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[Review] Shank

Shank released at the perfect time, right between The Expendables and Machete, two films with excessive amounts of testosterone and a whole lot of ass kicking. Think of Shank as a lone psychopath that goes on a homicidal rampage to avenge the death of his beloved. It’s full of blood, over-the-top kills and macho dialogue.

You obviously play as Shank, a tattooed tough guy armed with blades, guns and a whole lot of redemption. Each stage throws you into a world of bad guys and most of the fun comes from killing them in the most painful ways (you could make them eat a grande if that pleases you). You can land on a guy and stab his face, shotgun him into oblivion, or just push him off a speeding locomotive. It’s this assortment of mayhem that keeps things exciting and entertaining at the same time. The fact that each knife slash make a spray of blood only makes things better.Shank’s enemies range from all shapes and sizes. You will find yourself fighting big guys with chain guns, down to low end thugs with knives.

The gameplay is fairly simple, use all of the face buttons for certain attacks, and use the triggers for combos and blocks. The combos usually work pretty well, but sometimes Shank has trouble turning around to shoot enemies behind him, and blocking certain types of attacks. This is just one of a few very minimal flaws that the game has. The games’ levels are kind of similar in a way, and the scenery doesn’t change as much as you would hope, but what do you expect from a 2-D game.  Playing Shank is like playing your way through a violent cartoon on TV, which would be cool to play.The visuals to Shank isn’t a big WOW, but it certainly looks splendid. The flashart, cartoon graphic novel look really does work. The cinematic scenes are very good. The detail, character designs are perfect and they really match the scenery, atmosphere plus setting of this game. The music is fantastic as well. The music being played whilst running through killing these poor henchmen so to speak, really goes together and doesn’t sound out of place.

Sooner or later, you’ll encounter bosses, such as Butcher (a pro wrestler) and a sexy lady brandishing a katana. This is where the gameplay takes a bit of a belly flop, since all of these bosses rely on unfair tactics to send Shank to an early grave. You’ll often scream or curse (possibly toss the controller) in rage, but don’t let quick deaths ruin your enjoyment. All of these meat heads have weak points, and things become way easier once you figure out their attack patterns. Shank was working for this main mobster, if you like to put it like that, called Cesar. Shank is given a choice. An act of loyalty to prove his worth to Cesar, he has been told to kill this woman, but there is more than meets the eye to this woman, but even though Shank agrees, Cesar thinks other wise. He sends three other employees to follow Shank and kill them both. So, after Shank has been pretty much declared dead. Shank turns up and walks into a bar. You follow the story by flashbacks of the event which led to this occurrence. Shank is living on revenge, to kill the people which betrayed him and to end all of this. Definitely a simple plot and when the story starts to unravel itself, it becomes very clear what exactly is going off plus it did throw me a little as well near the end of the game. The opening to the game is really good and sets the tempo straight the way.

That being said, Shank has some other small issues that’ll drive you mad. For some reason, the developers mapped basic attack and grab health to the same button, making it easy to stab and unwittingly drink the bottles lying around, which could lead to the use of health when not needed. There’s co-op, but not through the entire game. Even worse, it’s offline only. That was a strange decision, considering that hard mode removes checkpoints, thus making Shank significantly more difficult. Would have been nice to bring someone else along for the ride. The co-op mode is also less successful than it might have been. It’s just as intense an experience, but at times too intense. The resulting melee can become confusing (heroes and villains look too much alike in the heat of the moment) and successful attempts to fend off waves of baddies can lead to the action spilling off the edge of the screen.

At the same time, this game is all about one man’s quest for redemption, so it wouldn’t make sense to give him a little friend; Arnold didn’t have help in Commando. On that note, I strongly recommend purchasing Shank, especially if you grew up playing 2D classics; and with DLC on the way, you can bet that Klei Entertainment plans to make an already enjoyable experience even better.

[review pros=”Lots of blood
Satisfying beat-em-up gameplay
Slick looking graphics
Unlockable costumes
Plenty of weapons
” cons=”Cheap bosses
One button slices and drinks health
Limited co-op.
” score=85]

This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Shank provided by Klei Entertainment.