Shank 2 Review (PC)

You’ll need a controller

I love beat-em-up/hack-n-slash games – I really do – so when I heard that Shank 2 was a beat-em-up, I was like ‘hell’s yeah I’m gonna play that game!’. I’ll just quickly mention here that I got it on Origin, and that I didn’t have a good first experience with it – Origin wouldn’t accept my original EA Account, I had to make a new one and then it randomly connected and disconnected on me, and it kept starting and stopping my Shank 2 download. It most probably was a one off thing (I’m pretty unlucky like that).

All that aside, when I could finally play Shank 2 I was pretty excited. I started with the single player campaign. The first things I noticed were that both the music and artwork were awesome. It has it’s own particular comic book style which really works for the over-the-top tone and style of the game. The intro cinematic is animated simply, but it doesn’t detract from the game at all, but enhances the style and gives you a particular look and feel for the entire game. In-game, the environments are really well illustrated and the characters are well animated.

I can’t remember a thing about the story though. You play a character named Shank, I think, and you’re on a bus trip somewhere and it gets hijacked – or at least some guys try to hijack the bus and then Shank promptly beats the crap out of them and the game starts. I guess this is saying something about the storyline – it’s not very strong or memorable. It is there, it’s just not very original.

Gameplay is fun though, if you can get over the awkward controls which I’ll get to a bit later. The game itself is fun to play. It’s well paced and it feels great to beat the enemies up. There’s plenty of bloody, gory feedback to let you know you’ve hit the enemy and it’s supplemented with the perfect sound effects, so it feels good to play. Some gameplay elements actually reminded me a lot of the God of War series – the over the top blood and gore, the environmental traps and stuff you can activate and throw your enemies into which result in more blood and gore. There are also deadly counters which can result in things like stealing the opponent’s baseball bat, shoving it down his throat and then kicking it through him. Yeah, totally brutal, you’ll enjoy this game a lot if you’re into that kind of thing.

You get to have four types of weapons with you at a time: normal shanking/melee weapon, heavy weapon, ranged weapon and your grenades.  For each weapon type there are lots of different kinds of weapons you can have. For example, your shanking weapons are things like daggers, your heavy weapons include chainsaws and scythes and ranged weapons can be throwing knives to different guns. A really fun aspect of the game is launching your enemies into the air with your heavy weapon and then juggling them with any following attacks to make really long combo chains – there are a couple of achievements to be able to get big numbers and its really fun to try to get as many hits as you possibly can, as it requires a little technique and timing.

When I found out there was a multiplayer-mode for Shank 2, I immediately requested the help of my boyfriend to find out what it was like. I thought it’d be a co-op campaign and I’d get all nostalgic about the old beat-em-ups like Final Fight and Streets of Rage, but alas, it’s one of those co-op campaigns where waves of enemies come at you and you have to fight them off. Basically you play as the heroes defending an area from terrorists who are trying to bomb it. You get to choose from a roster of characters, although you only start with two – Shank and a female side character. I’m guessing you unlock characters as you get achievements. When it comes to the enemies, you have your normal thugs, enemy bombers, who plant bombs you have to disarm before they blow up, and your boss types. The gameplay is pretty much exactly the same though.

Now, onto the aforementioned awkward controls. Shank 2’s control scheme for PC is really bad – you can tell this game was made to be played with a controller. The controls are not intuitive at all and it just feels strange. The aiming is worse. About 40% of the time my character was attacking the wrong way. I realised this is because you don’t aim with the mouse cursor, you aim with the direction your character is facing. This is confusing; since left-click is your normal attack you instinctively think that you’re aiming with your cursor, but that’s not the case. It all depends on which way you’re facing with your directional keys.

Buttons for the important functions like ‘use’, ‘counter’ and ‘dodge’ would be readily available on a controller, but not so with a keyboard and mouse – you have to dodge holding shift and the direction you want to dodge in and the use key is ‘e’, which you accidentally tap sometimes when you’re trying to look up to try and kill something with a ranged attack. You also have to hold shift and press left-click when you want to use your heavy weapon. If you think it’s difficult to understand what I just wrote, try thinking about how awkward it is to try and remember and recall all of that when you’re being swarmed by enemies and a boss. I managed to just wing it most of the time, but it got super irritating during multiplayer mode when knowing these keybinds and combinations are important. I couldn’t even figure out how to buy items to heal myself because apparently it’s not the ‘use’ key.

The controls are bad if you’re not using a controller. This game is perfectly fine if you are, and it’s actually really fun to play, but if you’re playing with keyboard and mouse you’re probably going to get super frustrated. It’s also fun to play with a friend, but not as satisfying if you’re playing on your own.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

As an added bonus to this review, X-Fade and I recorded our hilarious confuddled multiplayer experience, so watch as we hack and slash our way not so much to victory, but hilarity!

About the Author

I'm just your regular gamer! Currently working in the game industry as an artist. I love all manner of things cute, colourful and crazy. I also love lemons quite a lot. c: