Game Review: Shank
Release: 25 August, 2010
Genre: Action
Developer: Klei Entertainment
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Players: 1 – 2 players co-op
MSRP: $15
ESRB Rating: M

The most striking and prominent aspects to Shank is the art style & just how brutal it looks. It’s highly reminiscent of a graphic novel. When playing through the game, all this is even more apparent. The level of gore is unbelievable. Everything down to the animations is just oozing gore — and I loved it all.

You play as Shank, a young man on a search for his kidnapped girlfriend. Along the way you encounter a plethora of enemies along with huge bosses. I mean HUGE. Shank is your standard side-scrolling beat-’em-up. It has 2 modes, single player & co-op. Let me start with the single player first.

The basic premise is straight forward. Go forth, kill all the men who stand in your way, and only stop when you have your girlfriend back in your arms. There is a ton of enemies and multiple bosses for you to brutally murder and the game has simple controls for this. X – for your light weapon (Knife), Y – for your heavy weapon (Chainsaw) & B – for your firearms (Shotgun). You also have grenades (something that is essential for the bigger thugs that you encounter along the way) that you throw by pressing ‘LB’. Having simple controls like these made stringing together combos very simple and satisfying.

Surprisingly enough, the game actually has a somewhat engaging story. The graphic novel style cut scenes were amazing to watch, they were like a ‘Quentin Tarantino-esque graphic novel movie’ — both visually appealing and interesting. The game also does something unique: It puts a letterbox cutscene in the top right corner of your screen, which advances the story as you are fighting your way through the game — something which I found is lacking in other games.

Bosses, my god are they big in this game. It was like I was fighting King Kong with a machete — extremely hard to do. Obviously with huge bosses, you need to find there weak spot. Usually the game gives you a hint as to what it is just before you start the fight. Stuff like making them run into walls or attach a hook on a dead carcass of a pig. That’s when you make your move and press ‘RT’ to start a scripted attack. Overall the single player was fun, short and very brutal. The only problem was towards the end I started to feel a little burnt out due to the repetitiveness.

The co-op in Shank is local and consists of a entirely different game. It’s a prologue letting you know what happened before the single player game starts. The difficulty has been increased, and it needs a co-op buddy that knows what he is doing to succeed. It has bosses that are specifically designed for co-op. Overall it was great fun and kept me amused for an extra couple of hours. It was a shame that it’s only local co-op, online co-op would have been great.

The thing I loved most about Shank is the art style. It was like watching a graphic novel play out on your screen — both beautiful and horrifyingly brutal. The animations were amazing. Stringing together combos was like poetry in motion. Start off with your shank, switch to your shotgun then pull out your Chainsaw — it was all smooth and very satisfying when pulled off successfully.

As I mentioned above, the game suffers the same fate as all side-scrolling beat-’em-up’s do; repetition. It manages to draw you in at first with it’s amazing details and brutal animations, but it couldn’t sustain that. Thankfully the game is only short, 3hrs single player & around the same for co-op. Speaking of co-op, it would have been great to play this online with some buddies. Who wants local co-op nowadays?

Andrew’s final say: Overall Shank was an enjoyable game to play. Finding yourself cutting up and dismembering forsaken foes was something that was, strangely enough, something I found satisfying. I honestly don’t think the game is worth the $15 price tag. There is not enough content that justifies that purchase. All I can say is to try the demo and experience it yourself.