Shank 2: The right reactions make for better action

February 20, 2012

Shank was greeted with mixed reviews when it came out in 2010, but it sold well enough to warrant a sequel from Klei Entertainment. In Shank 2, you’ll find a shining example for other small studios of how to respond to criticism and improve on an idea.

In Shank 2, you’ll play as the titular hero, Shank, as he attempts to protect those closest to him from extremely well armed baddies. That’s pretty much the entirety of the story right there. It’s just enough to give some kind of a reason for Shank to go running and parkour-ing through each level while disemboweling, blowing up, and shooting an entire army worth of enemies.

You’ll have three classes of weapon that you can equip at the beginning of each stage: a heavy weapon, a long-distance weapon and a quick-attack weapon. There are a variety of different weapons you’ll gain in each class throughout the game, such as pistols, chainsaws and throwing knives, each with different strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, there are a number of weapons that can be picked up in each stage, from bats and pipes to shovels and cleavers, that will take the place of your heavy weapon while you use them.

The combat is visceral and the controls are intuitive and responsive. There was never a time when I felt like I could be doing better or enjoying it more with different controls, which is something I rarely think when playing beat-‘em-up action games. Each type of enemy has a slightly different strategy to taking them down, and the boss fights are suitably difficult and varied.

In addition to the main story mode, Shank 2 features a survival mode where, as the name implies, you have to survive wave after wave of enemy, each more difficult than the last. There is also a co-op mode to play through that will add a few more hours of gameplay. There’s absolutely nothing on tap here that hasn’t been done before, but not every game needs to do something new. Sometimes it’s enough to simply improve on or implement successful aspects of previous games into an enjoyable package, which is what Klei did here.

The graphics are pretty much unchanged from the first game, but that’s not a bad thing, as the animated style it uses was one of the bright points of the original. The bloody, exaggerated graphics really make it stand out from similar titles.

If you are looking for a new side scrolling brawler, you’d be hard-pressed to find one with as much playtime and enjoyable combat for the price.

Pros: Combat is fun, controls are intuitive and responsive, weapons are a lot of fun to use
Cons: Nothing new or innovative, really

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.