Shank 2 Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
When Klei Entertainment released the original Shank, it was a breath of fresh air. It was gorgeous, bloody, fast-paced and original. Despite its finicky controls and short campaign, the game was at the top of the digital download charts when it first came out.
With the release of Shank 2, all eyes were on Klei Entertainment and EA to deliver an even more engaging game than the first. Have they succeeded, or does the game fall flat in a bloody mess? Stab through the break to find out.
The original Shank was a mediocre game. The art was fantastic but, in my opinion, the gameplay was lacking. It felt a little too clunky for what Klei Entertainment was trying to do. For example, the chainsaw was cumbersome and some of the combos just didn’t feel right.
For Shank 2, however, Klei Entertainment nailed it right on the head. This is a perfect example of how video games, unlike many other media, tend to get better over time. The development team took the original combat system apart and rebuilt it with fluidity and ease in mind.
The game follows Shank, an ex-hitman for the mob, who has just taken revenge on the people who killed his wife. He is now on the move, trying to get away from it all, when the bus he’s on is attacked by bandits. You play as Shank, as he is dragged into a battle against criminals who kidnap someone close to him and are intent on destroying everything in their path. The story is simple, and really just there as a loose tie for all the action set pieces.
Shank 2 is just as gorgeous as its predecessor. The sprites are all completely hand-drawn and run at a silky-smooth frame rate, and character animations flow into each other perfectly. Shank, the titular character, moves like butter on a hot pan; it’s such a joy to see.
The cut scenes use the same hand-drawn art style as well, but utilize camera angles effectively so the action pops out at you. The closest thing I can compare the style to is The PowerPuff Girls meets the 2010 B-movie epic, Machete.
The game’s lighthearted and colourful art style is counterbalanced by over-the-top blood and gore, and it fits extremely well. The art itself becomes raison d’être for this game; I would not be surprised if the art direction was one of the first things decided upon during the game design. However, it clearly shows gameplay was as important to the team at Klei.
At the beginning of every level, you are given an option to choose the weapons you wish to bring with you. They are categorized into heavy weapons like a chainsaw or machete, projectiles like throwing knives, guns, explosives (like grenades) or a Molotov. Each weapon has its own speed and damage, which affects the way the player will play.
The control scheme is elegant and simple. Each button on the controller corresponds to a weapon or a move Shank has, such as lunge or grab. This allows players to link all of the weapons together for devastating and deeply satisfying combos. The resulting combat is pure and simple.
The beautiful visuals and tight gameplay are enough to make this game a definite buy, but add in the amazing soundtrack and this game is a real winner. The music is not overbearing; it sits in a perfect place to motivate you to play, with epic set pieces.
The problems I had with the game are the repetitive enemies and its really short length. While every level has a new type of enemy, they can quickly get old. That is, however, not too big of a problem when the entire game is short. Klei gets everything done story-wise and nothing feels rushed, but the shortness of it leaves you craving more levels.
Shank 2 by Klei Entertainment is the perfect example of a studio taking what was an alright game and upping the quality through the roof to make an amazing game. Check out Shank 2 on XBLA, PSN or PC for $10; you will not be disappointed.
***Editor’s Note*** If you can’t get enough Shank in your diet, Klei Entertainment has also released a Shank Comic available for download from Comixology for free!
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