Shank 2 Review

Gory combat comes at a high cost in the uneven Shank 2.

by

Shank, much like the tool it was named after, was a quick and bloody game. There certainly were some rough edges to work out, but it was still an effective brawler in its own right. The sequel doesn't stray far from the path set out by its predecessor in that regard and offers even more blood-soaked two-dimensional carnage. While certain refinements have been made, they are accompanied by puzzling sacrifices that were less necessary. Shank 2's moment-to-moment gameplay may be improved, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

Far from the Tarantino-esque revenge plot of the first game, Shank 2 begins with its titular antihero on a South American vacation. A military dictatorship is oppressing its people, but Shank is none too bothered until an estranged friend from his past is kidnapped by the regime. What follows is a gruesome romp through shanty towns, jungles, swamps, and industrial yards with little narrative justification tying them together, aside from the fact that Shank just happens to be there in time to kill everyone in sight. Like the first game, Shank 2 is a visual treat with high-quality 2D sprites animating each blood splatter and severed limb in excruciating detail. However, all pretense for plot is lost as Shank murders his way through villages of Amazonian strippers and cannibal tribesmen with no connection to the ruthless dictator or Shank's kidnapped friend. Their presence clearly serves the purpose of adding enemy diversity, but without any sense of cohesion in the story, they become little more than palette swaps.

Thankfully, Shank's methods for dealing death have been enhanced since his first outing. Light, heavy, and ranged attacks flow seamlessly together as both your combo and body count rise. The effect is quicker combat, even though your foes still appear in overwhelming numbers. Blocking has been swapped out for a rolling dodge, which gives combat a more kinetic feel. However, attempts to roll out of harm's way have an irritating tendency to land you in front of a different enemy that is ready to pounce due to the roll's limited range.

Black and white and dead all over. Er… red. Red all over.

The largest change in combat comes from weapon variety. Before each level, you can select your starting loadout from a limited arsenal of unlocked weapons. These include your standard chainsaw, machete, and sledgehammer. However, once you're inside a level, there are a wide range of heavy weapons to wield, from shovels and flaming torches to riot shields and even the occasional fish. These weapons are frequently dropped by enemies and break after a limited number of uses, acting more as power-ups that add temporary variety to the combat. However, aside from memorizing enemy patterns, there is no way to plan for which new weapons you can access in any given fight. The dropped weapons can also become quite cluttered in the level, which causes more than a few deaths as you accidentally pick up a frying pan or one of three other weapons that are lying next to a much-needed health item.

The constant weapon pickups rise in importance due to the new inability to change primary weapons during levels. The first game allowed you to cycle between Shank's various heavy weapons and firearms at will, ensuring you always had the right tool because you had access to all of them at all times. It's a step back, then, that Shank 2 locks you to your starting loadout without the ability to switch during gameplay. You can always change your loadout after dying, but with the first game's weapon select system, those deaths could have been prevented in the first place.

Aside from the combat, platforming has been significantly scaled back in Shank 2. Slide and grapple points are few and far between, with a satisfying pounce from a rooftop an exceedingly rare occurrence. It makes the overall pace of the game smoother, with streamlined levels and fewer noncombat obstacles, but it removes some much-needed variety from gameplay that helped the original Shank stand out from competing brawlers.

Stop, drop, and roll. Or just run away from the fire.

Should you tire of the campaign, there is also the new co-op Survival mode. You and a friend must defend three stockpiles from waves of enemies and bombers, and tossing an enemy in the air for your partner to pounce on is a simple and violent joy. Various unlockable characters have unique stats in Survival mode, and between waves, you can purchase power-ups and health items, which makes it a rewarding co-op experience with fierce competition on the leaderboards.

Klei Entertainment set out to refine its gory brawler with Shank 2, and in regards to quickened combat and expanded multiplayer options, it has succeeded. But in sharpening Shank's blade, it has chipped off what made the original game unique in the brawler genre. The story is a jumbled, disconnected mess rather than a stylish, Tarantino-inspired mess. Combat has been neutered with the inability to swap primary weapons at will, and the primarily flat level layouts feel bland compared to Shank's parkour rooftop battles. Shank 2 is still a perfectly competent brawler, but it lacks that spark to make it stand out in the genre, even compared to its predecessor.

Editor's Note: This review originally stated that the campaign was playable cooperatively, when it is not. GameSpot regrets the error.

The Good
Quick combo-heavy combat
Fun co-op Survival mode
Eye-catching visual style
The Bad
Removal of fun features from the original
Flat levels discourage platforming
Jumbled story provides little context
6
Fair
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Discussion

41 comments
naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

It really doesn't have much going for it.

Just goes to show that most people can be fooled into believing anything with a shiny lick of paint.

Very shallow, repetitive game.

dreamerdonkey
dreamerdonkey

I don't know why they give this awesome game a poor rating. Sometime I really don't understand the rating system of Gamespot. 

Wensea10
Wensea10

This review is good but this game is excellent and some reasons why are the levels.

HKILLER88888
HKILLER88888

how does both Shank games get a poor score and both are said to be button mashing games?do you even know what's a button mashing game?a game that don't use more than 2 button(except for movement) to play and you have zero strategy of fighting in it and just keeps repeating!that's a button masher game you find a lot of em on NES!the button map of Shank is much much more than 2 button and you can dodge shoot use light melee and heavy melee airial attacks grabing throwing and all that shit so if shank is a button mashing game then what are other games?

marcusfenixatio
marcusfenixatio

Completed this game twice - including the hard difficulty. I dunno about the reviews ... but this IS A WHOLE LOT OF FUN !!! Loved it.

thunderbone
thunderbone

I only just downloaded the demo for the first one. I have this one, already. Is it worth going backward and dropping $10 on the first one? Playing the trial, it feels as though the FIRST one is a little less frenzied, and with my poor reflexes, I wonder if the first one would be less frustrating to me.

senator990
senator990

@ 7heDragon Yeah... Trolls gonna troll.

7heDragon
7heDragon

@senator990 Good to know that you have escaped the matrix, welcome to the real world, lol.

Jbul
Jbul

Scott Nichols is most certainly entitled to review this game as he wants, but as its been stated -- Who the f*** plays Shank for the story?! C'mon man. WAY too much focus on that in the review, especially since it has zero factor in enjoying a polished, bloody 2-D brawler like this. If you want a deep story, play a game that promises one.

ferygame
ferygame

However I havent play this game but I think this rate is not fair i have play the first one and it was great but you gave it 6.5

sheikweight
sheikweight

IF the Game's fun For you then You got your moneys worth. Regardless of Score. Always Remember That.

ferygame
ferygame

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

ferygame
ferygame

6!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY?????????????????

ferygame
ferygame

SHANK IS MORE BETTER THAN SKYRIM.

ferygame
ferygame

It seems like GAMESPOT is ANTIshank

321eeppiy
321eeppiy

I bought shank last year And this one last week But it's very sad they remove the co-op story mode I can only play the survival mode with my friend on my ps3 That's not as fun as the story mode So I just bring the old version and play the story mode with my friend again

gamefreak197
gamefreak197

With a game like this, it doesn't really need a deep story. You just an excuse to be a badass :).

zzanzabar
zzanzabar

Story? STORY?? We don't need no STINKING story! This is SHANK, Contra with a knife for crying out loud. It amazes me what reviewers look for in games. Is there some central 'reviews handbook' where you go down the list and say: Graphic...check, Sound...check, Story...sorry its no good? Anyone who buys Shank2 for the STORY is, I hate to say, an IDIOT. The game is flat out fun and it is cheap (two of the best qualities for any game in my book). So support the effort if you think this is your type of game, period.

mohsenbazi
mohsenbazi

Game Emblems are really true.I mean what was that game?! it hasn't changed as much as I expected.and the story was a bit Stereotype.like there was a bad guy and you had to kill everyone in the way to get to him

iluvOP
iluvOP

I remember playing the first one for 3 minutes and uninstalling it after that. I bet this isnt much different.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

It wasn't that good. You say all people care about is the gameplay, but that's not true, the story and the bits in between the fighting are very important. Even something like DMC4, which is my opinion is combat perfection, would feel empty and completely pointless without the sense of purpose and the story to wrap it up in and the interesting levels to traverse.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@glassesboy Well, reviews are after all just opinions. Professional reviews might be less biased, but that's not to say that everyone agrees with the reviewer. I think it's good that not every review gives the same score, it encourages the reader to think for themselves since they can't "trust" the reviews as much as if everyone gave the game the same score.

zilcher
zilcher

If Rockstar made this game it would have gotten a 9.5

zilcher
zilcher

If Rock star made this game it would have gotten a 9.

senator990
senator990

I always trusted GS Scores, But now I don't know what to say!

beeftaco3232
beeftaco3232

@goyoshi12 6.0 is bad. idgaf what the title for it is. a 6.0 is bad. now please write down some more paragraphs and send it back to me

glassesboy
glassesboy

I think reviews now are becoming more and more opinionated.

amin7224
amin7224

good now my comments back lol

amin7224
amin7224

just tell me why u deleting my comments

amin7224
amin7224

WTF? U GAMESPOT ARE F***ING CRAZY. 6.0? WHAT THE HELL. I STILL CAN'T BELIEVE THIS. AND DO NOT DELETE MY COMMENT AGAIN.

amin7224
amin7224

NOW WHY U DELETED MY COMMENT?

amin7224
amin7224

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT???????????? 6.0? WHAT THE F*** IS WRONG WITH U GAMESPOT? ARE U F***ING CRAZY? I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS.

Goyoshi12
Goyoshi12

@beeftaco3232 Funny, I'm looking at the score and all I'm seeing is 6.0 and the word fair which indicates the game is OK (or good in a sense) but some problems do hold it back from being very good. I don't seem to see a 3.0 and the word bad which would indicate a very bad, nearly broken, incredibly dull or boring or whatever other words associated with the word bad. I wonder what you are looking at, I've gone through all of the GS countries (US to Asia) and I just can't see the 3.0 you are talking about. Unless of course you are indicating that the reviewer did not give the game the score of which you wanted and therefore proceed to say, "wth is this BS. you guys even gave the first shank a bad rating. u guys r always wrong". I do hope that, in the future you, will reconsider your statement and perhaps not care about review scores and will still purchase a game based on your own merit without any care as to whether a review agrees or disagrees with your views.

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

Protip Gamespot : No one cared about the platforming in the first game. I'm thinking it's why there is none in the second. What did people care about? Beating dudes up.

beeftaco3232
beeftaco3232

wth is this BS. you guys even gave the first shank a bad rating. u guys r always wrong

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

This is like the first negative review I've seen for this game. The rest raved about it. Hmmmm.

Irot
Irot

@ NaryuKickThe first one was too long in some stages and then suddenly some levels were way too short, but the story was top notch. Maybe give it a second chance. @John Aguilera I bought the sequel last week along the original, which I finished on Sunday. This weekend I'm starting Shank 2 and hopefully get some fun times such as the ones that the first one provided.

NaryuKick
NaryuKick

I grew bored with the first one half-way through the game. Awesome graphics, but repetitive gameplay that grows tiresome quickly. Glad I avoided the second one.

John_Aguilera
John_Aguilera

I'm still getting this tomorrow regardless of the score!

Wensea10
Wensea10

 @Irot  Shank 2 is an excellent game and some examples are the strong weapons.

 

Shank 2

  • PlayStation 3
  • Xbox 360
  • PC
  • Macintosh
  • Unix/Linux
Shank 2 returns with a story of redemption as Shank, a former mob hit man with a dark and vengeful past, is thrust back into action when the lives of those close to him are endangered.
ESRB
Mature
All Platforms
Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes
Check out even more info at the Shank 2 Wiki on Giantbomb.com