Are those knives in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Written by Super User
Published Monday, 27 February 2012 19:00
It’s been about a year and a half since we last saw Shank. His old boss Cesar - head of the mob family he once worked for - lay dead, and his vengeance for the death of his girlfriend had been finally satisfied. As a game, Shank offered a bloody 2D beat ‘em up, glossed over in a cell-shaded, Grindhouse aesthetic. The action was both fun and satisfying, although it still missed the mark somewhat due to the split campaign and some less-than-stellar controls. The single player offering was a short four hour affair, and the cooperative mode, which helped beef up the playtime, was relegated to ‘Local Only’ status, a disappointment for anyone who didn’t happen to have a local partner to play the other half of the game. Nevertheless, when developer Klei announced a sequel was indeed in the works, I couldn’t help but feel the anticipation build. Even though the solo campaign was a bit truncated, it was still a good time, and the tale that Klei spun would have fit just as comfortably as a Hollywood summer action flick as it did on home consoles.
Shank 2 picks up after the events of the first game, with our deadly protagonist taking a much needed vacation in South America. An oppressive power is in control of the land, though in typical Shank fashion, he couldn’t care less. That is, until an old friend is kidnapped by the political power, thereby making it much more personal for him. As the previous game proved, the last thing you want to do is make it personal with Shank. If you’ve already played Shank, then you are well aware of how the rest will go. Copious amounts of blood will be spilled and bodies will be left lying in his wake as Shank proceeds to kill anyone and everyone who stands between him and the brutal dictator.
"Shank 2 is a sequel worth looking at, especially for those of you who’ve already spent some quality time with the former hitman."
Also as expected, the entire experience is presented with the same gloriously gory, 2D visuals. Imagine what it would look like if Quentin Tarantino decided to make animated films and you will have a rough idea of what the vibrant, and bloody, cell-shaded art style brings to the table. The environments range from dilapidated villages to industrial complexes, and provide some variety for your eyeballs, yet none of it will distract from the primary directive here: Kill. Repeatedly.
Combat flows much better this time around, with Shank combining his ranged weaponry with both light and heavy attacks in a fluid dance of death. Where many times in the previous game we found ourselves taking an undeserved beating due to the poor response from the controls, here everything is much tighter, letting Shank piece speedy cuts, slashes, and shots together to form deadly combos. Blocking is MIA, being replaced by a rolling dodge, a move that is incredibly handy with the massive amount of bodies being tossed at you. It also adds to the fluidity, which seemed to be Klei’s primary mantra during the development of this sequel. The streamlining doesn’t stop with the combat either. Environmentally, Shank 2 has a much higher pace, and the dev team decision to scale back the numerous platforming elements such as the zip lines, instead focusing on a more basic, but much more consistent (and traditional) level design, works really well here.
Shank’s tools of death has seen some changes for this outing, although not necessarily for the best. As each level begins, players can choose their load-out from a selection of unlocked weaponry like his trademarked chainsaw, hand grenades, dual pistols, etc.. This is where one of the biggest flaws of Shank 2 becomes exposed, as where previously you had access to your full arsenal at any time, here you are locked down to whatever you choose at the beginning of the stage (though it can be changed with each respawn). Quite often, I would utilize my full arsenal to help me pick the best offense for any situation, but here, it isn’t an option. Fortunately, the beginning load-out is not all that Shank has at his disposal. Scattered about each level are finite “heavy” weapons, such as a shovel, a hammer, or a fish to smack baddies upside the head with. There’s even a flaming torch that one of your foes will bring into the battle, and if you can liberate it from him, then the fight will get much, much hotter. It adds variety, which helps your combo score, but it also becomes a hindrance at times just from the stockpile you’ll build when battling wave after wave of foes. I can’t tell you how many times I picked up one of those weapons instead of some much-needed life-replenishing brew that was on the ground in the same vicinity as the other junk dropped on the ground.
Once your solo run is complete, there is still more gore-tastic action to partake in. Dropping the co-op campaign from before, this entry’s ‘buddy time’ will be found in the form of a Survival mode. Wave after wave of bodies drop in for the kill (or to be killed, depending on how you look at it), and you and a friend will compete for leaderboard domination. Unlockable characters with different skills can be put in play, as well as purchasing power-ups and such between rounds. In all, it’s a great time and a much better call on Klei’s part than splitting the story in half. Better yet, online support is present and accounted for; a very welcomed sight for folks like me who’s co-op partners reside elsewhere.
Shank 2 is a sequel worth looking at, especially for those of you who’ve already spent some quality time with the former hitman. The primary complaints from the last entry has been resolved, although in doing so, some other issues have crept up. Odd changes such as the way the weaponry is handled for this journey combined with a largely forgettable story that seems to be more of a conduit for the action than anything else, end up dragging it away from its potential. Nevertheless, while it may not be greater than the sum of its parts, it is a fun and brutal romp that is sure to please fans, and may even bring some back with the much improved controls. Just make sure that you taper any expectations, as while it makes a decent addition to the franchise, it likely won’t make any genre-defining slashes.
Release date : 2012-02-10
Publisher : EA Games
Developer : Klei Entertainment
Gameplay : Action
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