by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
And all that whilst playing with a controller. Let me state this clearly... don’t play Shank 2 with a keyboard and mouse. Yes, it is possible, but it is like playing the game on the highest difficulty setting... plus one. Although I’m loathed to bring my controller out of the cupboard, this game is almost impossible to play to any decent degree without one. But if you are planning on picking up this title, then you have probably already got a controller or two handy anyway. Once the controller was plugged in (after a number of false starts using the keyboard/mouse combo) Shank 2 really shined. Buttons can be fully mapped prior to play to suit your own configuration. The same can be said of the keyboard/mouse combo, although once you have got the controller plugged in, there won’t be any going back. The movement is fluid and the controls are such that if something goes wrong, then it was more than likely caused by user error. Attacking buttons are responsive, as are the dodge, jump and grab controls. I did find that the game can be played without the use of the grab function for most of the time. The grab function can be used when an exclamation mark hovers above an enemy’s head. Grabbing the enemy provides Shank with a powerful finishing move.
The finishing moves as well as the game as a whole are all viewed in a comic book style fashion. The comic book style visuals work extremely well with the nature of the title character. Shank is over the top and somewhat of a hero, and the game’s visuals represent this well. The backgrounds and the items scattered around the levels are reminiscent of the classic side scrolling beat-‘em ups of old. Whilst they do feel a tad outdated, they match the comic feel, and any attempt to make the games visuals more detailed wouldn’t fit the outrageous moves that Shank can pull off. The darker tones of the backgrounds instil the feeling of anger that Shank outwardly exhibits.
The characters are well drawn, too. It is easy to tell one enemy attacker class from the next, which is important considering that you will encounter quite a few through the course of the campaign. Red laser targeting lines help to indicate ranged attackers with firearms, larger bodied enemies indicate those that can take more damage and a mini cut-scene showing the Bosses indicate that the Boss battles are about to begin.
Shank 2 contains some great audio, too. The dramatic background tunes accompany Shank when the action gets tough, the music enhancing the ominous feel of annihilation. The sound effects are fairly standard of platform fighters, with the using dying grunts, sword swiping effects and weapon discharging sounds. The sound of the chainsaw running through an oncoming enemy is certainly enjoyable though. The characters, both playable and those of the attackers are also well voiced, especially during the cut-scenes. I particularly enjoyed the laugh of one of the larger enemies – he sounded exactly like Scooby Doo.
Apart from the Scooby Doo sounding henchman, there are a number of other pop culture and video game references in Shank 2. One section of the game has you being chased by an Indiana Jones style boulder. A boss level has you taking on a doctor with an uncanny likeness to the Medic from Team Fortress 2. Another boss starts by throwing a barrel at you (as Corina) in a tribute to Donkey Kong. All of which gave me a small chuckle when they appeared.
All the elements for Shank 2 fit in perfectly with each other. The visuals retain the comic book styling that show off the relentless over-the-top violence, whilst the audio enhances the comic feel with the silly one-liners of the enemy henchmen. The pop-culture references just add to the slightly humorous atmosphere, despite Shank’s brooding nature. Whilst the campaign is considerably short, there is a co-op mode that pits you and a friend in a survival mode game, which increases the replay factor of the game. But the game works well because of the smooth and intuitive controls... when using a controller. And for under $10, it is definitely worth looking into if you are a fan of action fighting games, or even old-school beat-‘em ups.
Comic book visuals and audio fit the feel of the game superbly. Action is fast and furious.
Do not use the keyboard/mouse combo, unless you want endless frustration.