Emotional Accord with Kane & Lynch

Hotline Miami bet (correctly) that you liked hurting other people. Though that suggestion might be unsettling, the game succeeded because your opponents were so deadly themselves. Retry after retry, you charged into the room only to be mowed and/or beaten down. You came to personally hate that one guy at the back of the room who always had his shotgun trained on you. You may not generally like hurting other people, but by the end of the level, you almost certainly like hurting these specific people.

Because of this, you've achieved emotional accord with the game's protagonist. Emotional accord is, in many ways, the opposite of ludonarrative dissonance. Sure, the sheer bodycount of Uncharted clashes with Nathan Drake's rakish charm, but the problem is made greater by the way that Drake's one-liners clash with your own vocalized expletives. Each enemy encounter is just a bit too difficult to make you feel like a devil-may-care treasure hunter.

This is why Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days may be the most emotionally engaging game I've ever played. From the beginning, Kane and Lynch actively fight likability. Every one of their problems is their own damn fault, and the way that they interact with the world is always as brutal as possible. And through playing the game, you become exactly like them.

As in Uncharted, encounter design skews toward difficult. But where Drake is the quick-thinking hero who always comes out on top (not dying three times before getting it right), Kane and Lynch are hopelessly desperate, thousands of miles from home, and doomed to fail. Each death seems like a more likely outcome than does escape.

The visual effects in the game, along with the environments themselves, are busted, ugly, and dirty. Pixelated headshots enhance the violence past what even well-rendered gore might accomplish, and the endless growling yells of Kane and Lynch come to match your own vocal patterns as you wrestle with middling third-person control.

I did not entirely like Kane & Lynch 2. I certainly did not like the person that I became during it. But when I finally crossed the tarmac in that final, stupid battle, only to watch credits roll after that ill-advised hijacking of a 747, I felt exactly as tired, angry, and unsatisfied as Kane and Lynch did.