Klei Entertainment has brought us the next installment of Shank, a game built around artistic vision and violence. Those two factors helped Shank stand out when it originally released in 2010. Now, the sequel is upon us and Klei Entertainment hopes to fix the issues that kept their previous title from true greatness. Can these alterations to the formula help Shank 2 surpass its predecessor?
The True Shank Experience
The first Shank wasn’t a bad game at all, but it did suffer from certain problems which seemed to hold back the gameplay’s full potential. The team acknowledged that and decided to focus on tuning up these small issues so that Shank 2 could be everything we hoped the first one would be. The result is a much more refined and responsive system. This 2D brawler/shooter is more fluid and brutal than ever. Shank is faster now and can dispatch enemies with ease as he switches between light, heavy and ranged attacks. Hell, he doesn’t even have to stick to his own weapons as various items litter the floor waiting to become instruments of torture (ex: fish, torch, kitchen sink, lead pipe). One encounter saw Shank launch an enemy into the air with a massive hammer, shoot him mid-air with the shotgun, perform a lunging air grab and then throw him into oncoming enemies to knock everyone back into a motion mine that he had placed recently. All of that took place within a matter of seconds and it’s scenarios like this that make Shank 2 oh-so-satisfying. It’s mainly due to the new control layout which sees minimal crossover of buttons unlike the first game. No longer are attack and heal assigned to the same button and dodge only requires a flick of the right stick. Also, exclamation points have been added to let Shank know when a counter-attack opportunity is present. In addition to all of that, there are also environmental hazards (mainly variations of meat grinders) that are a danger to Shank and his enemies. When you combine an upgraded Shank combat system with better mapped commands the result is one of the fastest, combo-crazy 2D bloodfests you’ll ever have the pleasure of playing.
The co-op campaign from the first game has been replaced with the new cooperative option, Survival Mode. For the most part, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a survival mode. You and a friend fend off wave after wave of various thugs and hulking bosses (there’s even a special zombie wave) in one of three arenas using all three of your weapons types. The twist? Three weapon caches require your constant protection as certain enemies will try to plant bombs on them to permanently destroy the crates. If one is armed, you’ll find yourself trying to disarm the bomb in the midst of gunfire and melee attacks. It can get quite hectic in the later waves which is why there’s a store that additional aid can be purchased from. These items range from health drops to wild boars to stationary turrets. The insanity only stops in the brief 5 seconds between rounds, but that’s a good thing because you won’t want it to stop.
Shank is one part addictive gruesome combat and one part beautiful artwork. The hand-drawn visuals never fail to impress, even when you’re busy covering the area in blood. Everything in the game is crisp and vibrant, providing the most colorful and visually-pleasing grindhouse-style experiences out there. Whether you’re working through a lush jungle or a military medical facility, chances are you won’t have any complaints regarding the visual representation of each area.
So, we’ve already established that Shank 2 excels in areas that its predecessor didn’t. A better product might have some believe that it would carry a larger price tag or, at least, the same price as Shank 1. Somehow, Shank 2 only costs $9.99 which is five dollars less than the original title. A better package at a lower price? What more could a gamer ask for?
There is one area that Shank 2 falls short: the story. The first game was a dark revenge tale. Now, we’re presented with a rescue story that has Shank wiping out an entire army and its general. Being given the opportunity to dice more baddies will give you more incentive to progress than the lackluster story being told. At this point, however, a good story would just be the icing on an already delicious cake.
Shank 2 is everything memorable from the first entry and more. Klei Entertainment took the time to work out the weak links in their first attempt and the result is a masterpiece. Chances are you can’t find such a fast and fluid 2D side-scrolling beat-em up of this quality or at this price. Fans of the old game will surely find the sequel to be extremely satisfying and may find themselves unable to go back to the original. The overall experience is something that anyone looking for a new downloadable title should check out, as long as you’re not looking for a strong narrative-driven adventure.
[Editor’s Note: Shank 2 was reviewed on the Playstation 3 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Shank 2 Review,