Thursday, February 9, 2012

Shank 2 (XBLA): "Sequel To The Original Blood Filled Brawler"

I'm going to begin by saying that I have never actually played the first "Shank" game. I did notice during my playthrough of "Shank 2" that it looked like the continuation of another story. With that being said though I was able to understand everything that was going on without having played the previous game. What I discovered when I played "Shank 2" was a gory 2D brawler/platformer that seemed to have elements of the "Metal Slug" games, and an art style similar to the "Samurai Jack" series. It also featured an interesting, and deeply involved combo system with a wide variety of weapons. All of the characters in the game had their own unique personality that gave them a likable quality. Shank (the hero) was a lone wolf kind of guy that reminded me a lot of "Marcus Phoenix" from the "Gears of War" series. He had that same gritty voice, and attitude going on. As I played the game I really began to like Shank's style. As interesting as the characters were I found that the story to be even more entertaining. It featured a plot about organ harvesting, a dying dictator, a mad doctor, and even a female cult leader among other things. It was like a "Quentin Tarantino" grindhouse feature that was made into a video game!

Shank 2 is a very complex game that takes some time to master, and learn. I had some trouble throughout my playthrough remembering the detailed controls that I had to use. Often times I would get buttons mixed up causing me to lose at certain parts of the game. The control setup isn't really user friendly in this game in that sense, but it's also not too terribly bad. The good news though is that the game offers you tips, and points out controls you should be using often throughout the game. If you get stuck repeating a part of a level then it's a good idea to pay attention to the hints in the loading screens. I'm not going to try and explain the controls in this review as I usually do, because it would only confuse you. You can trust me on that.

I mentioned at the beginning of this review that "Shank 2" had some elements that reminded me of the "Metal Slug" games, and it definitely does. There are certain things like the freeing of prisoners, and the level designs that are oddly reminiscent of those games. When it comes to actual gameplay though "Shank 2" is all original. The game features a unique weapons/combat/combo system that allows the player to choose/use 3 different weapons. You get to choose a melee weapon (machete, chainsaw, sledgehammer), a projectile weapon (shanks, handguns, shotgun), and an explosive weapon (grenade, mine, molotov). By using these weapons with the various attack buttons (X=Light, Y=Heavy, B=Shoot) you can string together combos in order to achieve a higher score at the end of each level. The combo system is explained fairly well in the game. I had no issues in picking up on it when I learned the controls, and you shouldn't either. Aside from the weapons, and combo system the game also has a lot of blood and gore. There's definitely a lot of bloodletting that goes on in "Shank 2" including some gory cutscenes during boss fights, and after you've finished the bosses off. It's this bloody combat system that sets the "Shank" series far apart from other 2D platformers.

There are a lot of cool features in "Shank 2". The game is teeming with hidden items (Intel), and secret character skins that can be unlocked during your playthrough of the game. The 'Campaign' mode has plenty of objectives that need to be completed in order to unlock the various character skins. You'll also unlock all the weapons in the game as you play through the 'Campaign' mode. I ended up getting all the weapons during my first playthrough of that mode, but I will need to go back to unlock all of the bonus character skins. The game honestly has some serious replay value, and also a 'Survival' multiplayer mode that will have you coming back for more. The 'Survival' mode puts up to four players together in a multi-tiered stage, and has them trying to defend cargo from bombers. The online co-op is fast paced, and and just as bloody as the 'Campaign'. You, and your online friends will face wave after wave of enemies in this online mode. After each wave is completed you will be given the opportunity to purchase items from a store menu that can aid you against the enemies, and bosses that appear. The goal in 'Survival' is simply to survive as many waves of enemies as you can, and gain the highest score. You can choose a character skin, and weapon setup before beginning a match in this mode.

In conclusion I found "Shank 2" to be a fairly solid game. The 'Campaign', and 'Survival' modes have some serious replay value that make the asking price understandable. I'm a serious fan of bloody/violent games, and "Shank 2" delivers some quality entertainment in that area. The art style within the game is quite impressive, and the story is definitely grindhouse feature quality (I would honestly go to the theater to see a movie about this game). With all the praise I can give this game there is still one little flaw that troubled me during my playthrough of "Shank 2". This flaw was the occasional frame rate lag that occurred when the action was heavy. While I done consider this a major issue it was still bothersome. I can easily overlook this though considering how much I enjoyed playing "Shank 2". I tested out the 'Survival' mode with (GT: Lord Kenshin), and made it to the 14th wave with no lag at all which is definitely an impressive feat in itself. Not only that I had fun playing 'Survival' with a random person. My thanks definitely goes out to (GT: Lord Kenshin) for being a good sport, and sticking with me throughout the 14 waves of 'Survival' mode. To sum it all up 'EA/ Klei Entertainment' have produced a solid gaming experience with "Shank 2". It's definitely worth the asking price.

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