Giant Bomb Review

24 Comments

Shank Review

3
  • PS3N
  • XBGS

Few games share Shank's violent enthusiasm, even if it can't carry the whole experience.

 Oh man. That guy is BONED.
It seems like developers have been trying to modernize side-scrolling beat-'em-ups since that first quarter was dropped into a Double Dragon machine, and Klei Entertainment's Shank is just the most recent to give it a go. That's not to say that its affection for, and attempt to refine, the old-school stylings of the genre are the only things Shank has going for it. Really, Shank's greatest function is as a showcase for an angular and brutal art style which conspires with a fluid and also-brutal animation system to provide the game with a really sublimely violent and high-impact first impression. Shank teems with satisfying gameplay moments, and it's a sadistic pleasure to look at, but it's still haunted by the genre's two-headed specter of repetition and brevity.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Shank for me was just how much time the game spends on its story, even if it's all in service of the game's film-scratched vibe. The basic beats of the story aren't much more complex than the typical kidnapped-girlfriend conceit, but this two-fisted tale of revenge is clearly influenced by the gritty Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez style of grindhouse storytelling. Between-level flashbacks and slick picture-in-picture sequences that play out in real-time shed light on the events as they unfold, making the anti-heroic Shank's seemingly unquenchable thirst for retribution that much more understandable. 

 This back-rub has gone horribly awry!
It's unclear whether Shank is the character's given name or a nickname, but either way, it is earned. Shank is a bad, bad dude, and you yourself will feel like a complete bad-ass juggling knots of thuggish meathead enemies with your vicious arsenal of blades, guns, and chains. After an early every-bone-broken cutscene where Shank swiftly acquires his starting set of shanks, twin handguns, and a motherfucking chainsaw, you're loosed on the world, ready to make blood salad out of anyone that gets in your way. You'll find additional weapons like a shotgun, machetes, an uzi, and a katana that you can swap your starting weapons with on the fly. 

With three weapons at the ready at any given time, Shank has a lot of options with which to murder his opponents, and the gameplay is balanced in a way that strong-arms the player into making full use of Shank's deadly craft. Most enemies are complete pushovers in a one-on-one confrontation, but Shank is all about crowd control, requiring you to alternate between your three equipped attacks almost constantly to keep your head above the rising tide of mayhem. Some streamlined and stylish platforming action breaks up the kill-crazy rampages, though the fight is where Shank finds most of its challenge. It can be difficult, but rarely frustrating, though there are exceptions. 

 Shank (character) with shank (object) in Shank (game).
It's generally not a huge issue, but certain boss fights, which can require somewhat specific timing, can reveal the way Shank gives priority to its awesome-looking animation over the responsiveness of the controls. There are also some specific sequences where out-of-reach enemies force you to rely on your guns, which feel more like medium-range melee weapons than they do traditional firearms. Since you can only shoot up at an angle, it requires some fussy positioning.

I totally get why Shank feels compelled to linger on its visuals--this is a consistently great-looking game with style and energy to spare--but the real issue is that, even with its myriad of graphic ways to make a man into Manwich, the action in Shank can become a bit of a grind, despite a runtime that clocks in at around three hours. Even from the start, the enemies you face can soak up an alarming amount of damage, though once you acclimate to the rhythms of the action and understand how to approach different enemies, their long life bars start to feel like filler. There's also a unique co-op campaign, but it's limited to local play, and honestly, by the time I finished the solo game, my desire to play any more Shank had been pretty well quenched.

Downloadable games are evolving at an unbelievable clip right now, and one of the associated growing pains is an issue of perceived value, of quality versus quantity. There are some incredible peaks in Shank that I think are entirely worth experiencing, and it can be a pleasure to play, at least for a while. There are far worse ways to spend $15 for three hours, but it's those very highs that really make Shank's shortcomings that much more disappointing.
24 Comments
Posted by WalkerTR77

Might need to wait for a price drop.

Online
Edited by Bucketdeth

Castler Crasherrrsss.

Online
Posted by KarlPilkington

More like Skank.

Posted by GotClutch

dece

Posted by Ravenousrattler

sounds about right, I just couldn't get into it, way too repetitive

Posted by SgtReznor
@WalkerTR77: @WalkerTR77 said:
" Might need to wait for a price drop. "
you're gonna be waiting an awfully long time
Posted by George_Hukas
@SgtReznor said:
" @WalkerTR77: @WalkerTR77 said:
" Might need to wait for a price drop. "
you're gonna be waiting an awfully long time "
I doubt that.. with Game Feast coming this fall and reviews like this.. it wont be long
Posted by swamplord666

It's not exactly fair but playing the demo, I only wished it had the gameplay of a 2D DMC...

Edited by IkariNoTekken

Such an underrated game. So many reviews call this mediocre, I think the problem might just be that not many people enjoy brawlers any more...which is understandable in many ways. They are very repetitive in style and some of them can have steep learning curves but the challenge is one of things I love about them. 
I've been replaying the game a lot and only have a couple more costumes to unlock. Overall I really enjoyed this game. The art was obviously beautiful, the gameplay was unusually deep & compelling and the story and cut scenes weren't bad either.  

EDIT: I don't like name dropping other game related sites, but the site 1up has been nailing my opinions on games recently, their review of Shank is one of the only positive ones I read.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

Disappointing score, but the game still looks like a blast to play all the way through. I am willing to bet that I will impulse buy it soon.

Posted by zymase

Shank shank shank  shank shank  shank shank shank.

Posted by Wrighteous86

I love the style and inspiration, but not sure if I'd like the gameplay.  Alien Hominid was okay, but a little too "hardcore" for me.  Anyone have any opinion?

Posted by PorkLord

I thought there was something wrong with me for not loving this, but the hack'n'slash style is just getting old and repetitive. 
 
Saved by art style and story IMO, still worth paying for but I dunno about the full 1200 points.

Posted by Rowr

I guess i'll need to read a few more reviews before i can make a decision.

Posted by shiptoncraig

Played the demo, was bored before the end of it.  Really dislike the art style, it looks way too Flash-y and the combat is pretty boring without a Z-plane.

Posted by NekuSakuraba
@IkariNoTekken said:
" Such an underrated game. So many reviews call this mediocre, I think the problem might just be that not many people enjoy brawlers any more...which is understandable in many ways. They are very repetitive in style and some of them can have steep learning curves but the challenge is one of things I love about them. I've been replaying the game a lot and only have a couple more costumes to unlock. Overall I really enjoyed this game. The art was obviously beautiful, the gameplay was unusually deep & compelling and the story and cut scenes weren't bad either.  EDIT: I don't like name dropping other game related sites, but the site 1up has been nailing my opinions on games recently, their review of Shank is one of the only positive ones I read. "
I totally agree with you, I love the game so much.
Posted by phantomzxro
@Wrighteous86:
It's not as bad as hardcore as AH and if you go on normal you have pretty good checkpoints to keep you going. 
Posted by Turbo_Toaster
@IkariNoTekken said:
" Such an underrated game. So many reviews call this mediocre, I think the problem might just be that not many people enjoy brawlers any more...which is understandable in many ways. They are very repetitive in style and some of them can have steep learning curves but the challenge is one of things I love about them. I've been replaying the game a lot and only have a couple more costumes to unlock. Overall I really enjoyed this game. The art was obviously beautiful, the gameplay was unusually deep & compelling and the story and cut scenes weren't bad either.  EDIT: I don't like name dropping other game related sites, but the site 1up has been nailing my opinions on games recently, their review of Shank is one of the only positive ones I read. "
 
The thing is it kinda sorta has all the undesirable aspects of brawlers too, I'm not real sure why they didn't feel as though they should improve on the formula instead of just emulate.
Posted by AsKo25

Ryan, the co-op is worth playing. The bosses are very clever and require serious teamwork, and I think it deserves to be mentioned.

Posted by eproo

Good old beat-em'-up.

Posted by Runk3N

Great lookin' game, but still have some flaws and cheap deaths that make you want to puke.. Still, I bought it and played it way to much already.. :)

Posted by Darkradish

I thought it was fun for half an hour.  Then again, I was halfway through a handle of bourbon, so my judgement was likely impaired.

Posted by eightbit

I'm going to pass as the review confirmed my fears.  I'm not a huge fan of the revenge story or that look Rodriguez and Tarantino love so much, though this game has style.  The gameplay in the quick look came off frustrating.  I don't know, I'm backed up on so many damn games anyway.

Posted by fix8ed

While kinda fun and very nice to look at, I just didn't feel compelled to purchase the game.