Inspired by graphic novels and the pulp ultra-violence of film directors like Robert Rodriquez and Quentin Tarantino, Shank is a classic saga of revenge, loyalty, betrayal, and love. But mostly revenge ... with a chainsaw.
It’s a game where the protagonist isn’t necessarily the good guy, but more the least bad of the bad guys, in a seedy world where folks start days with a bar fight and wind down with an evening lap dance. Shank is violent, brutal, and completely over-the-fucking-top ... and that’s exactly the way I like it.
Shank (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network)
Combat in Shank should be immediately familiar. You’ve got your light attack, that will allow you deliver quick blows using the titular hero’s eponymous shank blades. You can also mix in a heavy attack, with Shank carrying a massive chainsaw to start. Shank also has a pounce maneuver, which has him flying through the air to land on and pin smaller enemies. From here, you can unleash a handful of attacks while keeping the baddies immobilized. Mix some guns into the works and a full-range of grapple attacks, and you have what appears to be your basic brawler.
While this brawling is the star, Shank also throws some light platforming into the work to mix things up. You’ll scale walls, swing on skulls, run across billboards, and hop small platforms. This platforming, really, only seems like a means to an end. That end being, of course, getting to more dudes to slash up and riddle with bullet holes. This hopping and climbing does tend to get a bit repetitive; one could swear someone somewhere was just copying and pasting platforming sections.
Shank also features a cooperative mode, where the titular bad ass teams up with his buddy Falcone in what plays out like a prequel to the game’s single-player story. Combat and gameplay here is consistent with solo play, save for cooperative double team moves and attacks, and the ability to revive a fallen player. This mode features a completely fresh set of levels bosses, many of which are specifically designed for two-players; the mode even features new cut-scenes and voice acting.
Imagine if you will, the exaggerated cartoon alley cat scuffles, where the two animals tangle and all you see is a mess of fur, smoke, and grawlixes. That’s what Shank cooperative gameplay can be like; it’s so easy to lose track of who’s doing what to who and where. That’s not to say it’s impossible to keep up, but perhaps an on-screen indicator (or brighter hero colors to make them stand out) might have helped solve this problem.
To complete the solo campaign, I spent a little over five hours, with levels taking me anywhere from three minutes to an hour to complete. Keep in mind, a lot of that time was spent dying -- I’m embarrassed to say I spent 45 minutes on fighting the game’s final boss -- so your mileage may vary. Tack on the cooperative mode, and you’ll likely add another few hours of Shank playtime right there. And if you’re a collector, completing certain tasks with let you unlock key artwork as well as additional costumes or skins for Shank.
Score: 8.5 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)
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