versions in terms of performance that you can see in the areas where the scene for both players is in sync cross-platform, but the overall implementation from a rendering perspective is sound.
Where the game doesn't work so well has nothing to do with the cross-format technicalities and is all to do with the limited viewpoint afforded by the split-screen perspective. The field of view is often curtailed to the point where it's extremely easy to lose your bearings, and crucially for a co-op game, the mechanisms in place for finding your partner are rather limited and not especially helpful.
The PC version of Kane & Lynch 2 doesn't have the split-screen mode but in every other way it is superior to the console games, and with Steamworks integration built into the game you get the PC equivalents of Achievements and Trophies to boot, along with Steam's own matchmaking and leaderboard structures. Thankfully, and more pertinently for the purposes of this article, the PC game also tones down or removes elements of the post-processing effects that conspire to make the console versions so unpleasant to look at.
To illustrate here's a re-run of the initial Face-Off video, with the Xbox 360 version put up against the PC game. The detail increase to proper 720p is self-evident (of course, the PC game will run at whatever resolution you care to select) for starters, but also pay attention to the colour levels and the artificially generated noise only found in the console game. If you'd prefer to compare the PC version with the PS3 code, we've got that covered too. For the embedded versions, remember to use the full-screen button in all of our comparison vids.
While the SSAO is very heavy and seemingly more pronounced than it is in the 360 version, the overall look is far, far more refined on PC. In our comparison we ran at max settings with full-on 16x anisotropic and 16x AA, but even on lesser levels, the basic improvement in resolution combined with toned down contrast made for a far more attractive image. Dialling back or full-on removal of elements of the "lo-fi" video presentation also made this the only version of the game that I could comfortably play for an extended session.
Over and above that, lighting appears to be more refined in places and there seems to be areas where textures have more detail and additional specular maps and shadows are in place. The additional detail, however, may simply be a case of the game offering up more of the core art's riches once the overkill post-processing has been peeled back.
Kane & Lynch 2's console origins, combined with the fact that IO went for a 60 frames per second refresh also means that the corresponding reduction in geometry should favour the PC in a world where even the entry-level enthusiast GPUs blitz the performance of RSX and Xenos. A fast dual core CPU combined with something along the lines of 9800GT should give better-than-console performance, with higher resolution, better anti-aliasing and v-sync (something you'll really appreciate after playing the console versions).
Overall then, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days feels like a missed opportunity in so many ways. From a technical perspective, IO's decision to target 60FPS was undoubtedly the right one. The consoles are deluged with third person shooters and just like Modern Warfare 2, Kane & Lynch 2 stands out from the crowd by offering measurably superior response from the controller and far smoother gameplay - basic essentials from a shooter.
The compromises inherent in going for 60FPS have also been cleverly masked in terms of the overall presentation, but the actual artistic decisions that have been made are often questionable with literally stomach-churning results. Kane & Lynch 2 is a sub-HD title, but the resolution isn't really the issue - aliasing problem are minimal and much of the detail that there is tends to be lost under the waves of post-processing filters that IO has introduced that define the very look of the game. It's that look that is the more contentious part - it's a game that is physically off-putting to play for extended period of time.
So, if only from an aesthetic perspective, it's a clear win for the PC version of Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days. However, even once I'd found a version that could be played comfortably, there's still the disappointing reality that the gameplay itself isn't up to snuff, and that the co-op element has so much potential that is not explored by either the game structure or the level design. There's nothing here that's genuinely new, exciting or that really progresses the genre. The fundamental lack of surprises from the gameplay makes it feel rather old, very quickly.
The playable demo (available for all three platforms) is well worth a download - it's a good sampler for the whole gameplay experience. If it's for you, and you'd prefer to play on console, and your eyes, head and stomach can take it, Xbox 360 is the version to get: it's noticeably smoother than the PS3 version, with minor additional graphical upgrades. Are these enough to warrant a score downgrade for the PS3 game? Truthfully no, the frame-rate deficit only rarely has any actual impact on the overall quality of the game, and the graphical tweaks only apparent on the 360 version probably won't be missed.