Thread: It's been four years, and I still have no clue as to what this game is about ...

It's been four years, and I still have no clue as to what this game is about ...

  1. #1

    Question It's been four years, and I still have no clue as to what this game is about ...

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    Lynch and Kane won't die. That's not an assertion for a hopeful future, that's a statement of fact uttered in a disappointed tone. Lynch and Kane just won't die.
    It started out with the two on their way to death row, and it proceeds with them escaping death in countless measures, even when struck to the ground in the rainy mud, these hard bastards just openly says 'f- it' and climb back up to bash some more skulls, doing so around the world too.
    It ends with them drifting away into nothingness. As Kane says, "it's only fair". These two men didn't fail because they didn't properly took advantage of their second chance in life, they weren't even given a second chance, they grabbed it by force, and they failed because they couldn't do much besides more screaming and killing and creating worldwide havoc.

    But that was for Dead Men, the first game. The sequel depicts a stream of harsh events that befall on the two men, and torturously reminds us that no, these two just simply won't roll over and die. It's titled Dog Days, and it's a dog's life the two are having, but they keep on surviving, they fight for it, for their survival, regardless of any reasoning behind it seems to be the only thing that drives these men.
    This insistence on survival instincts borderline makes the pair more animalistic than human. It's probably a deliberate move, but then again, I'm not so sure.

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    If Dead Men was an ugly experience about ugly men, Dog Days is simply cold and careless. Much have been written over the past years over this intentional anti-shooter effort the game wanted to convey, about the deliberate cheapness of it, an ensemble of extremely brutish choreography of sound and visuals, the unrewarding impact the game makes the more you progress, and so on...
    A game deliberately made so that you feel progressively tired of the unending violence? a game that wishes to mock the fantasy entertainment on violence by being intentionally unentertaining?

    Right ... so why is it that the protagonist are so passionately hinged on wanting to survive? and for that matter, why do they even succeed at it?

    "We're done for, Lynch"
    "Screw them!"

    Contrast the Kane & Lynch single player with the Fragile Alliance multiplayer.
    The graphics engine are the same, the control schemes are identical, the shooting mechanic is the same, but the goal is different, or rather, there actually is a goal this time around: to grab the loot and get away with it. Even if the player never get to do much with the actual loot other than it being recorded on the leaderboard as just a series of numbers, the Fragile Alliance experience is compulsively more engaging and cheerful on a competitive viewpoint than that of the single player experience, because now there is an end goal, no matter how shallow the end goal is, it is still something that the single player does not offer for its titular protagonists.
    Consequently playing through Fragile Alliance neither conveys a sense of nihilism nor is it built around it. There actually is a sense of fulfillment to be had.

    Comparing the two, it's quick to observe that the single player is profoundly more of an 'anti-shooter' genre than its multiplayer companion piece; Fragile Alliance is quite a competitive social engagement and very much part of the classic shooter genre unlike the story mode. However even despite the comparison, the Dog Days single player does more than to be labeled as an anti-shooter once set on its own; the game does little to actively punish you other than the escalating difficulty the more you progresses, which is only fair for any game in existence. And whereas the protagonist never gains anything they wished for, the game itself doesn't rob the player of any gameplay engagement. Even when the duo are at their worst physical and mental shape, the game mechanics still plays the same, only the avatar on screen looks different and the narrative context a bit more sombering.
    This surprisingly forgiving attitude does not an anti-shooter makes. If anything, Dog Days performs a lot of tricks that goes against the conventional route, both from the aesthetic choice and gameplay tweaks that renders the appropriate hectic gunfights, but it still remains a straight shooter, only one that doesn't necessarily pretend to be something of a empowerment fantasy that fits the usual expectations. But painting a grim portrait of a grim situation is not exactly a critique against the conventional genre, just a potentially more honest portrayal of the circumstances it wishes to depict.

    Dead Men, on the other hand, was very much an anti-shooter: a broken fantasy of men, both unattractive on the inside and the outside, who uses nothing but violence and violent means from beginning to end in the unrepentant hopes that it will actually help achieve something good for their own interests, a father believing that his relationship with his family can be mended by ignoring his criminal nature, and another man who childishly sees no harm -either deliberately or unknowingly- in anything he does but still finds the time to judge others. Kane is actively condemned by all supporting characters from beginning to end and rarely if ever has any of his plans performed successfully, while Lynch is a time bomb that seemingly exists for the sole purpose of just being there to add more fuel to the fire. It's a global trotting gunplay experience but none of the explosive satisfaction. Sceneries not suited for senseless violence is turned to ruin by hails of gunfire marked by poor marksmanship. It looks and pretends to be a shooter empowerment fantasy like any other game but does little to give satisfaction to your actions. It offers a clear defined goal -fetch briefcases, find the girl- but offers nothing but pre-defined failures on your playthrough. It's an anti-shooter because it trumps your expectations, and offers blunt honesty that violence is not a means that can be used to solve delicate personal issues.

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    In contrast Dog Days took place in a ugly world to begin with, it made sense that ugly things happened because the habitat was adequate for the disproportionate violence. It's akin to a horror game set in a horror themed environment and there are horrible monsters to look at and horrible means to dispatch them... there's nothing out of the ordinary with it.
    Kane is still deluded on a fantasy where money can solve any parental issues, but the game is now less about Kane himself being continuously responsible for causing more harm to the world because of his delusions than the world itself comes crashing down on him and preventing him reaching anywhere near to his goal. Whereas Lynch is just pushed from one ugly incident to the next, it really is no different than the average war-themed shooters where the soldiers plows their way through one battlefront to the other. Dog Days doesn't have the courtesy of having a clear defined goal, you're almost always randomly sent through one situation to the other in the hopes that it'll actually get you somewhere, but this is all too common in the video game genre as a whole to be interpreted as something deliberately malicious on the developer's behalf, on the contrary, it's rather banal.
    It does look a lot uglier than the conventional genre would expect, but it doesn't behave any differently than any other mainstream shooter, and the aspect and atmosphere of meaninglessness is used as a central topic rather than a tool against the players. There's nothing anti-shooter about it, just one that makes interesting use of its medium. In fact one can even wonder why there aren't more titles that presents violence in the way the game did?

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    The dynamic relationship between Lynch and Kane is also different in the sequel.
    Dead Men showed that the combination of the two on any given circumstance is a guarantee on absolute 'f- ups'. It further made the second half of the game more confusing as to why Kane would want to keep Lynch around as if he ever was a good luck charm; supposedly Kane 'needs' any extra pair of hands he can get to pull off his revenge operation, and that his infamous reputation is the cause of other people being reluctant in wanting to work for him, whereas Lynch simply didn't mind a bit, apparently having the time of his life ever since he was Kane's watchdog.
    Nevertheless, given that Kane appears to have contacts on a worldwide scale, it's a bit of a stretch he absolutely needed to have Lynch around.
    Luckily for him Lynch stopped being socially awkward altogether too, quite conveniently. But for a lengthy portion of the game the duo formed an odd and unsavory combination that is atypical of usual shooter genre characters, further enforcing its anti-shooter aspect.

    The 'prologue' for Dog Days, the announcement trailer, depicts that in the ensuing years following Dead Men's aftermath, Kane is still living the life of a thieving criminal, but oddly enough is past his prime and can't pull a decent score on his own...
    Luckily once again Lynch steps in and offers him a job. Lynch does this for reasons of his own too: Lynch wanted to show Kane how he had 'moved up' in the criminal underworld on his own, working as the bodyguard and enforcer of a moderately powerful crime lord, and, has "a girlfriend now", as a sign of some real elevated progress in actual civil life.
    The loyal dog wants to show his master the bone triple his size he dug up.

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    Kane's desperation is to the point that he had to accept Lynch's offer. And predictably the combination of the two leads to a stream of absolute 'f- ups' once again... at least it initially started that way.
    While it's clear that the two men are guilty of having ignited the fire that set the plot in motion, the more the game progresses the more the duo seemingly surpasses against the always bigger odds.
    Bleeding to death with severe thousand cuts all over the body? Locked in a warehouse facing a double ambush against arms dealers and private militias? Finally surrounded in a train yard at point blank range after littered corpses for miles long throughout the docks? On a helicopter at the height of the tallest of skyscrapers? Crashing into the skyscraper and attacked by more helicopters? Nation-wide fugitives trying to catch a plane out of the country?
    Somehow, this duo succeeded in overcoming all those situations by sticking and bonding together.

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    It does seem like a triumph. Whereas in Dead Men their survival only lead to more misery, and left potentially half dead on a derelict boat, in Dog Days their survival actually lead to potential freedom. Penniless, but very much alive.
    That's pretty much how video game characters usually work out, combined efforts leading to success. Although it's true the success at stakes here could have been much more favorable, the fact that the two managed to overcome the outrageous odds against them is a pretty straightforward conclusion for the usual gaming genre.

    But even if Dog Days isn't an anti-shooter, there's still this popular idea expressed around about the subject of the game being a form of nihilistic expressionism.

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    "I need you on this" says Kane, half heartedly pleading to Lynch on not giving up when Lynch sobbed on the floor in the fittingly chosen spot that is a tv shop. That moment was also the last that Lynch ever showed any kind of concrete emotions, he spends the rest of the game rather quietly and without performing much extravaganza that would differentiate him from any other gun wielding character.
    The exception being his "No compromise" when he shoots Shangsi. And even then, this complete apathy isn't surprising anymore at this point. But maybe that's a sign of a greater concern.

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    For someone who has been labeled as a medicated psychopath throughout the years, it's in a surprisingly calm gesture Lynch pulls when dealing with Shangsi. Years ago this same man shoots civilians mistaking them for police officers, unflinchingly executes wounded policewomen, has basically zero regret on any if all of his actions, yet never appears to be fully conscious of the consequences of his acts; he rejects responsibility more often than he openly admits.
    Here, now that the stakes are a direct concern to him, he simply pulls the trigger aiming at the chest. No yelling, no punching, barely speaking at audible level. It's as if it was just one more kill after the hundreds that have already been slain.
    And it just is. One more kill. For both the player and the avatar.

    For a character who usually can't stop mumbling incoherent thought, can barely stand still without shaking left and right, often suffering from severe uncontrollable stress, Lynch seems to be progressively calmer as a state of nihilism takes full control.
    Incidentally, so are we, the players.

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    The game itself never condones it, this casual nihilism we partake in, as if there simply isn't anything worth worrying about. Some argue that That is precisely the whole point the game was making, as we ought to be conscious enough that seeking such violent entertainment is in itself a point already made. So there's no point in making any more commentary other than deliver what is ordered.

    But I don't entirely agree on that either. It seems to be easy, too easy to just say that the grotesque violence and masquerade was a deliberate move to make you comprehend the sheer banality of how the repetition of 'shooting at people' video game genre can induce. Instead, I believe the game is treating on the subject of emptiness and aimlessness itself, not that the game is deliberately being empty and aimless, but it is a conscious if not curious take on the emptiness of an aimless road taken.

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    I don't think the game wanted to make a point about the grotesque violence as much as it is an inquiry and observation on where does this road takes us to.
    Kane & Lynch is about two deathrow inmate who fails to do this simple thing that is to die, so where do they go to? what can they do? they are an anomaly, an unstoppable one, and it's depressing as not only they can't stop, but they don't seem to have any reason to care about the world around them either. Since death was repeatedly denied to them, why should they care about the death of others?

    I sincerely don't think there was an agenda of making a malicious and unplayable meaningless gaming experience, rather it was to paint a depiction of a troubled mindset that might affect in some people's lives, of those who lost an aim worth striving for, something that drives them into a destination, perhaps this is directly linked to the same nameless folks from whom the characters of Lynch and Kane are originally inspired from. To convey such aimlessness and emptiness, they made a game that fits such mindset, but not for the sake of simply being an aimless and empty experience, rather because 'it' itself is an issue that can't be easily solved.
    This isn't a deliberate aim at being unsatisfying, this 'is' on the topic of un-satisfaction.

    It's a relentless experience, but one where punishments never sticks very long. Lynch and Kane goes through absolute hell, lose more than they gain, but they always manage to get away with it, to live for another day, even if there's no ideal reason for it.

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    "Nobody gets away with what you just did" protests Kane after the bank massacre in Dead Men. At the time this was still in the early beginning of the franchise, one may have indeed expected that righteous retribution would occur eventually against the duo, but it doesn't. While there's no happy ending, there's no adequate 'end' to it either, it just kind of goes on and on, as if the world around the two were simply indifferent on the mayhem they caused. A theme similarly explored in the Hitman franchise.
    Consequences have minimal impact, it just leads to more people to shoot at, and while the experience doesn't glorify the life of unscrupulous killers, it doesn't outright condone it either: things are what they are it seems, as a game, you shoot, and you keep on shooting until it arbitrary decides to stop.
    Dog Days ends not a whimper, nor a bang, but it ends as if it was just a level like another. Earlier in the game there was a level that ends as the two men are climbing over a fence and we don't even see them completing the climb, another as they walk down the rainy street, and the level after has them opening a door, and the one after that has a policeman putting his hand on the camera. So to have the final level shows the cameraman turning the camera off, it doesn't seem any different had it occurred halfway in the game. It's a lingering suspense, the unanswerable question of "what now"?

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    This a sad game with a sad ending, because it is effectively a game that deals with the topic of 'nothingness', emptiness, about lack of closure or fulfillment, but it is not 'a' game built on nothingness and nihilism.
    My disagreement with the opinions that have surfaced over the years is that I see the game less as a deliberate attempt at being a nihilistic response to violent shooters as much as it is a plea for discussion and exploration on the topic of helpless 'casual nihilism', and in process making an interactive experience that is commendable for not being openly patting its point across.

    It's not on being meaningless, it's about meaninglessness.
    There's a difference, even if it makes it more depressing to look at.

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    It's been four years and I still don't have a clue what Dog Days is about, because I don't know what lies beyond this hell that is the aimless, undefined goal the protagonist goes through, nor as to why such a project ever existed in the first place.

    Unless ...

    The transition from Jeff Gertsmann's opening review line of "Kane & Lynch is a ugly, Ugly game" to Dog Days' promotional campaign of "Real is Blood in your Teeth" and "Real Ain't Pretty", it seems too deliberate of a transition, at times.

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    Regardless, it's been nearly four years now and I still have doubts as to how a sequel to this could ever appropriately turn out.
    I'm not even referring to that particular news that broke out June seventeenth of last year, if for some reason nobody noticed.

    As some of you would remember, I still to this day haven't shown even the smallest of plot outline as to how my dream interpretation of Kane & Lynch III would be like.
    Not because I only have a handful of ideas, not because it isn't organized, but it just seems to go all over the place, for the characters I mean: to put it short, it just evokes the same constant aimless road the protagonists are taking. Many things happen to them, but never for one specific destination. It makes sense in context as it deals with the remaining time left in their lives, but as an overarching plot, it's ... unhinged.
    As a dream game, it's a bit too ambitious for its own good even. At nearing a hundred chapters, it's far too long for a non-sandbox single player experience -for a non-pixelated side scroller game, that is- and considering the way games are made today, and especially taking in mind that for the most part it isn't even a third person shooter, it simply seems too unreal to be even worth mentioning.

    But if a handful of us are still here today and curious enough -such as you reading this piece of out of nowhere messianic speech- , I see no harm in sharing it now ... I think.
    Who knows, if enough still pays an interest to this day, we might see a real Kane & Lynch III yet.
    It'll probably revert to a less confusing or alienating aesthetic and gameplay mechanic, but there's probably no harm to it, as they can always find other ways to make their point across while keeping the same characters and atmosphere. I'm sure.

    Here's to that, then.

    Happy fourth anniversary to the world's longest flight ever that nobody cared about.

    Hi, i'm the one who makes Wall of Text Armadas in a unhinged regular fashion.
    If you remember me, best start taking your pills again.

  2. #2
    Goddamn grevious. A last shock of adrenalin to this forum.
    Though now I imagine Dog Days on par with Spec Ops: The Line
    "That cat? Man, nobody talks about him. 'Cause it's like talkin' 'bout the black death" --Miami Vice

  3. #3

    Thumbs Down

    Funny you mention adrenaline shot, because that's how I would describe Spec Ops The Line's impact to the game industry... though for all the wrong reasons.

    I had a great time plaything through The Line, but it's hard to deny that all the reasons that pleases me in that game was very different from the general stance from the community that speaks of the game as a prime example of the deconstruction of modern shooters.

    Spec Ops The Line was a great modern Call of Duty single player campaign.
    That's how I played through it, that's what I felt when playing through it, that's absolutely not how people perceived it, and I'm kind of shocked by it.

    The community at large seems to think that the modern Call of Duties are absolutely unrepentant and being shamelessly proud of putting the jingoism stance or whatnot. That's a false perception. It's very hard to play through a Call of Duty campaign and really feel positively good about what you're doing.
    Even World at War's ending which made you plant the soviet flag on top of the Reichstag, it was deliberately made to look patriotic yet at the same time it is gushing in disproportionate violence, and the game had an overall negative thing to say on the notion of 'heroism' by the way, but for some reason people took it at straight face value and missed the point.
    The Modern Warfare franchise meanwhile had always been grim from the start: in the very first level, the transition from training sessions with water melons and cardboard layouts during day time to thunderstorm of the night shooting at coffee drinking soldiers, drunk soldier in the hallway, then slicing the throats of soldiers sleeping in their bunk beds, just where in the hell in all this am I supposed to be screaming "hell yeah! eat it!"? and yet it seems as if the general consensus is that people 'Are' like that... which lead to Spec Ops The Line, and its supposedly anti-shooter stance it wishes to take.

    But what exactly is it that The Line does that is different from the Modern Warfares or Black Ops? The most obvious thing is that The Line is absolutely in-your-face and lacking at the most basic notions of subtlety, but I guess this is what finally made people tick, so good for them, bad for my conscience.

    The Line nevertheless was a solid effort from beginning to end that knew exactly how to use the shooter tropes, not to subvert them from conventions mind you, but to use it as it should be: nonsensical endless shooting, glorious slow motion headshots, a playable protagonist that actively interacts and reacts to his environment the more the game progresses, outrageous soundtracks blaring in the background with a complete indifference to the suffering that occurs on screen, and most importantly, a rather honest message about foreign interventionism that doesn't if ever leads to things one might expect.
    There's nothing original to it, nothing that takes rocket science or sophisticated study, everything is laid out openly, and it's not even as if 'it was the whole point!', no, it's just that it simply 'is', that's being honest, none of that crap about "we wanted you to stop playing and turn the console off", what?

    You can't possibly with a straight conscience make a game with such a narrative and somehow make it a glorious patriotic firework exposition, no, the only decent way to do so is to make it grim and harsh just as how the reality, the real past history, has shown.
    This doesn't mean that the developers had this agenda at making an anti-shooter to knock you out of your seat, no, this is them making a shooter as it should, without glamour.

    And the same thing always applies to the Modern Warfares, not once has the blockbuster ever actively tried being a glamour trip, even during moments that seems to scream 'America f--- yeah!' there's always an underlying sense of irony to the narrative context. But of course people always skip that part, either because it was too subtle, or at other times, kind of misleading, but it's there, if a bit rough and kind of shy to be open about it.
    Spec Ops had no shame, it just stood up and gushed about what it has to say, but that don't make it the messiah of the decade, just a better orator really.

    It's also a bit scary when you think about it: here there's all these people saying just how much they enjoy The Line, about its narrative, the gameplay impact, the soundtrack, speaking fondly of have they've played through it many times... yet at the same time they speak of how despicable the actual situations the game presents is. It's like they can't stop flogging themselves, "oh this is so horrible, it made me do all these terrible things, it made me realize I've done terrible things, but I just enjoy playing the hell through it!".
    It's a bit contradictory, how can they condemn the repetitive and un-evolving gameplay of this and other shooters yet still actively praise and play it for precisely the same reason?

    It does make me think that at the end of the day all they wanted was just to be able to play a competent straight action game. In fact the reality speaks for itself; it's been two years since The Line came out, what happened in the industry? we still get games with shameless headshot slow motions, crude storytelling, and heck, the developers of The Line themselves went off to make a zombie-shoot'em up! Way to go crusaders, eh?
    There's no harm in wanting to play a well made action game with decent kinesthetic impact, there's no witch hunt here, but the fact that the messages are contradicted throughout the community is a bit frightening.
    It also creates the risk of separating gamer communities due to supposedly different 'interests' and approach in gaming.

    Hi, i'm the one who makes Wall of Text Armadas in a unhinged regular fashion.
    If you remember me, best start taking your pills again.