Shank was a game that really intrigued me for quite a while. It looked cool, but I was unsure if it was gonna be good, or just needlessly violent to appeal to the masses. The gameplay seemed interesting, but, without playing it, it was hard to tell.
So I finally got to play it, and… I’m pretty satisfied, if not a bit annoyed at a few things.
Read on and see what I liked and disliked about Shank!
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Date of Release: August 24th 2010
Platforms: Playstation 3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (XBLA)
Genre: Beat ‘em up
Rated M for Mature
Well, graphically I have no big complaints here. Shank looks really good. The characters are nicely drawn and very high-quality sprites. The environments look very different from the characters’ visual style and they contrast really well with the character sprites, it fits awesomely. The game might be made out to be super violent and gory, but it’s barely bloody at all. The enemy design is a bit on the cheap side, it’s basically normal humans with different suits/skin colors. But there’s still various enemy types, each with different weapons, some bigger than normal, and a few dogs thrown in for good measure. The graphics make it clear what the enemy is fighting you with so it’s easy to know what you have to do to fight them. Some of the boss characters are just HUGE, and they look quite cool too. The animation on everything is top-notch as well… other than in the cut-scenes where it feels like flash animations. No complaints otherwise.
Sound-wise… Well, I’ll say that none of the music is memorable at all. I can’t remember a single track as I’m writing this, I have to go back to the game to be able to comment on it. You know why I don’t remember the music? It’s because there’s barely any. Just atmospheric stuff rather than actual music. Huge letdown. The sound effects are really good though. There’s nothing unexpected here, but there’s audio cues for everything and there’s nothing that sounds really bad.
The story is very simple. Some dude killed Shank’s girlfriend. Shank is out for revenge, to kill not only the guy who killed his lover, but everyone in his gang of assassins. Thing is, he was actually part of that group of assassins before leaving with his girlfriend. Remind you of anything? Yeah, it’s exactly the plot of Kill Bill, and various other revenge plots. It’s an okay story, but there’s not a whole lot of characterization or anything like that. In the end you won’t care about Shank, or any other character.
The story actually doesn’t overstay its welcome. There’s a few skippable cinematics and they’re not too long anyways. After finishing the game once, you might as well just skip all the cinematics. I do like how the story is told in some parts. Rather than stopping the gameplay to show some of the cinematics, a very small window opens up on the top-right of the screen, and shows what is currently going on in other places, which doesn’t interfere with the gameplay and still shows you the story on the way. Very nice.
Sure, the story isn’t great, but who needs a great story when the gameplay is good?
The controls are very simple. Though it is disappointing that you move with the analog stick rather than the d-pad, but it works well. Every button does something. It seems like a simple game, yet every button has a function which is kinda crazy. Weak melee attack, strong melee attack, guns, jumping, pouncing, grappling, guarding (and dodging on the same button), grenades and switching weapons are all mapped to different buttons. It’s crazy! But, surprisingly, it works fairly well. After getting used to which buttons do what, it plays very naturally. The controls work insanely well, and you’re in total control of your character which is great. I’ve seen some complaints by reviewers about the controls… and I don’t get it.
The combat is the biggest part of the game. Other than a few realy simple platforming segments, all you’re ever doing is killing enemies. And, thankfully, it’s actually really fun to do. You can link heavy attacks to weak attacks to guns to grapples very easily. Each weapon has a use… other than the Uzi (seriously the only use for that thing is getting a high combo count against the first boss). Some enemies are weaker to certain weapons, some of them are better at avoiding certain attacks, stuff like that. You increase your combo hit count by hitting enemies fast and without getting hit (high hit counts, amongst other things, can unlock costumes if you care about that at all).
Fighting itself is fairly simple. Figure out which weapon to use against which enemies, and combo them using that. Pouncing on enemies lets you single out enemies to take them out on their own, though some enemies will just counter you when you pounce on them or grapple them. It’s very simple, but it’s not without its depth.Â Sure, partway through the game you figure out that you rarely need more than the normal knife attack, the chainsaw and the shotgun (seriously, that thing is AWESOME), but there’s still some cases where using different weapons will make things easier.
I’ve seen multiple people/reviewers calling this game too hard. I have no idea what they’re talking about. The normal mode is incredibly easy. Let’s bring in the “Easy Game Checklist”! Millions of checkpoints? Check. Infinite lives? Check. The actual game not being terribly hard once you figure everything out? Check. Dying being a GOOD thing? Check. The game giving you hints, or outright telling you how to beat bosses, if they manage to kill you? Check. TONS of healing items everywhere? Check. All the game is lacking to be any easier is regenerating health.
On normal mode, the game is so easy it literally takes no effort to go through… other than the final boss, who has a very easy to figure out exploit which makes him the easiest boss in the game. Dying is a good thing, as it replenishes your grenades and gives you hints. The number of checkpoints is staggering. And you have so many healing items everywhere (some at set points in levels, others randomly dropping from bigger enemies, and others randomly dropping from crates you destroy) that it’s hard to die. People complaining that this game is hard just suck at gaming, plain and simple.
On hard mode though, it’s a slightly different story. There’s only one checkpoint per level, and it’s right before the boss battle, so, if you die anywhere before that, it’s back to the beginning of the level. And enemies are a bit tougher too. Â A few mistakes make you go back to the beginning of the level, and there’s some levels (like the train level) where doing mistakes is very easy. It’s still an easy game on hard mode, but at least there’s some kind of penalty for dying. It’s not impossibly hard, like, say, Battletoads, but at least it challenges you a bit and makes you learn from your mistakes.
Shank is a fun game. The combat is fun, it looks good, the controls are solid, killing enemies never gets old, and the Hard mode can be a good challenge. Co-op is actually cool since it’s a separate story from the single player.
It’s not without its faults though. Your first playthrough won’t be much longer than 3 hours on Normal mode, and the game won’t really challenge you, other than the final boss (which is really easy when you figure out that you don’t need to go through his stronger forms). Once you figure out that the shotgun and chainsaw are pretty much all you need, very few battles will challenge you anymore either.
But still, it’s an enjoyable experience, and there’s incentive to replay if you want to unlock all the costumes. But I don’t feel it’s completely worth its high price point.
Pros and Cons
- Fighting is fun
- Controls are easy to use
- Graphics are great
- Story is simple and doesn’t try to overshadow the rest of the game
- Hard mode can pose an okayÂ challenge
- Very short (around 3 hours on the first playthrough on Normal mode)
- Normal mode is insultingly easy
- Loading times are LOOOOOOOOOOOONG
The Save Factor
Well, the game is 15$. For a 3 hour game, it’s kind of a lot. The game will undoubtedly get discounted eventually. Buy it then, when it’s around 10$.
Unlimited games for one low price.
New releases daily! Free shipping.