4 stars
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
4 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
4.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
3.5 Stars
Replay Factor
4 Stars

Shank 2

Street Date:
February 7th, 2012
Reviewed by:
High-Def Digest staff
Review Date:1
February 8th, 2012
Game Release Year:
Electronic Arts
Klei Entertainment
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)


The original Shank was released during mid-2010, much to the delight of 2D side-scrolling, brawler fans that longed for a game similar to Streets of Rage. While the first title in the series was limited by local co-op as well as a handful of gameplay balance and control issues, the entertainment value of the game was extremely high and the visuals were uniquely stunning for a downloadable title. Seeking to improve rather than reinvent the original, the development team at Klei Entertainment has attempted to polish up the gameplay as well as roll out online multiplayer within Shank 2.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The narrative has shifted from the spaghetti-western, revenge theme used by the original game to more of a story about overthrowing a corrupt South American government and the ruthless dictator that runs the country. The game isn’t heavy on exposition, but rather uses story elements to highlight upcoming boss battles as Shank, the main character, cuts his way through thousands of enemies. Klei Entertainment isn’t very concerned about building up characters or wrapping up the story neatly, but it doesn’t necessarily hurt the entertainment value of the game. By using outlandish violence and absurd boss characters, the game moves along at a brisk pace without the need for lengthy cutscenes.

One of the most notable differences between the original and Shank 2 is how the control scheme has been altered. The developers have added a dodge mechanic triggered by the thumbstick, thus replacing the block/parry button from the original Shank. This allows Shank to stay in motion at all times and move around the environment at a quicker pace. Shank also has the ability to switch weapons much quicker and can swap out to a heavy melee or ranged weapon in the middle of a combo.

Disarming enemies is a quicker process as well and doesn’t break up the constant flow of action. In short, the control and animation changes have improved the pace of the battle and given the player much needed freedom to pull off some insane moves during battle. This new freedom doesn’t come at a price though. Enemies react faster than the original and the boss fights require the player to utilize Shank’s full spectrum of offensive moves to win. My only nitpick with the game’s new combat system would be that the player cannot swap out weaponry during the level. The player can customize the load-out prior to the level though.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The high definition visuals in Shank 2 certainly don’t fail to impress. The hand-drawn landscapes and characters feel like Quentin Tarantino and John Woo teamed up to create a animated short that emulates the Kill Bill movies as well as Hard Boiled or The Killer. The stylistic cutscenes give the bloody violence a cinematic flair and the animations are silky smooth just like the original. Visual effects like the pouring rain or raging fires are also well produced and add to the authenticity of the environment.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The musical score for Shank 2 was designed with an action movie in mind. Music appropriately builds to a climax during the boss battles and the cavalcade of sound effects really makes the on-screen action pop. The voiceovers have improved slightly for this game, but the quality has more to do with the change in tone of the sequel. The corny lines from the original are still present though. As a 2D-brawling sidescroller, the need for directional sound effects was limited, but certainly welcome in the sound mix.

Replay Factor

To complete the Shank 2 single player campaign, that will take approximately two and a half to three hours. However, the Survival mode has the potential to provide a solid amount of multiplayer time assuming you can find a competent co-op partner. Players choose between twelve different unlockable characters that all have different damage, health and item modifiers. Players earn currency by killing enemies during the match and can spend that money on weaponry or health. Over the three different stages within multiplayer, different combinations of characters have better luck than others based off the layout of each map.

While I miss the co-op campaign mode from the original Shank, implementing wave-based multiplayer similar to the Gears of War series was a smart move. I’m also appreciative that Klei is allowing people to connect online rather than forcing players to recruit a local player like the first Shank. The survival mode is definitely tense and required a coordinated effort to defuse bombs while warding off the enemy.

Final Thoughts

For the cost of $10 on the PlayStation Network ($5 less than the original at its 2010 launch), you probably have to decide how much the multiplayer is worth to you. The campaign ends almost as quickly as it starts and Klei doesn’t provide much incentive to repeat the single-player story beyond standard PlayStation trophies. However, the amazing animation and stylish combat is definitely worth experiencing at least once. If you are a fan of the original Shank, you won’t find this title as innovative as the original, but rather a much more polished version of the game. Download this PlayStation Network title if you are in the mood for a visually stunning, 2D side-scrolling brawler.

Tech Specs:

  • PlayStation Network

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 720p
  • 1080p

Audio Formats

  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Online Co-op

Motion Controls

  • No

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