I’m probably dating myself in age a little bit here, but playing Shank 2 on XBLA made me reminisce of my glory days when I’d spend countless hours and quarter upon quarter of my hard earned money in the local arcade. Back in those days, we had 2D side scrolling bmup (beat ‘em up) classics such as Double Dragon, Final Fight and many other classics that live in my memory and maybe that’s why I just enjoyed the hell out of my time with Shank 2!
If you’ve played the original, Shank 2 doesn’t really stray much from what made it a success the first go around. Over the top violence, vibrant comic book-like graphics, fluid character animations, barely there storyline and did I mention violence?!?! Shank 2 has enough blood and guts in it to give Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez a run for their money. Shank is the type of character that if you’re not with him, you’re against him and that’s a bad thing for you, your kids, Shank’s enemies and whoever else stands in his way as he carves a bloody path of destruction in this action packed sequel.
As far as the story goes, there’s really not much here to tell you. Shank starts the game out on a bus that is forced to pull over somewhere in South America. As Shank is minding his own business, some unruly local militiamen board the bus, proceed to piss Shank off and that’s all she wrote for the bad guys. From here on out it’s a bloodbath from start to finish as everything in Shank’s path to revenge is dealt with in some fun ways, if not a little over the top at times. There are also bits and pieces of a story revolving around joining the local rebellion and saving the local villages. Other than that, I lost track after the first few levels because I wasn’t playing the game for the story and I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading this review that you aren’t interested in it that much, either.
What you will be interested in hearing about is just how smooth the combat is now and how brutal Shank 2 can be while stringing together multiple bloody combos and raining down your fury on unsuspecting foes. You won’t find many moments in the game where you are not knee-deep in combat with enemies coming at you from all angles and the ability to battle and deal with all of these foes all at once is as smooth as butter. With such weapons as knives, guns, machetes, chainsaws, grenades, mines, Molotov’s, baseball bats, shovels, spears and more weapons that I can’t even begin to list, you use them in combination to take down enemies with ease. Combining and stringing together different attacks works really well this time around as I found there was less of a delay between switching weapons than it was in the original, which creates a much smoother combat experience. Going from shoving a chain saw down an enemy’s throat, to pouncing on an unsuspecting foe from above seems like a piece of cake after the first couple of minutes. Having this much fun during combat had me wondering why other titles have such trouble with this concept nowadays. If anything, I hope companies take note of Shank 2’s fluidity during combat and apply it to future titles and the way they approach combat.
Another welcome change in Shank 2 is that the block ability from the first game is gone, replaced with a roll maneuver that makes it easy to dodge enemies with a flick of the right stick. While it takes some getting used to at first, having the ability to use this maneuver during combat helps keep the action moving at all times and is another useful tool. Another fabulous addition is the ability to counter an enemy’s attack. When attacking, enemies at a certain point will have a red exclamation mark over their heads prompting you to grapple them. If you time a grapple successfully, you will stop an enemy in their tracks and turn their current weapon against them. With different weapon grapples, you get different animations for countering, which are all pretty brutal. The first couple of times I did this it was pure delight and it made me giggle like a little schoolgirl. I often found myself countering attacks just because I just wanted to stuff a soldier’s baseball bat into his mouth and kick it down his throat. Maybe I’m a little twisted, but I found this absolutely fantastic! Having the ability to do this made me think back to the early days of Mortal Kombat and the joy it brought me when I figured out how to pull off fatalities.
The single player campaign, on normal, will take around 3-4 hours at most to complete. You’ll also find that there’s a Hard mode and then there’s a Survival Mode included as well. Here you take on waves of enemies (ala Gears of War Horde Mode) on one of three levels that can be played with a friend locally or online. It’s a nice distraction with a decent roster of playable characters, but it’s also something you’ll probably be done with after a few rounds, especially if you don’t have a co-op partner to stomp enemies into bloody puddles of goo with. Even with these few extra modes, it’s a little lighter on the content side of things, even for an XBLA game. A couple more levels, or even longer levels would have been nice, as there isn’t much of a reason to play again, aside from some meaningless hidden characters bios to explore and find.
Overall, Shank 2 has a few very minor issues that while annoying don’t really take anything away from the experience you’ll have with an overall great game. Shank 2 may not be for everybody, but if you were a fan of the original title and you enjoy a good, bloody action title, then I suspect you will love the additions and improvements to the gameplay that Klei has added to this fantastic sequel!
Shank 2 is available now and is also on PSN and PC for $9.99 USD, and on Xbox LIVE Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points.
A copy of Shank 2 for Xbox 360 and XBLA was provided to us for this review from EA and Klei Entertainment.