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Shank review

AT A GLANCE
  • Lots of weapons/attacks
  • Multiplayer has its own story and levels
  • Slick presentation and art style
  • Some annoying control issues
  • Uneven boss difficulty
  • Embarrassing attempt at "Mature" rating

Shank has the makings of a great beat-em-up – most importantly it has lots of cool attacks and lots of cool weapons. There are three basic attacks: melee (your namesake shank), heavy attack (chainsaw, among other weapons), and guns (unlimited ammo). You can also throw grenades (limited quantity) and combine attacks with grapple moves or jumps. All of these moves and abilities can be linked together into seemingly endless combos, and when you get going against a bunch of enemies, much clever multi-button-mashing pleasure can be had.

Small control annoyances often sully the experience though, and in this genre, even a small misstep in the controls can become a deal breaker. For some unfathomable reason, the same button used for your main melee attack is also mapped to the item pick up action. Enemies often drop items when you defeat them, so often in the heat of battle this leads to accidentally wasting a health drink, which is especially annoying in multiplayer when you need a health drink and your partner with full health accidentally drinks one through no fault of his own.

Enemies also drop weapons you can use temporarily, like heavy machine guns, and when the area you're fighting on is littered with machine gun drops on the ground, you're forced to refrain from using your melee attack, because you'll end up picking up and dropping the gun over and over instead of attacking, which quickly leads to death. Literally any other button would have been a better choice to pair with the item pick up, like guard or even jump. Or why not map it to two buttons, like melee + down on the d-pad? Seriously, it's mind boggling. And no, you can't remap the controls.

Adding to the frustration, Shank is strictly 2D, with no depth to your forward and backward movements whatsoever, yet it seems like a lot of the enemies would be much better suited to an environment with some depth (ahem, Castle Crashers!). Huge, unavoidable enemies that charge at you or spray machine gun fire seem cheap on a 2D plane, and often there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when you can sidestep them and when you can't. And on the flip side, when you have a powerful shotgun and you don't need to worry about lining up your fire with the enemy's position, you can often easily exploit your ranged weapon to take down an army of foes without even engaging them in hand-to-hand combat, which also seems cheap.

Lastly, Shank's blatant and heavy-handed attempt at an M-rating completely misses the mark – it's just embarrassingly bad. We're obviously not prudes at GamesRadar, so it's not just that the story is totally over-the-top crass with tons of gratuitous tits and ass and "hey fuckface"s every minute – it's just that it's done in such a horribly obnoxious way, with no humor or wit to make it enjoyable. If you're going to make light of rape (yes, this actually happens, complete with a "daddy likes it when you fight back" line), you better really know what you're doing on a comedic level, and the writers for Shank clearly weren't up to the task.

If you can overlook the control issues and often totally uneven difficulty (the second boss should under no circumstances be way easier than the first, in any game, ever), and turn a blind eye to the asinine plot and characters, Shank does have its moments. The art style is cool if that aesthetic appeals to you, and the single player and multiplayer campaigns offer two totally different experiences, with different levels and stories, which definitely adds value. So if you're totally itching for a brawler and have already played Castle Crashers to death, and you have a friend willing to play through co-op with you, Shank is still worth considering.      

Aug 24, 2010

More Info

Available Platforms: PS3, PC, Xbox 360

22 comments

  • GamesRadarCarolynGudmundson - August 25, 2010 10:51 p.m.

    @xpert434 The truck boss wasn't that bad for me - I think the biggest tip for that one is to make sure that when the truck is far away, you throw your grenades while jumping, and when it's close just throw the grenade without jumping. For me (and Brett) the first boss of the multiplayer campaign was wayyyyy more difficult. Like seemingly impossible at first, and even when you figure out what you're supposed to do it's still incredibly difficult and cheap.
  • xpert434 - August 25, 2010 10:20 p.m.

    I hate this game so much, the trial was fun so i thought i would grab it. First off, the cheivo for getting 20 kills glitched for me, yet i got the one for getting 100 kills. The loading screen takes about 7-10 mins so i have to wait that long whenever i want to load up a game. The opening cinematic also lags for some magical reason. Lastly, the second boss, the truck one is nigh impossible. Dont buy this horrible game, dont make the same mistake I did.
  • HotCyder - August 25, 2010 1:30 p.m.

    Woah Woah Woah. You give this game an article every other month and then it ends up being a let down? Just goes to prove the point - you can't have games without great gameplay.
  • Baron164 - August 25, 2010 1:26 p.m.

    Well this is a disappointment, this game looked very promising. I'll try the demo but I think I'll be sticking with Scott Pilgrim this week. Even if it doesn't have online coop.
  • Valntyne - August 25, 2010 12:31 p.m.

    :( This game looked good... Oh, well. There's always Castle Crashers...or Dishwasher Dead Samurai.
  • philipshaw - August 25, 2010 11:40 a.m.

    Great review. This is a shame because I was looking forward to this,every review seems to be saying the same thing that the game has a uneven difficulty and the controls aren't great. I will stick to Scott pilgrim vs the world for now
  • Zodiax - August 25, 2010 7:37 a.m.

    I hate these kind of flash graphics. They look so cheaply made.
  • ThatGuyFromTV - August 25, 2010 4:21 a.m.

    It's too bad, this looked like it had potential. Though I kind of saw this coming after looking at the trailer. It just didn't look that deep. Even Castle Crashers, simple as it was, had a little bit of depth and strategy to it.
  • DLSemen - August 25, 2010 2:46 a.m.

    DAMMIT!!!!!!
  • ice_sneasel - August 25, 2010 2:39 a.m.

    dang i was looking forward to this
  • Aeshir - August 25, 2010 2:06 a.m.

    @felipe222 That's because it's the full game. They give you the full game so if you wanna buy it, it just unlocks and you can play it right away.
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - August 25, 2010 1:44 a.m.

    I'm a huge 2D fan and have no problem with challenging games. Yet, playing Shank's co-op made me so frustrated that I lost all interest in playing after the third level. It's all over the place. Yeah the combos and blood are cool and you can get some good links with a friend, but I didn't think it was "excellent" at all. It's OK. Promising developer, looking forward to whatever's next. Contra IV was good hard. This was bad-design hard.
  • felipe222 - August 25, 2010 1:39 a.m.

    And did you saw the Demo file size for Shank on PSN? 2 fu***** Gb! FOR A DEMO!
  • felipe222 - August 25, 2010 1:37 a.m.

    yeah, Im getting Castle Crashers...
  • kit07 - August 25, 2010 1:12 a.m.

    thought about picking this up today. but think i may wait till its on sale in a couple months o well.
  • nicholasbianco - August 25, 2010 1:11 a.m.

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2010/08/while-my-uzi-gently-weeps-ars-reviews-shank.ars Everyone read the review here. There's no number scale and it's complete opinion, I think you'll all change your mind, because this game is excellent!
  • CountFenring - August 25, 2010 1:08 a.m.

    Well dang. I was hoping it would a companion of sorts to Machete, but alas... I'll still try the demo.
  • Corsair89 - August 25, 2010 1:04 a.m.

    I am sad face. I was hoping it would be really good.
  • oufour - August 25, 2010 1:03 a.m.

    NO! WHY!? the first time i saw this i thought "FINALLY! the 2D PLAYABLE CARTOON I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR!" but now those dreams are shattered...*sniff*
  • batmanboy11 - August 25, 2010 12:54 a.m.

    Too bad, although I wasn't really looking foward to this.

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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