Shank was an extraordinarily pretty game - if pretty is a word that can truly apply to dicing, dismembering, and ripping the nipple piercings out of a morbidly obese gimp's chest. The problem with Shank was the weak combat, which drained the joy out of the visuals.
Be thankful that Klei got a second chance, because Shank 2 is a far superior game. The cutscenes and dialogue have been pared back, making the whole experience feel less like a vicarious homage to Tarantino's own homages. It keeps the top-rank animation and character design, and sculpts the existing combat system into something that's tight, tough, and almost always feels fair, even at its most sob-inducingly intense.
Juggling light attacks are provided by your unchanging shanks, with heavy attacks from the returning favourites, chainsaws, sledgehammers and scythes from your under-used female companion. Pistols, shotguns, and so on are on the B button. Guns are frequently weak in games like this - particularly infinite ammo guns. But Shank 2 has been tuned to get you to rely almost equally on all three. It's clearly considered to be the least respectable weapon - there's an achievement for completing a level without using it. But it's there, if you want it. It's like playing rock paper scissors against ten people at once, and dodge-rolling in panic when you lose.
It's unforgiving arcade action, set over eight short levels. Surviving the relentless later levels feels like as big an achievement as one-lifing the early ones. Even on Normal mode, you'll find yourself overwhelmed until the combination of dodge rolls, grabs, pounces, and combos becomes second nature. It's a testament to Shank's new-found competence that this does, eventually happen. Shank 2 has that satisfying feeling of re-mastering a forgotten motor function.
Then there's an excellent co-op survival mode, which is more substantial than simply ramping up the waves, and provides a little longer-term play after you've shredded your senses in hard mode. It's still the same brutal, dismembering game. But Shank 2 no longer feels like a game that's in thrall to an imaginary crowd of cannabis-addled teenagers. This is a story of redemption. Of violent, eviscerating redemption.
Buy it here for 800 MP.
A sequel that looks as good, and plays much better
- Tight, tough, fair
- Great art and animation
- Wrinkles nicely ironed out
- New survival mode
- Occasionally too punishing