Shank is a game that I haven't heard much about until I finally got a glimpse of the game in action at this year's Microsoft X'10 event in Toronto. The unique art style of Shank is what immediately grabbed my attention; it actually looks and feel like you're playing a comic book. The game has some cool weapons and maneuvers that Shank can pull off, but the best parts of the game come in the form of the unexplainable joy you get when you jump 10 feet in the air, land on an enemy, and then continue to to shove a chainsaw into the center of his chest.
The first thing that happened while I was loading up the game on my Xbox 360 was that the opening video froze. I know this has been a problem with the 360 version of Shank, but come on Klei, you guys should have been on top of that! Now rest assured that we will likely see a patch for this in the coming weeks, so I'm going to let it go with the promise that it gets patched soon -- the PS3 version apparently doesn't have this issue so don't let it be a deterrent if that's your system of choice.
Getting in to the game itself, the main menu has two options that will allow you to either play the main campaign by yourself or you can tackle the prequel to the main story with a friend. The co-op campaign in Shank is one of the best features about the game, but the only downside is that it's not online so you'll actually have to invite your friend over and socialize... ugh. There are all kinds of awesome tag team moves that you will utilize against bosses and enemies alike, but after you've used your co-op move on a generic enemy, it's the same thing over and over again from then on. The co-op was a nice touch, but online co-op functionality would have been much appreciated.
The main campaign of Shank is a cornucopia of fun. You have your generic "girlfriend gets killed, guy looks for revenge" story and it's told in a manner that makes it feel like you are watching a comic book. The main character, Shank, is a bad guy gone good as he tried to avenge the death of his girlfriend. It turns out she was murdered by his former mentor and now he is tracking down everyone who was involved in her death. Shank is a quite the bad-ass and what I mean by that is that he never really yells, he just mumbles in anger in a low-pitched voice. Shank is a character who's willing to do whatever it takes in order to kick the crap out of his opposition -- this brings us to his arsenal.
There are plenty of weapons for Shank to utilize, but he starts off with shanks, hands guns and a chainsaw. Over the course of the game you'll unlock more and more weapons including machetes, a katana, chains, a shotgun and an uzi. If those aren't enough weapons for you then you'll be happy to learn that once in awhile you'll stumble upon submachine guns and flamethrowers, but you won't find them very often and when you do you won't have them very long.
The level design in Shank is visually pleasing, but you can only go through the same obstacles so many times before it all starts to feel the same. There are recurring skulls that Shank swings from, walls for Shank to climb up, and pipes for Shank to shimmy across. It would have been cool to get a variety of obstacles, but I wasn't expecting a Limbo-esque experience with Shank so that's okay. Variety would have really spiced up the Shank experience, but the art style is awesome throughout your entire play through, helping keep the levels visually appealing as you put in the time to complete the game.
The combat of Shank builds on the standard hack'n slash platform and takes it leaps and bounds. With all of the different weapons Shank has at his disposal he can perform all kinds of combos and he uses them with the utmost efficiency. This game is really not for under agers with its decapitations and other amounts of gore, but if you skip the cutscenes, then you'll avoid the vulgar potty language and dismemberments. The game may seem easy if you played through the demo, but let me assure you that certain bosses, especially Ceasar, will have you throwing controllers and swearing at your television.
The combat and overall feel of Shank is unique and for that very reason almost everyone will enjoy the game. The only real issue I had with the game was the lack of re-playability, but for 1/4 of the cost of a retail game, you really couldn't ask for a game more original than Shank. The graphical style of Shank is what really sets the game apart from the hundreds of other downloadable games currently available on Xbox Live and PSN. If you love battling waves of enemies - and using chainsaws - then Shank is for you. Even if you just want something different, Shank is a must-own title.
Shank is available for download right now on PSN and the Xbox Live Market Place for $15 OR 1,200 points, but if you want to bypass the whole playing a game thing then you can check out the soundtrack which is available for the very affordable price of $0.