Greed, betrayal and revenge; these are the three themes driving the multiplayer facets of Kane and Lynch 2. In this sense, Dog Days offers something other multiplayer shooters do not – a narrative device to give structure to the experience. Fragile Alliance is the game mode this is all built around; a team based test of loyalty, allegiance, and devotion to the criminal cause. The premise is simple; steal as much money as possible within a set amount of time, and escape with it before you're killed. Working as a team, this shouldn't prove too difficult, but in doing so, your cut of the cash will be shared evenly amongst the alliance. The twist comes with the option to betray your comrades, steal their cash and make a getaway with considerably more green stuff than the competition. Of course, being a traitor to the alliance makes you a glowing target, and your former comrades will stop at nothing to exact their revenge.
If you've read our preview of Fragile Alliance already, you'll already understand the cost/reward system that gives the game its unique hook. The new Undercover Cop mode puts a novel twist on these mechanics, randomly selecting one player at the start of each round to play as the titular undercover cop. With this role comes the responsibility of taking out the rest of the Alliance before they escape with the money. In order to be successful, you need to be inconspicuous. Kill somebody in plain sight, and the game's up; the rest of the Alliance will pepper you with bullets before you know what's hit you. The trick is to isolate each player, and take them out swiftly while everybody else is distracted, which, I can tell you, is much easier said than done.
To spice things up a bit, the undercover cop is also unable to kill any of the 'enemies' in the level, because, as an enforcer of the law, they're not actually his enemies. If the rest of the alliance cottons on to the fact you're not fighting the good fight, however, things will quickly get ugly. To keep in with the alliance, a good idea is to deliberately aim off target, creating the illusion that you're shooting at the enemy, when really all you're doing is decorating a building with pretty bullet holes.
Ultimately, Undercover Cop is all about the bluff - blending in with the rest of the alliance. Making them believe that you're one of them. Gaining their trust. Then, just when they think they're safe - BAM! Bust a cap in their ass and act as shocked as everybody else. Bluffing comes with limitations, however. At the preview event, we were forced to play the game over LAN. While normally this is perfect for multiplayer, you can imagine the problems that might arise out of playing such a secretive game in close quarters. Eyes drift, and the laughs and comments of those nearby quickly reveal who's who. A few times I learnt who the Cop was outside of the game, which ruins the fun of the experience.
The prospect of playing online has got me very excited. Presumably the game allows for team speak, letting players bluff their way out of trouble over the microphone. If this is the case, Undercover Cop begins to rely on social features as a gameplay device, which is something currently unheard of in multiplayer game design. I've yet to try it out first hand, but in theory, Undercover Cop sounds remarkably good fun.
My only issue with Undercover Cop concerns the narrative that IO Interactive has so desperately tried to weave into the multiplayer. Each member of the alliance has a unique back story that justifies their role in the alliance, and by suddenly making one an undercover cop, their credibility as a criminal in the game world is ruined. It's not a complaint that has any impact on how the game plays, and in any other game nobody else would think twice about it, but to me it seemed to conflict with what IO is trying to achieve.
The final component of the Dog Days multiplayer is Cops and Robbers, which dresses the standard team deathmatch in the guise of Fragile Alliance. As always, it’s up to the criminals to loot as much cash as possible, but in this game mode there are four player-controlled law enforcers trying to put a stop to their nefarious efforts. Success is governed by how much money you’ve earned during the round, not necessarily your body count. For the cops, money is the reward for killing criminals, but the biggest scores are attainable through securing stolen money. Unlike the other modes, working as a team is crucial here, especially for the criminals. While playing as the cops is a simple case of shooting on sight, robbers need a more definite plan of attack in order to escape with the cash in one piece. In this respect, Cops and Robbers deviates from the formula of normal team deathmatch modes quite drastically.
During my time with the Kane and Lynch 2 multiplayer, Undercover Cop struck me as the most memorable mode on offer. The fact that a traitor was in the alliance from the word go made for a tense, nerve racking experience. Trust plays an important role in Fragile Alliance, and with Undercover Cop, you have to force yourself to sacrifice it. Once again IO Interactive has done something very clever; it's created a team-based multiplayer experience, but made it so that you're barely playing as a team at all. It's different, and it's hugely enjoyable.
Kane & Lynch 2 is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on August 27