Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

Kane nein?

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.

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You're not fooling anyone, Bono.

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.

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To kill or not to kill?

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.

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