Saturday morning cartoons were great when we were kids weren’t they? But y’know what I always thought was missing from those shows? Copious amounts of violence. It’s a failing that Klei Entertainment and EA totally tried to make up for with their side-scrolling murder-fest Shank, back in 2010, that was… less than perfect. But mistakes can be learned from and Shank was definitely a lesson well learned as Shank 2 is superior to its predecessor in every way.
Having played through what I’d loosely refer to as the “story” mode, I’m not entirely sure that there is a story to Shank 2. Shank’s on a bus and some guy spills his booze so he murders a city’s-worth of militia men and in return the militia burns down the village that Shank was raised in. Shank then decides to take his little killing spree even further, so I guess you could call this a vengeance tale but it’s closer to a reactionary couple taking immature pot-shots at each other, never quite sure who started it. There’s also something about the big bad guy having heart disease, but you’ll be far too busy performing exploratory surgery with a chainsaw to care.
Every now and then you’ll come across a hostage that you need to free, but other than that the game is based around running from place to place and committing genocide. It’s all a bit confusing if you try to think about it, which is exactly why you shouldn’t. Here we have a game that’s about killing everyone and we’re trying to include coherent thought in this? Just kick that baseball bat out the back of that guy’s head through his mouth and you’ll forget about all this story nonsense.
The controls are far more consistent this time round. It’s not perfect but it’s a big improvement although sometimes the dodge move feels like you’ve pressed it a few milliseconds after you think you did. But, while the dodging can be a bit frustrating, there won’t be any instances where you die because of the game not working properly. In Shank 2 if you die you know fine well it was because you did something silly, or too slow, or simply wrong. The controls lend themselves wonderfully to all the killing too, allowing you to juggle enemies with virtually any type of attack or simply slap them with your most powerful killing tools until they quite literally become mush. That is provided you stay on your feet long enough to execute combos.
One thing that many would have wanted to see return from the original game was the co-op campaign, but sadly Shank 2 doesn’t come equipped with that. It’s been swapped out for a two player (local or online) survival mode that pits you and a friend against hordes of enemies on different maps and scenarios. This mode comes with a welcome matchmaking feature but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it’s much more fun to play with someone you know. It’s fun but you get the feeling it’s in there simply to add re-playability.