Shank 2 is a 2D side-scroller with an attitude. The successor to the first release Shank, there’s truly no messing around with this game – it’s wreckless, ruthless, and it’ll stab you in the face. Klei entertainment brings you a brand new storyline, a co-op survival mode and a chuck load of Unlockable extras, making this game well worth its buck.
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform(s): Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, Windows PC, Linux, Mac OS X.
Players: 1 Player (Campaign) 2 Player (Survival)
Genre: Beat ‘em up, Side-scroller
Release: 7th February (PSN & PC), 8th February (XBLA)
Price: $9.99, 800 Microsoft Points
In a similar fashion to its predecessor, you play as Shank (who would of guessed it?) an ex-mob hitman, who is essentially a rock solid lump of brute force. Shank travels to a South American country in search of Linda, who is quite clearly depicted as a type of mother figure (or I could only hope at the time) as he brushes off the attractive girl at every possible opportunity. Linda raised him in an orphanage at a young age, and is in need of rescuing after being kidnapped by Magnus’s army. Magnus, our antagonist, is the country’s newest leader, using his wealth and his mass army to take over after promising to get rid of illegal cartels. Magnus is currently suffering from a very weak heart, and the closest match for a transplant happens to be Linda, the woman Shank is trying to find. So begins the epic journey for Shank to get to Linda before she is hurt, fighting alongside the ‘resistance’ to combat Magnus’s cruel and unforgiving Army.
Shank 2 has a pretty solid storyline, it all makes sense: simple and partially emotional. The one thing about this form of storytelling that I couldn’t stand was how it is portrayed through cut scenes. I mean, the first scene for example, Shank is partially visible through shadows, seen looking down to a picture of Linda, his ex-girlfriend Carina, and himself… oh, whilst drinking. Something about it just seems so typical. Games that try to implement an interesting plot often do so in cheap ways, and they are not usually successful. I think Shank 2 gives it a rather good shot, but seriously, leave the predictable clichés to a minimum? Rant over, now everything I love about this immersive game.
The cut scenes themselves, artistically speaking, are awesome. The animation is fluid and interesting to watch, it reminds me of Samurai Jack, an animation that used to be on Cartoon Network when I was a child. The visuals in this game really do make a massive impact on the game as a whole, without them it would definitely push the game into the large pile of average looking 2D side-scrollers. As expressed earlier, the animation is smooth and intricate; often at times feeling as though you’re watching something straight out of your favourite anime. It takes up a sizable portion of the game flow with cut scenes scripted into the boss fights and utilization of the ‘Counter’ ability, that turns enemie’s sword swipe into a beautiful execution deeply satisfying.
The environment also enhances the combat sequences, with interactive assets placed throughout each level which can drastically sway the tide of battle. It’s a sweet little touch that most games lack nowadays. In fact, the game is full of these moments with the above mentioned scripted scenes and interactive environments, adding to a more fuller and more diverse gaming experience. The soundtrack for Shank 2 complements its comic book style, making the action feel more cinematic and truly enhances the levels as a whole. There are also some better than average voice acting during the animation, something that again adds a finishing touch to the level themes and makes the storyline feel more compelling.
Many 2D Side-scrollers lack any interesting combat mechanics with the term ‘hack n’ slash’ comes briskly to mind. When I get my hands on one of these type of games, there is usually an expectation of consuming boredom and repetition. However, Shank 2 has greatly restored my respect for games that fit this genre. You have your standard light/heavy attacks, long range weapon and grab functionality. These are abilities that usually create the standard hack n’ slash games, yet they are executed so acquiescently by the animation, they give off a feeling of great satisfaction that you actually feel so much more involved and interested by the combat. Aside from your standard moves, you also have the ability to dive on enemies, pick up items dropped by enemies, throw grenades, dodge by rolling, counter attacking and more. These techniques are what I would consider the backbone of the interesting gameplay; it adds a new depth of strategy to what would have been a typical button basher. Sometimes you become a little overwhelmed by the oncoming enemy groups, having to use initiative to dismember the horde a bit at a time. To aide you with this anatomizing and carnage, you have the choice of selectable weapons with the optiont to change your loadout at any given time.
Your heavy weapons have varying attributes such as speed, power and knockback, my personal favourite from the mix being the destructive Chainsaw. Ranged weapons expand on attributes with characteristics that include damage, speed and stun. These can be very effective when knocking back your enemies as they gallop towards you. From the ranged arsenal, my personal favourite would have to be the Shotgun. There is also a choice of multiple explosives, a great tactical piece of weaponry, especially when outnumbered by a mob. Personal favourite, the Molotov. You have a great selection of weapons to choose from, all effective in different situations and all a massive load of fun to use. In fact, Shank 2 offers a lot of customization, you can switch up your outfit if you get bored of looking too awesome and decide that killing villians dressed as a homeless vagabond would be more suitable. All of the outfits, weapons and challenges must be unlocked during gameplay so if you want to know what Shank 2 has to offer, you’ll need to get the game to find out!
Diversity is essential with somewhat linear games, and Shank 2 is here to fulfil your demanding needs! The new game has a survival mode, in which you fight off hordes of enemies attempting to kill you, or your supply depots. The longer you can hold off the waves, the closer you get to reach a top spot on the online leader boards. The beauty of this mode is the capability to play co-op, either with a friend locally or with someone online. I’m a big fan of co-op games, and found the survival mode seriously entertaining when playing with my admittedly, less than skilled friend. But wait, no co-op campaign? You had it in the first game Klei Entertainment, where has it gone? Meh, can’t have everything I suppose but I can definitely see some potential for downloadable content sometime in the near future. Perhaps we could be treated to some sort of new co-op missions, if we’re all good boys and girls.
Shank 2 is one of my favourite Xbox LIVE arcade downloads, it’s cheap as chips and has a lot to offer for the campaign hungry individuals, or people who enjoy a good brawl with a friend (Not with each other, of course). The replayability is high, the controls are tight and the game oozes satisfaction throughout every gory fight. Well worth a look. Don’t make me shank you.
9.0 – Excellent. Fun, enjoyable, engaging, and memorable but is missing that little something that will make it exceptionable. People will fondly talk about this for generations to come.