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I'm a colonist who has declared war on machines and intend to conquer them some day. You'll often find me deep in the trenches fighting off bugs and ugly defects in code. When I'm not tappity-tapping at my WMD (also, known as keyboard), you'll find me chatting with friends, reading comics or playing a PC game.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Game Review - Shank 2 for PC

The original Shank was a 2D side scrolling beat-em-up released back in 2010. The game was well received by gamers and even grabbed an IGF Game Finalist award. With Shank 2, independent developers Klei Entertainment, had to deliver on the promise of making a better sequel. It was clear that some of the elements reminiscent of the first game had to stay. It was also apparent that many of the quirks and missing features pointed out by the gaming community had to be taken into consideration. Having finished the campaign (on Easy of course), I must say that Klei have indeed managed to make a game worthy of being a successor to Shank.

The controls in Shank 2 have been refined and made more PC friendly. Shank (the protagonist) can interact with the environment to a certain degree allowing him to flip switches that set off traps as well as pick up weapons dropped by fallen enemies. Ranged attacks are now much easier to perform and direct with a simple right-mouse click. Standard platforming elements like running, jumping, swinging and throwing have all been brought over from the first Shank. Gameplay is well paced in Shank 2, allowing the player to learn the basics of combat and environment traversal before being pit against anything serious.

Combat is part of the core gameplay in Shank. The player has three weapons to use at any given time. A heavy weapon, a ranged weapon and explosives. Apart from these three weapons, Shank also has a normal attack (called his Shank attack). Unlike the first Shank, swapping between weapons is not allowed. This is one tiny feature that I miss because it really does make a difference in a fight. Also, there is no way for the player to guard against attacks, although dodging is possible. Dodging attacks is pretty hard as there is only a split second within which to dodge enemy attacks and god-forbid if there are multiple enemies trying to whack you all at once. I suspect that fewer players will use dodge and will mostly rely on jumping over or away from enemies to avoid incoming attacks.

One of the new moves that I really like in Shank 2 is the counter attack. This move is similar to God of War style moves where the player can quickly do something spectacular when presented with an on-screen notification. In Shank 2, if an enemy is about to attack and has an exclamation mark over his head, the player can perform an insta-kill by pressing a single key. It is also possible to counter-attack some of the boss moves, although this doesn't let you insta-kill them (that would make things too easy, I guess). The good ol' pounce and grab attacks have been carried over from the original Shank. The grab attack does exactly what it says. Shank can grab an enemy standing next to him and then do whatever he feels is fun. Those fun things include slamming the enemy against the ground, firing a shotgun at point-blank range or simply throwing the enemy onto oncoming hostiles. Unlike the first Shank, the player can now also grab bigger enemies and pound the hell out of them! The pounce attack allows Shank to leap over to an enemy some distance away and grab him. This move is especially useful when dealing with enemies that do some sort of ranged attack.

Like the original Shank, violence plays a major role in Shank 2. There are a plethora of ways in which to rain doom upon your enemies like shoving baseball bats down their throats, ripping them apart with a chainsaw or pistol-whipping them. This is definitely a nod to the genre and whole-heartedly embraces every adolescent fantasy that you might have. Gore and explosions are omni-present throughout the game. The original Shank was lauded for its art style and Shank 2 is no slouch either. Shank 2 follows the same 'El Mariachi' look but unlike its predecessor, it certainly plays the part too! Animations are fluid and the visual feedback from performing actions is exquisite. A lot of effort has also gone into the game environment with intriguing detail, weather effects and ‘Desperado’-styled silhouettes. Cutscene animations are interesting, to say the least.

The music in Shank 2 is simply wonderful. Jason Garner and Vince de Vera have outdone themselves using the nostalgic Shank theme as a set-piece. The music enhances the player’s experience with appropriate tension and action. Voice overs and environmental sound effects are also very effective. With the soundtrack for the first Shank already released, it’s only a matter of time before that of Shank 2 gets out.

The original Shank didn’t have much of a story to it and Shank 2 does not attempt to improve things in this area. While the story-telling aspect of Shank 2 is certainly not bad, I felt that a few more questions about Shank’s past could have been answered. The cast of new characters like Corina (the female counter-part to Shank) could have also been fleshed out. The game features Rebel Intel. These are basically pamphlets that describe some of the game characters and their motivations but finding this information is somewhat akin to unlocking secret content by scouring levels. Another tiny peeve of mine is that I felt that the game could have been longer. The first Shank had an equally long campaign and an extra co-op campaign to go with it. The campaign in Shank 2 took a little over 3 hours to complete and left me lingering for more!

If the campaign is short, the game certainly makes up for that with an entertaining multiplayer survival mode. Klei Entertainment listened to their fans and went all out in implementing a great co-op aspect to the game which allows you to team up with another player and survive against waves of enemies. The survival mode can be played online or locally (the first Shank had a local only co-op campaign). Rather than bore you with incessant text about how Shank 2’s survival mode works, I’ll just point to this excellent tutorial video after the jump.

Shank 2 has 16 different costumes to be unlocked by completing various single player and multiplayer objectives. The costumes are not simple re-skins. Each costume has a particular stat bonus associated with it making it crucial to your style of gameplay. For example, if you are more of a ranged attacker rather than an up-close melee brawler, then there’s a costume that will help you do more ranged damage. Shank 2’s Steam achievements also make for great gameplay. Ah, nothing like getting 60 pistol counter-kills, eh?

Shank 2 is high on thrills and will satisfy your thirst for gore. The single player campaign offers an entertaining but short experience. If you have a friend to play with online, then there’s loads more fun to be had in the survival mode! The game is currently priced at 9.99 USD (approx. 500 Indian Rupees) on Steam. Shank 2 is also available on Origin for PC, XBox and PS3. Grab the game from it's Steam page here!

Do you think this game review was fair? Please let me know in the comments!

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