Shank 2 [Review]
February 9, 2012
I’ve said it over and over again: I love the original Shank! It brought a refreshing take on the brawlers I grew up loving as a kid. Shank 2 brings more of that brawling action as well as some welcome improvements. Shank 2 begins with Shank returning to the place he grew up, but on the way there his bus is intercepted by militia troops under the command of General Magnus Deleon. The militia has been abducting people, and this time they’ve abducted the woman who ran the orphanage he grew up in; their mistake.
Shank 2 comes with an extended arsenal to help you show your enemies how displeased you are with their actions. With the exception of the chains, all weapons from the original are present. New additions to your arsenal include the sledgehammer, throwing knives, Molotov cocktails, and proximity mines. I used the sledgehammer and mollys for a short period of time and realized they weren’t for me. The throwing knives, on the other hand, are a godsend and got me out of a few close calls; same thing with the proximity mines.
In addition to the weapons mentioned above, there are a ton of weapons you can pick up from enemies. Knives, sais, baseball bats, pipes, flaming torches, shovels, axes, and even fish, just to name a few. Each weapon has its own advantages and disadvantages that you should consider based on your play style. The machete is fast, but doesn’t pack the same punch the chainsaw does. The throwing knives are great all around, but sometimes you need the crowd control a shotgun gives you.
Most of Shank’s movement options haven’t changed. Grappling, pouncing, and dodging are still the same; no noticeable improvements, but they didn’t need any. Klei has made it easier to launch enemies into the air by holding down on the directional pad and then attacking with whatever weapon you like. Not only does it feel good to bust someone’s ass in the air, it also opens up additional attack combinations. One of my favorite moves was to launch an enemy and then pounce on them in midair. It’s like throwing yourself an alley-oop.
With some enemy attacks you have a small window of time to perform a counter. When you perform a counter I can guarantee you that the enemy is realizing that this is, in fact, the worst moment of his life. Counters are some of the most visceral parts of Shank 2; they include things like decapitation, using a goon’s own gun under his chin to blow his head off, and even kicking a baseball bat down someone’s throat. The type of counter will depend on what type of weapon the enemy is using. Besides looking cool, counters are a great way to take most enemies out with one shot.
Combat in Shank 2 is definitely more challenging than the original. Enemies are plentiful, and with the combinations of enemies they put together you really need to stay on your toes during a fight. In any given combat scenario, enemies will be all over the place. You may have someone with a machete up close, while you have someone with a rifle aiming from far and then another guy throwing grenades at you. Take that, and then multiply it a few times to get an idea of what most combat scenarios are like.
Because of the various types of enemies being on screen at the same time, you’ll find yourself having to switch between attacks quite frequently. Luckily, this is one of the areas that Klei polished up a bit. Switching between attacks is quite seamless and no longer leaves you open to enemy attack for a split second.
It’s now easier to use dodge, as all it takes is a flick of the right analog stick. I was very glad they made this change because dodging is WAY more important in this game than it was in the original. Mastering the timing of dodge is key if you want to make it through levels with minimal deaths, or make it through the level in general if you play on hard..
Boss fights are a bit different in the respect that you’re not just dodging the boss until his trigger appears. You will need to actively engage the bosses; attacking and dodging their attacks until they reach a point where they get tired or dazed. At those points you can do a special attack that will take more damage, but don’t expect it to end the fight. Boss fights now usually include goons that assist the boss, which definitely makes the boss fights harder. Each boss has their own set of moves and usually interact with their environments to mix things up a bit.
Shank himself can also interact with the environment more in Shank 2. Lots of items that just sat in the background before can now be broken or used to your advantage. Breaking crates and other objects may sometimes reveal useful items. You will also notice switches that activate traps or devices that will help deal with enemies. Explosive ordinance still sits around unguarded, but you will find different types including flammable canisters, fuel tanks, and exploding corpses.
As in the first Shank, all of the characters, weapons, and backgrounds of Shank 2 are hand drawn; giving the game a fresh off the comic book page look. As bloody as the first Shank was, Shank 2 definitely has more gore than the first. Heads, arms, and other body parts fly all over the place as you paint each level in the blood of your enemies. Like I mentioned earlier, the counters provide some of the most visceral action you’ll find in the game; each gory tidbit is wonderfully animated.
Your journey will take you to various locations. One level you’ll be running through a burning village, the next you’ll be fighting through ancient ruins, and in another you’ll be making your way through a cargo ship. Either way, the different locales should keep you from getting bored since they bring different enemies, hazards, and combat scenarios with them.
Co-op campaign has been replaced with Survival mode. In survival mode your objective is to protect multiple supply crates. Enemies will come in waves; each wave producing more and varying types of enemies. The goons you need to worry about the most are the bombers. They will place explosives on the crates that you will need to disarm. As you plow through enemies you will get money to buy items in the shop. Shop items include health and multiple offensive and defensive items to help you stave off the hordes.
There are multiple characters you can choose from, each with their own bonuses and disadvantages. Not all characters are available at first. They need to be unlocked by completing certain achievements in the game; just like unlocking the additional costumes in Shank. I’m not a big fan of online co-op, but I have to admit I really had a good time playing survival mode. It was very easy to get in and get a game without having a party. The concept is simple, and as long as your partner isn’t a complete moron, you should have a good time.
I have to admit the game’s story didn’t have the same impact as the first; but that is something that I didn’t even think about while leaving carnage in my wake. If you enjoyed Shank, then you should enjoy Shank 2 even more. The core gameplay didn’t change much, but the tweaks they made to it make a world of a difference. Controls are more responsive, the gameplay is more challenging, and with Survival mode you should have a reason to come back to play.
Out Of 5
Shank 2 looks like it was ripped directly off the pages of a comic book. Animations are smooth, detailed, and over the top. Your locale changes frequently so the visuals never get boring. When playing the game at 1080p, the backgrounds tend to look a bit blurry. Other than that the game looks great.
The soundtrack provided definitely helps set the stage for your adventure. The sounds of the weapons and what the weapons do to your enemies really have impact. I mean, I’ve never put a chainsaw through human flesh before, but it seems like it sounds right. Wasn’t a big fan of the voice-over work, but this is something that is minimal in the game.
Controls were improved to be more responsive and now you can switch between attacks seamlessly while staying in rhythm. Dodging was reduced to a simple flick of the right analog stick which, while only a minor change, makes a HUGE improvement. I do wish there was a way to cancel out of a pounce though. One too many times I pounced to my death.
In Shank 2 you will find enemies coming at you from all directions and ranges. The combination of enemies will force you to pay attention and use your reflexes in order to survive. It will also force you to master your weapons, switching between them at will in order to take out threats that are both far and near. Additional platforming elements were added that were nice, but not so much that they took away from the brawling aspect. While the campaign is short and only the hardcore will go through it again to beat it at the highest difficulty, the fun survival mode should keep a lot of people coming back.
I had a blast playing Shank 2 from start to finish. Shank 2 isn’t all about button mashing; you need to use tactics and fast thinking to make it through the game. Mastering your controls and weapons is worthwhile; and very satisfying when you completely dominate your enemies.