Filthy, rotten money. It's mankind's dirtiest multiplayer game, bringing out the very worst in humanity, and capable of making backstabbing bastards out of even the most benign soul - and Danish game developer IO Interactive knows it.
Playing Kane & Lynch 2's suite of multiplayer modes, it's not entirely clear whether this is purely entertainment or some sort of elaborate social experiment to determine what a bunch of arseholes most of us really are when it comes down to it.
Either way, the frisson of the daring heists, the dramatic shootouts, and the omnipresent threat of imminent betrayal from within certainly makes for an uncomfortably compelling foundation.
Building on the rich promise of the original's Fragile Alliance multiplayer component, IO has managed to spin off the idea into a further two separate multiplayer modes - Cops and Robbers, and Undercover Cop - as well as an offline 'Arcade' training mode. But more on those in a moment.
The most immediately apparent thing is how much better the game looks and feels than the much-criticised original. The gritty shakycam stylised visuals with their fuzzy low-budget grain and camera wobble create a palpitating panic as you dash furiously between cover points in the scuzzy smashed-up environments.
It's certainly an unsettling effect, somewhat akin to being rudely shaken around by an annoying nephew. You might even feel a little queasy at the eccentric visual direction, but it's something you're able to adapt to surprisingly quickly (though anyone who already suffers from motion sickness in games will definitely want to switch off the effect). After a time, you might actually grow to love it. It's a brave direction, and it really does add to the drama.
One element IO has unquestionably improved enormously is control. Using typical twin-stick action-adventure controls, the most obvious enhancements are to the cover system, which was flaky at best in the original Kane & Lynch.
In the sequel, it's reliably context-sensitive, and more flexible about where you're able to hide out. The all-round targeting precision feels more immediate and intuitive, and the damage system makes you work for your kills. This isn't one of those games where you'll die within a couple of shots, and it makes for a much more cat-and-mouse affair.
One of the smartest innovations is the way shots knock you down and give you a second chance to recover your poise. While, say, Left 4 Dead leaves you uselessly incapacitated, IO has taken an approach that gives you the chance of properly recovering. For the shooter, though, knocking an opponent on their arse gives you ample opportunity to provide a real Reservoir Dogs finishing move.
Elsewhere, the ability to take human shields (particularly your own team-mates) is a satisfying addition - especially when you know the lay of the land and what you're facing. Snatching a partner and stealing their money just as they're about to board a getaway vehicle is, unsurprisingly, extremely satisfying if you can get away with it.
Of course, getting away with it is a theme that runs deep within IO's design DNA, and being given a hands-on run-through of the full gamut exposes the team's continuing penchant for abject sneakiness.
First up, returning mode Fragile Alliance keeps its core focus basically the same, meaning that you play as one of a shady band of criminals tasked with pulling off a robbery in a series of locations. Designed for six-to-eight players, the ultimate aim is to be the person with the most cash at the end of the heist, but doing so is never that simple and involves pure, bitter betrayal to win the day.
Normally you might be content with taking your cut of the loot and simply getting out alive, but in Fragile Alliance those who bag the money and simply escape in the getaway van with their buddies will share the spoils.
To win the round, you have to either be the only person who escapes or, more likely, a traitor, killing your colleagues and taking their money. Once someone becomes a traitor, you're truly on your own. Not only have to deal with each killed player respawning as a cop, but you also have to avoid being killed by other alliance members, keen to get your ill-gotten gains and get a kill bonus into the bargain.
To make matters even tougher for the traitor, the person you killed gets an even bigger bonus if they kill you as a cop, plus you won't respawn if you die. Reward: meet risk.
In the all-new Undercover Cop mode, this element of betrayal takes an even more chilling twist. The Fragile Alliance premise remains exactly the same, but with one crucial difference - one of the team works for the police, and has to stop the heist and prevent any crook from getting to the escape vehicle.
With the cop chosen at random, none of the other players will know who's gone undercover - meaning that matches can play out in an agonisingly tense and paranoid fashion.
The key is to try and suss out any telltale signs, like the fact that they're 'missing' their targets, and that the actual uniformed police won't shoot the undercover cop either. The trick to being a convincing cop will be to try and make it look like you're doing the same thing as everyone else for as long as possible, before taking out stragglers unseen by the pack.
In Cops and Robbers mode, meanwhile, the action takes a classic team mode flavour, with between four and six cops and robbers on each side.
The name of the game here isn't so much the killing but the money. The cops have to stop the money being stolen, while the robbers have to make off with as much of it as possible within the four to six minute time limit over a serious of rounds. Simple.
With infinite respawns and no ability to harm your fellow team-mates, this is a rare opportunity to work together, but remains great fun despite the inability to betray your friends.
Usefully, IO has also included an offline training 'Arcade' mode to school players in the ways of Kane & Lynch 2 multiplayer outside of the more unforgiving realm of online.
IO's multiplayer game director Kim Krogh explains: "Arcade mode is basically a single-player version of Fragile Alliance. It started out as a tutorial, but I wanted to do something different, so I quickly turned it into Arcade mode.
"It's you, simply playing together with seven NPCs, you get three lives, and you continue as long as you escape. Every time you don't escape, or don't make it, you lose one life, and you just continue as long as you have one life left. For every round, the difficulty ramps up, and one way it gets harder is that the other seven players will eventually turn against you if you haven't got enough cash.
"If you don't work for the alliance and don't do your share of the killing, if you don't pick up the money, they won't share with you, so they'll turn against you, and in that way we slowly introduce you to the game mode and what the idea is and how the other players play: they will turn against me if I don't do my part of the job, but they want me in the game if I'm really, really good at it," he adds.
With both online and offline leaderboards promised, players can also go for bragging rights, with scores automatically sent to all your friends playing the game.
From what we've seen of the multiplayer offering so far, it looks like being one of the most interesting in ages. If the single-player portion lives up to the quality demonstrated here, then exploring mankind's darkest urges is going to be more fun than it reasonably ought to be.
Kane & Lynch: Dog Days is coming to PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on 27th August.