When Klei Entertainment produced Shank, it was applauded for its wonderful art style and fantastic audio. But it was also criticized for its weak controls, repetitive gameplay, and lack of any real multiplayer. With Shank 2 announced and expected to be released in early 2012, these issues should be addressed. We had the opportunity to sample both its single-player campaign and the new survival multiplayer mode.
Shank 2 builds upon what made the first game so enjoyable; thus, fans should expect a much larger and engaging story with new characters and environments. It still retains the same wonderful art style of the first game, which combines the gritty southwest with '70s actions films. Shank looks and feels the same, but the way in which he plays has been improved. His arsenal of weapons has opened up, and gamers should expect a lot of surprises along the way while not having to rely on the same mechanics to progress through a given area. Controls have also been addressed by allowing more freedom with your shooting, specifically angled shots. In the first game, it was sometimes difficult to pull off shots that required Shank to angle his firearm toward a leaping or diving foe. With the new analog control setup, situations where an enemy is coming down from above should equal a devastating kill.
But the one real standout in combat is the new counter system. If you time it correctly, Shank can literally turn the tables and use an enemy's gun to kill him. The best part is that he does it with the enemy still holding onto the weapon, and these animations can be quite gruesome. Counters work throughout as even boss fights will offer the opportunity to turn the tables. You might not be able to kill a foe completely, but being able to counter a boss and do a significant amount of damage will make these situations much more enjoyable.
Another aspect that the team over at Klei is looking to address is multiplayer. Though the first game did offer a cooperative prequel, it was only playable locally, and many people wanted more content that specifically allowed for online play. So far, Shank 2 will include both a local and online multiplayer mode, currently titled Survival. Shank 2's Survival mode plays out in a similar fashion to other games. You and a partner will have to work together and fight off waves of enemies on a number of different maps. The map in which we played also had a secondary objective where foes were trying to plant bombs and destroy two key crate areas. While trying to kill all incoming foes, we also had to make sure that no explosives were placed, and if one was placed, we had to defuse it before it was too late.
After every five rounds, a boss enemy would come into play, and these characters require a lot of teamwork to take down. As you play, your kills earn you cash that can then be spent on additional items to help stay alive longer. In situations where a boss appears, using the moment beforehand to prep an area with turrets or landmines can be very helpful in keeping your team alive. Although we managed to stay alive for about eight minutes or so in our first attempt with the game, there is no limit to how long a pair of players can last. At the time, the record the team at Klei was able to achieve was about 15 minutes.
Our early sample of Shank 2 was brief but certainly enjoyable. The fact that the game is building upon its successes and addressing what fans wanted in the first game is a good thing. Hopefully, as we approach 2012, we'll hear details regarding the game's single-player story and what other features we can expect. Shank 2 is scheduled for release in early 2012 on Xbox Live Arcade, the PlayStation Network, and the PC.