It’s been a long 18 months since the last time I laid eyes on Shank. Following the critical success of the debut title, Klei Entertainment decided to get working on a follow up to our favorite downloadable game of 2010, which brings us to, you guessed it…Shank 2. With so many good things to say about the original, does the sequel bring live up to the high standards created by it’s predecessor? I guess you’ll have to read on to find out.
Let’s be real here, no one is playing a Shank game for the story. The first one was ludicrous and over the top, and the second one — while a bit more grounded — still walks the thin line of what’s deemed ridiculous. But that’s what makes it great right? RIGHT!?
In Shank 2, our protagonist is on a mission to save his lady friend and seek revenge for a town that has been burned to shambles. This time around the bad guys aren’t a gang members or a drug cartel, instead we have Magnus — a military leader that has taken over a nation following the assassination of its president. He’s a lunatic with a soft spot, that spot being his heart.
And no, not in a loving way. He’s dying and needs a heart transplant in the worst way, and the person who happens to match for his type just so happens to be Shank’s lady friend. I’m hoping you see why this isn’t a good thing.
If you’ve played or even seen the first game then you should already know what to expect as the art style as well as many of the game’s core mechanics remain unchanged. Looking back at my review of the first game (which I loved) there were still some issues that I found to be frustrating; clumsy controls was something I didn’t mention back then but now that Shank 2 has a more streamlined and natural control scheme, I can’t imagine playing the game without it.
The reason why controls play such a vital role in the experience is because Shank 2 raises the ante in terms of difficulty across the board. The only reason to play this game on hard is if you’re a trophy/achievement hoarder and/or a masochist. Swarms of enemies overwhelm you and it takes quick and precise reflexes to get you out of the toughest jams throughout the game’s campaign. Dodging enemy attacks has been mapped to the right analog stick; a flick in the right direction (at the right time) makes all the difference between progressing further or loading from your last checkpoint.
Sticking to what made it great to begin with, Shank 2 takes all the best things about the first game while losing much of what made it monotonous. Levels are longer, the pacing is better, and the pay offs are greater. The combo system that’s in place makes you want to constantly try new ways to bring death upon your victims and the new finishing moves and counters will have you grinning sadistically from ear to ear.
The level design in general is much better this time around. Each has it’s own distinct look, feel, and most importantly different enemies. There’s a lot more verticality, with collectible character intel scattered throughout the various crevices of each stage. The game also introduces more platforming which helps to add some variety (and time to catch your breath and rest your thumbs) in between the endless brawls.
The original game featured a co-op campaign mode. This year, that feature has been scrapped in favor of a survival mode, introduced as soon as the single player credits finish rolling. “Survival” has you and a buddy taking down wave after wave of enemies, reminiscent of a “horde” mode found in other games. Before you jump into it, just know that the same way you’re challenged in the single player campaign, expect you and your pal’s relationship to be strained as you’ll be relying on each other to be revived, and the enemy’s do not play around here.
All in all, Shank 2 takes everything players loved about the first game, and makes them better. While we’re in a game generation over saturated in “bigger, badder, louder, and faster” this is one game where it’s actually welcomed. This won’t just go down as one of the best downloadable titles of 2012, it will rival any action game this year. Period.