Endless streams of tough guys. One after another. I pull out my blades, switch to a chainsaw and then start shooting. Shank isn't a beat 'em up. It's a slice 'em, shoot 'em, pummel 'em up.
Side-scroller Shank follows the adventure of a guy named, wait for it, Shank. He's on a warpath, out to get those who wronged him. Shank must make his way through the criminal underworld and take down a series of bosses. Shank has a variety of weapons like dual pistols and — you guessed it — shanks. He gets more throughout the game. Control-wise, there are guard and melee as well as light heavy and heavy attacks, mixed in with grenades and gunplay.
The game is violent mayhem, sure. But is it any good?
It's A Looker: Playing Shank is like playing a graphic novel. The game dazzles. There are times when Shank is silhouetted and fighting on a bridge as the sun sets in the background. It's stunning — what's more, it actually makes the fight more intense. Since Shank is covered in darkness, it's hard to keep track of where you are and where the enemies are, making for an interesting brawl. Another interesting choice is the use of smaller on screen windows with cutscenes while you as Shank are free to destroy enemies. It not only advances the story, but keeps the player engaged by allowing him or her continue to fight. I preferred this method of storytelling over the game's traditional cutscenes.
Combos, Combos, Combos: Shank allows players to chain together combos in a fun (and not too complex) way. It's easy to use a variety of attacks and even toggle between weapons on the fly. Traditional beat 'em ups always feel like an exercise in brute strength. There is a bit of this in Shank, but it's very cool to go from shanking an enemy to slicing another with a Katana and then jumping through the air Matrix-style with two pistols. Touches like being able to cross Shank's arms so that he is shooting enemies in two different directions are welcomed.
The Voice Acting: God of War series writer Marianne Krawczyk wrote the game. The plot is a bit of Kill Bill, a bit of Robert Rodriguez movies. And that's fine. The rub is the voice acting. I don't know if the voice acting is bad on purpose or if it's just...bad. Whichever is the case, it's just not very good. The dialogue itself has a few zingers, but perhaps the voice actors don't have much to work with. While playing Shank, I kept thinking of Risk: Factions. The look of the two games is somewhat similar, but the dialogue in Risk: Factions is quite sharp and very funny. The dialogue in Shank, sadly, isn't.
Shank is a real treat for the eyes. Thankfully, the game isn't just eye candy and has gameplay to back it up. I didn't grow tired of beating up (well, killing) bad guys and bad girls. The fact that I could skip over them in some cases helped open up the platforming, an added gameplay element.
It took me about three and a half hours to play through Shank. That's just the right amount of time, I think, to kill hundred and hundreds of baddies, don't you?
Shank was developed by Klei Entertainment and published by EA for the PlayStation 3's PlayStation Network on August 24 and for the Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade on August 25. Retails for $15.00 USD or 1200 Microsoft Points, downloadable only. A code for redeeming a copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through the entire story on the PS3.
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