Sequels are always an interesting subject in the gaming community and therefore tend to be harder to review than any other game. While reviewing Shank 2, I couldn’t help but recognize how much of an improvement the game is from the first, yet it feels similar at the same time. Klei didn’t try to reinvent the series with Shank 2, but instead set out to tweak and perfect the Shank experience and they accomplished this beautifully.
Shank is in the shit again and when the lives of those close to him are endangered, Shank sets out on a redemption filled rampage. Shank moves much more fluidly than ever, especially in regards to dodging enemy attacks. Simply flicking the right stick will send him rolling to safety instead of the button combination required in the first. Picking up items and attacking are now two different buttons as well, so constantly picking up dropped items in the middle of a fight is a thing of the past.
At the beginning of each of the eight levels you are able to select your load out from the unlocked weapons. Throughout the levels you will pick up and use enemy weapons after disarming them; at set moments in the levels you will be given new weapons. There’s a variety to use: baseball bats, lead pipes, frying pans…fish. Yes, a massive fish. Strangely enough though there is not a trophy tied to using it. With your shanks being used for the light attacks, the heavy and ranged attacks depend on the selected load out. It’s always a tough decision to pick from the slow and powerful chainsaw to the slice and dice ready machetes, so choose carefully.
Enemies seemingly come from anywhere; they’ll be shooting from above, running in to get close to take you down and while you weren’t paying attention there’s a guy tossing an endless supply of grenades your way. Countering attacks puts you into an instant kill that is very satisfying to watch over and over. Nothing beats shoving a baseball bat down someones throat. Starting off with simple mindless soldiers that don’t take much to be nothing more than blood splatters and guts, the enemies near the middle of the game start to vary in difficulty. Shielded soldiers will be added to the mix that require heavy attacks to get through the shield and a huge charging character will force you not take a different approach to taken him down. The side-scrolling action is rarely broken up, except for the couple sections where you mount a machine gun. These don’t last long, but are fun to take down huge amounts of enemies in very little time.
While not an overly long single player experience, Shank 2 is a well-done and solid beat ‘em up adventure. The difficulty on the other hand is inconsistent at best which results in some frustrating areas, but with perseverance it can be overcome. I will warn though: there are sections where once you get knocked to the ground, you will be repeatedly get hit without any recovery time.
There is a newly added two-player survival mode that pits the players against wave after wave of enemies while protecting weapon caches. Sadly there are only three different levels and with no other co-op options, most people will probably only play through it once.
Shank 2 didn’t break out of the mold that was set in the first game, but it did deliver on improving and perfecting the Shank formula. The inconsistent difficulty spikes, and weak story hold this game back, but if you are looking for a solid side-scrolling action game then Shank 2 is a definite step up from the original.Note: Shank 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.