by Kiran Sury
reviewed on PS3
Forget about the third time – Klei Entertainment has made the second time the charm with its sequel to 2010’s Shank. Rather than a true sequel, this should be considered Shank 1.5 and although it doesn’t get everything quite right, Shank 2 has pretty much nailed side-scrolling combat. It is everything the first game should have been, and more.
The plot picks up after the first game, with Shank on a bus heading home to the orphanage where he grew up. He only has time for a quick hello with his sort-of sister before his foster mother is abducted by forces working for Magnus, the new bad guy in power. Despite being written by the scribe of the God of War series, the story is rather poorly told, with brief cutscenes at the beginning and ending of each level. The first Shank used this method too, but successfully, as each successive character filled in some backstory. In this sequel they merely serve to set up the next stage.
With combat as good as Shank 2’s, however, the plot is welcome to take a backseat to the gameplay. The controls are largely the same as the first, but with some much needed improvements. Dodging is assigned to the right analog stick, and can be used both mid-combo and in the air. This makes it much more utile, and more importantly, frees up another button. The right bumper now functions as a separate pick up/interact button. Fans of the first game will appreciate this – no more furiously mashing the attack button in the middle of a hectic fight, only to use up all the health packs scattered on the floor without meaning to.
The pounce and grab attacks of the first game remain, but with a twist. Enemies that take enough damage will flash an exclamation point above their heads before attacking. Grab them in time, and Shank will perform an instant-kill execution. This small addition makes combat faster and more dramatic, but it is dampened by the removal of weapon switching. Previously, you could switch between your weapons at any time with a press of the D-pad. This option has been removed, ostensibly so players who prefer to move with the D-pad instead of an analog stick can do so. You can still pause the game and change your load out at any time, but it halts the action and turns a bonus into an annoyance.
Combat is the fluidest it's been, bosses aren’t one-trick ponies this time, survival mode is great fun.
Plot? What plot? Mexican theme is largely lost. Weapon swapping is cumbersome.