Kane & Lynch 2 is still the GOAT, so it’s our GOTY

Kane & Lynch 2 is still the GOAT, so it’s our GOTY

In a year of wall to wall bangers, with at least one genuine GOTY candidate coming along every week, it’s surely impossible to pick one overall game of the year. So you should disregard any website that tries, and just listen to us. Elevating any one entry on 2023’s golden roster would do a disservice to all the others, and we don’t want to do that. Instead, we’d rather mug them all off and give our GOTY nod to the GOAT: Kane & Lynch 2 colon Dog Days. Yes, the notoriously bad shooter from the Hitman lads. Confused? Think this is some kind of joke? It’s not, as explained in the video below, featuring special guest Steve Burns who used to be on a certain other website with a devoted cult following (no idea what happened to it, sadly).

Steve Burns on why Kane & Lynch 2 is our GOTY.Watch on YouTube

Much maligned on release for being ugly, disorienting, and generally unpleasant, it hit the market at a time when the Gears-ification of graphics and aesthetics was pretty much at its peak. It was the era of cinematic gaming: bombastic setpieces, enormous budgets for voice acting and performance capture, and hyper-realistic visuals with a desaturated, brown-ish colour palette. Then along comes Kane & Lynch 2, which is painstakingly designed to look like recovered footage from a discarded camcorder (we had those in past, they were what we used to make videos with in lieu of the miniaturised Hollywood film studios we all carry around in our pants these days).

Yeah, it’s supposed to look like this: they spent a long time making it so. | Image credit: Square Enix

As a result of sticking doggedly to this aesthetic, the visuals are scratchy. Oversharpened. Low resolution. Blurry handicam lens flares flickering all over the place. The whole thing plagued with compression artefacts and encoding errors. The entire experience is frankly designed to be ugly, disorienting, and generally unpleasant in service of its narrative and overall vibe: this is not a Tarantino film. Hit men live and work in a grubby, unglamorous world where being eye-catchingly cool is liable to get you killed, where music is strictly diegetic and rarely thematically appropriate, and where you have to carry your own damn suitcase. Kane & Lynch 2 wants to disabuse you of any contradictory notions you might have about the situation its protagonists find themselves in, and it is unrelenting in that pursuit: you will be disabused. You will be abused.

And to this day, very few games have had the stones to do anything as brash and bold in service of an artistic truth. Last year, I made the comparison to Pentiment, a game which is similarly committed to the bit: being served as one of Xbox’s flagship first party RPGs going into the Christmas season, and looking like a weird medieval cartoon, was a brave choice. And it took flak for its appearance, and perceived lack of technical prowess. “This is supposed to be next gen?” people asked, incredulously. “2D? And no voice acting?”. Yes, and all the better for it.

Last year I was reminded of Kane & Lynch 2 by Pentiment. Though the games are nothing alike, they are similarly devoted to their core ideas.

“But Kane & Lynch 2 looks like s**t, and it doesn’t feel good to shoot people in it”. Yes. See above.

VG247’s Games of 2023 will be released here on VG247.com, our YouTube channel, and our Tiktok feed daily over the holiday season.

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