Solid beat em up with some rough patches
Style and flair.
Shank is another product of the retro revival movement that's been sweeping the market for quite a while, and thankfully, Shank is one of the good sorts where there's always something to keep things refreshing, even when it's based off of something that's been created 20 years ago. The one thing that makes this game awesome is its visual flair, but sometimes, it becomes its ultimate downfall. So with that said, let's dive in and give it a shot!
Once upon a time in the old west.
Shank's old gang leaves him for dead and kills his wife, so it's time for him to seek revenge. He heads to a Western town, and somehow, he attracts negative attention from the gangs there, so he has to kill them to stay alive long enough to satisfy his lust for revenge. Obviously, it takes its cues from Once Upon A Time In Mexico (which was a pretty good movie, despite a less than stellar score on Metacritic), and at times, it feels like a loose adaptation of that movie, but for the most part, it's... well, I wouldn't say it's a captivating story, since it's pretty thinly spread and the characters aren't all that interesting, but the concept works well with the violent gameplay, so it's not all bad, I guess.
The one thing that struck as pretty cool is that most of the cutscenes occur while playing don't interrupt your game, but rather, they talk as you play. Of course, you got your typical cutscenes, but they serve as the bridges between parts. Games should try to be more like this, since it's all too often where I have a sudden rush to kill more, and them up comes a cutscene, and the feeling is gone. Goddamn.
Violence is in style.
The basic aim of the game is to get from start to finish while killing off enemies with either some knives, a chainsaw, or guns. Now, at first, you're limited to knives, a chainsaw and dual pistols, but as you progress, you gain access to swords and shotguns (among other weapons), and from there, you can experiment with the different weapons for some wicked combos for some ultra violent results, like decapitations, heads being blown off, and blood splattering every which way. The concept of the gameplay makes for something that can really relieve some stress as you *bleep*ing murder all of the generic thugs on the road.
Don't be fooled for a second, this game does get a bit tricky as you progress. In an age of shit easy games, this is pretty out of place, but screw it, the game never gets too challenging, so it's nothing to get all pissy about. You'll be forced to switch it up every now and again, since enemies don't stand still and don't like to screw around. That's the good shit. What'll end up sucking is the odd cheap instance, like when some thug keeps shooting you off a cliff, usually into a pit where you can't recover. Also, the controls start to get a little annoying, as Shank doesn't turn around immediately, and all attack animations HAVE to finish before the next attack animation starts, and this can add up much later on in the game when you're surrounded by a lot of thugs. There's challenging, than then there's cheap nonsense, and this game switches between the two sides.
Where it can be a bit of a hassle is when you fight the bosses. Generally, you have to memorize their patterns and attack at the right times, like when they're exposed, and damage them in a quick time event fashion (oh god, will get out of our games already!?), and then rinse, lather and repeat. The problem here is that you could be spending ages on a fight trying to look for a weakness and get that timing exact in order to really rip some shit up, and altough patience is something every gamer should have, it just makes boss fights feel less enjoyable than they should be, especially after a hectic battle against 44 or so henchmen where you have to constantly keep on your thumbs. I can understand changing it up because it could be too easy if you could dispatch of them the same way you could the enemies, but for a couple of bosses, I leaning more towards that than this.
The main bit of awesome is the co-op. Here, you're given a different campaign with a story served as the prologue to the main story - which I am not going to tell you guys, mostly because it feels tacked on, more than anything, and isn't too memorable or anything special - and emphasizes more on co-op attacks, especially against bosses. Seriously, I doubt you could beat these bosses without a mate helping. Other than that, there isn't much of a difference, except maybe easier difficulty, depending on who you're playing with.. just make sure your mate has tolerable odor, or you probably won't be playing with him... in other words, co-op is local only. No online options available... that's like having no wheels on a car in this day and age of gaming...
Parents, you may want to shield your kids from this.
The graphics look like something out of a flash cartoon on Newgrounds, or even something like Samurai Jack (which was awesome). Like Samurai Jack, it feels a little too light, given the actual storyline and how gritty it can be, but at the same time, it just looks so stylish, awesome, and at times, pretty over the top, that you could almost mistake it for something out of a Grindhouse-styled movie, trying to seem a bit more on the ironic side of things...
I guess it's because the graphics are so awesome, that it has to take a while to load, because Shank has some pretty damn long load times... which sucks. I mean, I thought this was an arcade title installed into your hard drive... shouldn't it be quicker? Only applies to the PS3 version, though, so if you're a 360 owner reading this review, disregard.
Go west, young ears!
On the audio side of things, it's all good. The soundtrack is definitely something I found myself enjoying while going through the game. It usually emphasized the violence of the gameplay a bit when there were guitar riffs present, and the cutscenes between levels were definitely more exciting thanks to the songs played in those instances, bringing out the more emotional side to them. The voice acting is also pretty good, if a bit on the cheesy side, though it goes along finely with the story and art style, so I'm pretty chill with it, and I'm sure you'll be, too.
West, or south?
Although it only clocks in at 4 hours for the single player and about 3 for the multiplayer with some lengthy load times and it contains some cheap instances, Shank manages to provide some stylish graphics on top of a soundtrack to back up the otherwise excellent balls to the wall gameplay. Honestly, if you want to have some fun kicking ass with some very stylish graphics to back you up, you just need to pony up 15 bucks and you'll be sold. Good game, little rough around the edges, but still worth purchasing. Just don't complain when you're getting whomped!
Well, it's something, and given the violent nature of the gameplay, it works pretty well. Nothing ultimately captivating, but I guess that's the point. The way the cutscenes are done is ingenius and I'm surprised not many other games do it this way.
Ultra violence is the name of the game, as you bash your foes' brains in with chains, or blow them off with guns, or even slice them off with shanks. The emphasis on comboing is definitely welcome to keep things from getting stale, but some cheapness here and there isn't, and crappy load times and short length aren't of much help either.
Easy to get the hang of, and also mostly responsive. Any problems? Just one - delays in turning around. No thanks.
Excellent animation on top of some excellent colors and a lot of generally awesome looking settings and shit.
The soundtrack and voice acting are awesome, especially the soundtrack, as it goes with the setting, adding an atmospheric vibe and whatnot.
Other: The lack of online co-op wrecks it a bit, especially in an age of online play.
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