I never experienced the original Shank, so I went into Shank 2 expecting some form of ultra-violent prison related experience where killing inmates and breaking out to freedom were the ultimate objectives. As it turns out, I got the ultra-violence aspect correct, but in terms of narrative, we instead have a tale of revenge with Shank, our protagonist, fighting against the evil General Magnus and his militia with the objective of rescuing the head of the orphanage in which Shank grew up. Does KLEI Entertainment’s sequel offer up enough violence for the bloodthirsty hordes, or would it be better to suffer dismemberment than play this game?
Please Renew Your (Dis)Membership - With a title like Shank, you would expect combat and violence to be one of the main focuses in this game, and you would be right. Thankfully, the combat is fast-paced, frenetic, and oh-so-violent. With weapons ranging from knives and guns to sledgehammers and chainsaws, chances are you’ll find at least one implement of death to suit you. The environmental and counter kills are cool, with meat grinders, furnaces and pits of spikes all awaiting your hapless foes’ corpses. I found the ability to steal a spear from an enemy and ram it through his chest very satisfying every time.
Key To the Weapons Cabinet - Shank 2 offers up plenty of additional content for the aspiring freedom fighter. Although you unlock Shank’s entire arsenal during one playthrough of the campaign, this arsenal includes shotguns, revolvers, sledgehammers, machetes, chainsaws, and you can pick up extra weapons from enemies during play. You are also able to access various outfits for the two main characters which you earn by completing various tasks assigned to you, such as achieving a certain combo level or rescuing hostages.
Who’s Afraid Of the Big Bad Wolf? - Although you start off fighting through numerous waves of seemingly identical militia soldiers, Shank 2 quickly offers up a larger variety of enemies for you to grievously injure. They include cannibals, wolves and ninjas. The boss fights that end each level are even more eclectic, including a crane operator, a mystical jungle priestess, and a one-eyed psychopath, amongst others.
NO SHANK YOU
Shanks For the Memories - I must confess, the header here is a little misleading, as Shank 2 isn’t particularly memorable at all. The entire game seems to be consisted of a three-colour palette, cycling through brown, green and murky yellow, and the soundtrack, whilst initially promising, quickly becomes repetitive. To be honest, I can’t remember any of the riffs at all. If I was only allowed to use one word to describe Shank 2’s aesthetics, I would choose bland.
Playing the Man - I’m all for difficulty in games. In fact, I possibly hate it more when a game is unreasonably easy than unreasonably hard. The one caveat is that the difficulty has to be fair. You have to be able to learn and improve from it. Shank 2 does the opposite of this. Certain areas can be comfortably labeled as difficulty ‘bottlenecks’, where the difficulty ramps up at an extreme level, and for no particular reason. It’s in areas like this (although not strictly limited to these) where my other gripe originates. It’s all too easy for a group of enemies to ‘juggle’ your character, giving you no chance to break out of the cycle of damage, and pretty much forcing you back to the previous checkpoint. Like I said, difficulty is fine, but there needs to be balance.
Was That It? - Aside from the occasional epic such as Skyrim, it seems to be largely true that games are getting shorter and shorter. In some cases, like Portal for example, a fantastic gaming experience can be had in a period of four hours or so. Shank 2, unfortunately, offers up little in the way of length, and fails to rectify this with a memorable experience. Levels are unimaginative, and as you travel through junkyards, docks, jungles ruins and factories, you'll be amazed if you see something you’ve never seen before. This is joined by a clichéd narrative, which offers nothing in the way of surprise or imagination. Admittedly, while I like to have a memorable story in a game, I can be won over by a decent atmosphere and interesting environments. Shank 2 disappoints on all these fronts.
Shank 2 doesn’t offer up anything that I have never seen before. Whilst I understand that not every game can be genre-defining or convention-breaking, I do appreciate it when a game at least attempts to push the envelope. For all of its violence and over-the-top action, Shank 2 seems all too willing to play it safe, sticking with genre conventions and tried-and-tested gameplay. If you truly can’t resist the urge to stab animated characters, or just like the idea of playing as a Rambo-esque character, then give Shank 2 a try. However, if you lambast modern-day games for all looking and playing the same, or if you want a slightly more intellectual experience from your games, then I suggest you look elsewhere.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*