Shank returns in another chainsaw wielding gore fest that fixes some minor annoyances of the original game with smoother gameplay and a smarter control layout. But, Shank 2 still has a few wrinkles to iron out with inconsistent difficulty spikes that quickly turn the fun into frustration.
The meat of the game lies in the campaign mode where Shank can dispatch literally hundreds of enemies with a variety of weapons. At the beginning of each level the player chooses the load-out for his heavy weapon like the chainsaw or a pair of machetes, long range weapons including pistols and a shotgun, and disposable weapons like grenades and Molotov cocktails. Aside from the chosen load-out Shank can pick up weapons dropped by enemies. Baseball bats, lead pipes and even frying pans can be wielded and thrown giving players a few more combat options.
The controls feel smooth and accurate and we rarely ran into a situation where the button layout lead to our downfall. It is simple to chain combos, counter attacks, and roll-dodge away from flailing enemies. There is no longer the issue of accidentally picking up heath power-ups or dropped weapons since the action is mapped to the right shoulder button rather to the attack button.
Slashing up enemies and watching the counter move animations where Shank shoves a baseball bat down a minion's throat are satisfying, but only as long the the game plays fair. Some sections throw way too many enemies on-screen at once making it ridiculously difficult to dodge the barrage of bullets, knives and baseball bats. While perseverance won us through in the end, having to repeatedly get our butts kicked was a lot more frustrating than enjoyable.
The beat ‘em up gameplay, with its gory animations and use of weapons, is fun but it doesn’t last throughout the entire game. Mid-way through the game dispatching enemies ends up feeling like a grind. Besides some enemies that carry shields that need to be destroyed using heavy attacks most enemies can be defeated by simply by mashing the attack buttons. On top of that, there are no other elements of gameplay that break up the button mashing other than mounted gun segments and minor platforming, but those are few and far between. With a story that does nothing to motivate pressing on, hacking up bad guys can only be fun for so long, and unfortunately, that is basically the only thing you do the entire time.
In addition to the campaign, up to two players (local or online) can work together in the game’s Survival mode. Players must defeat waves of enemies while protecting weapons caches from being destroyed by enemy demolitionists. The longer players survive the more upgrades and weapons they can purchase to keep up with the increasingly difficult enemies. Survival works well and is fun to play with one other friend, but being limited to only three different stages the experience becomes stale, quickly.
Shank 2 stays safely in the bounds of a typical side-scrolling action title. It never takes any chances but delivers an overall solid beat ‘em up. Inconsistent difficulty, nonexistent story and a lack of gameplay variety hold Shank 2 back, but those looking for a better playing experience from Shank’s last outing might want to give the sequel a try.