Shank 2 once again invites gamers to partake in the classic tradition of side-scrolling action in an interactive medium. Like its predecessor, Shank 2 does so in brutal, bloody, and mechanically refined fashion, guiding the player, as title hero Shank, through a series of stages designed to slightly increment each aspect of play from the previous game. With a forgettable story that only loosely ties the short adventure together, it’s almost difficult to differentiate between the two games while playing… until taking a deeper look into Shank 2‘s updated mechanics.
Here’s what we liked:
A dangerous arsenal - Shank comes equipped with a ton of weaponry this time around, giving players more options for bringing the pain than they’ll likely know what to do with. Shank can use roughly five weapon types – light melee, heavy melee, firearms, explosives, and environmental – most of which offer many options within the category. Along with his signature shanks, Mr. Shank has access to machetes, chainsaws, baseball bats, meat cleavers, pipes, torches, shovels, throwing knives, pistols, shotguns, grenades, molotovs, mines, and frozen fish, just to name a few. Then there are the environmental weapons, like giant meat grinders, cranes that drop cargo on unsuspecting henchmen, stationary turrets, and sharks dangling from hooks and chains (if nothing else, the game warns us of the dangers of the seas). Almost all of the weapons are satisfying to use, and mixing up the offense is one of the primary joys of Shank 2.
The man’s got moves - What good are all those weapons if they can’t be used in interesting and enjoyable ways? Shank 2 specializes in stringing together all of the player’s offensive options in a moderately complex, yet easy to learn, free-form combat system. With light, heavy, and ranged attacks mapped to the face buttons, grenades and the like on one shoulder button, and grab and “pounce” commands on two other shoulders, playing this game is a deadly dance. No matter what button a player presses (besides jump), Shank will be attacking in one way or another, and now he can counter-attack, too. Don’t sleep on platforming, though, because when he’s not gutting enemies, Shank is sliding down slopes, jumping over spiked pits, running up and along walls, zip-lining down ropes, swinging over chasms, and more. Not only is the combat refined, but Shank 2 provides an adequate fix for platforming junkies, as well.
Lookin’ good - Put simply, Shank 2 is an aesthetic delight. The hand-drawn comic look is sharp and vibrant, and the animations are as smooth as butter. The use of contrast is especially notable; bright and dark colors paired with heavy black outlines really make the visuals pop. Cutscenes are especially flashy, making heavy use of slow motion and cuts in perspective to heighten the cinematic experience.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Hang ten, bro - At its core, combat is enjoyable and even diverse enough to hold one’s interest for the length of each level, but there are occasions when Shank 2 keeps the player trapped on a single screen, fighting waves of enemies for just a bit too long. It’s these moments when a player can get to thinking, “Haven’t I just been doing the same thing this whole time?” and consider putting the controller down.
Corina - Shank is a badass dude, but his partner Corina, who the player gets to control for a short time (or potentially the whole time in the game’s co-op mode), feels unwieldy by comparison. It’s a combination of her weapon selection and floaty movements (especially the fact that she rolls every time she lands from a jump – usually right into an enemy attack) that make controlling her notably less enjoyable that the more solid and precise Shank.
Once upon a time - As alluded to earlier, the story is a bit of a mess, and barely worth inclusion at all. Essentially, it’s a reason to have cutscenes, and nothing more. As such, this is less of a “dislike,” and more of a “there’s nothing to like.”
Shank 2 is exactly the game my inner 10-year old screams for (but shouldn’t play because it’s rated M): fast-paced melee and firearm combat in a side-scrolling, platforming package with great graphics and tight controls. It’s a gamer’s game, for sure. While it doesn’t move leaps and bounds beyond what Shank did two years ago, it still does very little wrong, and looks great doing it.
Score: Buy It
Shank 2 was developed by Klei Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts.