PS3 Reviews: Shank Review

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Shank Review

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Graphics:

 

8.9

Gameplay:

 

8.2

Sound:

 

8.5

Control:

 

7.6

Replay Value:

 

7.1

Online Gameplay:

 

7.9

Overall Rating:       8.0

 

 

Publisher:

EA

Developer:

Klei Entertainment

Number Of Players:

1-2

Genre:

Action

Release Date:

August 24, 2010

One of the more anticipated downloadable games of 2010, Klei’s Shank reminds one of the good ol’ days when side-scrolling beat-‘em-ups were common. Of course, we need a bit more in the way of depth and flash these days, so it wasn’t surprising to see a slick, finely honed visual presentation combined with robust gameplay. Here, you’ll find a combination system you never saw before in side-scrollers and indeed, it even outstrips that of combat mechanics you might find in some 3D action title. The graphics, which are definitely the highlight, represent an artistic tour-de-force most any comic book aficionado will appreciate. All the pieces were in place. By all rights, this could’ve been an elite downloadable title and easily one of the best available this generation. But while still worth playing, Shank stumbles a bit and leaves one feeling just a touch frustrated.

Really, those visuals are something special in the digital game realm. It’s extraordinarily clean and refined, as the animations are always smooth and a pleasure to behold, the cut-scenes are extremely well done, and the overall style is just plain cool. An adult cartoon of the highest order in terms of graphics, the designers spared no effort in delivering a truly impressive-looking game. The backgrounds aren’t necessarily the greatest, as there’s a wee bit of repetition and there isn’t quite as much detail, but that’s only a minor complaint. For the most part, this is one of the leading visual downloadable titles out there, and that alone might make it worth your time and money. Just about everything, from the entertaining and often gut-wrenching special effects, to the fluidity and diversity of the animations, enhances the experience. In fact, it’s one of those rare instances where the visual presentation might make you keep playing even after the gameplay has proven somewhat irritating.

The sound is also quite good, although not spectacular. The voice acting is better than competent, the effects are crisp and satisfying, and the soundtrack does fit the adventure’s gritty attitude. But the latter doesn’t really help to drive the action forward; while playing, I kept hoping for a seriously kickin’ track to pop up and add some hard-hitting panache. Shank could’ve really used a heavy metal boost, in my humble opinion. Furthermore, although the voices are indeed decent, the main character (Shank) sort of fails to convince during certain points in the story, and I almost missed the presence of cheesy one-liners during gameplay. I think they would’ve actually matched up nicely with the style. But beyond that, the quality of the sound, based on sharp effects that provide the player with a general boost, is relatively high. In short, the technical aspects of this game are worthy of acclaim.

As mentioned, Shank is a side-scrolling slasher that combines the depth of current combat systems and the nostalgia of yesteryear. You will work your way through hordes of enemies – the variety of which are reminiscent of Streets of Rage - and even use some platforming techniques to reach your ultimate goal. See, this guy called “The Butcher” has disrespected you in the worst way (he beat the snot out of you and stole your woman) and now, you’re willing to maim and destroy anybody who gets in your way. It’s the clichéd ‘80s video game premise with a twist or two tossed in for good measure, and all that top-notch artistry and sound. Within the first hour of play, you’ll have procured the likes of grenades and a shotgun, and will have already grappled, swung, and slid your way through a series of nicely created levels. Things only get more and more crazy from there…but maybe that’s where the game lets us down.

The basics appear to be simple on the surface- light attack (knives) is Square, your ranged attack (gun) is Circle, a heavy attack (chainsaw) is Triangle, you jump with X, grapple (for both platforming and grabbing foes) with R1, toss grenades with L2, and use the directional pad to switch between available inventory weapons. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, once you get to playing, you’ll start to realize there very well may be hundreds of combination possibilities when you factor in the light, heavy and ranged attacks. Furthermore, you can even chain moves up using the grapple or different directions; i.e., using the R1 button to grab an enemy and then pressing L2 to feed him a grenade. …nice. Experimentation is half the fun and although it can feel a little overwhelming with lots of baddies on the screen, the potential for unbelievable combo awesomeness is evident.

This all being said, you may have noticed I used the words “frustrated” and “irritating,” and there’s a reason: sometimes, you just feel as if the game is too darn cheap. For instance, while the platforming elements are little more than mildly pleasant diversions at the start, once you get about three-quarters of the way through, the platforming aspect becomes hair-pulling annoying. And it’s not annoying because it’s just plain challenging; it’s annoying because it feels cheap. Same goes for some parts of the combat. For instance, big guys that rush onto the screen are impossible to see and avoid so if you’re in the way, you’ll invariably take damage. On top of which, you often have to wait a second or two for Shank to get through a particular animation and later on, such delays can prove deadly. Now, this latter drawback won’t be unfamiliar to veteran gamers who likely remember the “cheapness” of old-fashioned side-scrollers. Heck, such people might even enjoy such a trait as it really makes the game feel…well, retro.

This is why I’m not going to be quite as harsh as other critics when it comes to the difficulty. Considering the targeted audience and the goal of the development team, I think such “flaws” might actually add to the flavor. However, if you’re not of that hardcore crowd that dealt with such eccentricities during the golden age of gaming, I would say the overall score drops to a mid-7. The length is good for the price and the entire package is definitely worthy of the $14.99 price tag, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find it endlessly entertaining. It starts out that way but it doesn’t remain that way. The bosses are usually pretty sweet, the story is kinda bad-ass in its simple, exuberantly violent way, the technicals are definitely some of the best in the downloadable realm, and the action never wavers are falters. That might be all you need to know. But in the end, Shank’s idiosyncrasies really start to mount up, and they hit an irksome peak once you near the end.

The multiplayer is also a little blasé, as the screen often downshifts into chaos; it’s often difficult to see everything that’s happening at once, and I noticed some hitches in that wonderful animation. Co-op is undeniably fun, though. I enthusiastically recommend the game provided one takes the following caveat into account: it’s gonna piss you off. You might bust a controller. If you’re good with that, and you still want to partake of the aforementioned pluses, be my guest.

8/30/2010 Ben Dutka

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Comments (28 posts)

Victor321
Monday, August 30, 2010 @ 10:13:02 PM
Reply

Great review, I knew a lot more about the game now than I did from other reviews.

I hope a VCII review comes up sometime Ben, as the game is out tomorrow ^.^

Last edited by Victor321 on 8/30/2010 10:13:21 PM

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Knightedrik
Monday, August 30, 2010 @ 10:20:56 PM
Reply

I enjoyed this game.. One of the best PSN titles yet.

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NonProphet
Monday, August 30, 2010 @ 10:53:49 PM
Reply

Sounds like this game really pissed you off, Ben. I guess if it makes you want to pull your hair out, it doesn't matter how good it looks.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, August 30, 2010 @ 11:23:18 PM

Well, it pissed me off in a good way. If it had been in a bad way, there's no way it would've gotten an 8.

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just2skillf00l
Monday, August 30, 2010 @ 11:48:14 PM
Reply

Wow! After watching the trailer I was surprised to view such a visually polished PSN title (excluding disc-based games). It looks insanely good and the combat seems to be pleasing as well! I'll hold back on this though and wait for a price drop. In current times survival triumphs over complacent activities. But still I'm surprised how this title slipped passed my quality games radar. It must be time for an upgrade.

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sunspider13
Monday, August 30, 2010 @ 11:48:44 PM
Reply

It looks like a throw back to my Double Dragon days at the arcade. I'll get this when I get a bigger HD.

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NonProphet
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 1:47:19 PM

I used to play Double Dragon on Gameboy back in the day. That's kind of enough to make me want to get this.

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just2skillf00l
Monday, August 30, 2010 @ 11:50:55 PM
Reply

BTW...is this a new developer? I don't believe I've ever heard of Klei Entertainment? Anybody got a clue? I'll be keeping a sharp eye out for any further activity from this developer.

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kevinater321
Monday, August 30, 2010 @ 11:55:13 PM
Reply

I loved the demo but i just bought motorstorm 3d rift so i can't get a psn game for a while.

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Scarecrow
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 12:08:19 AM
Reply

This game's so inspired by the SNES era and the beat 'em up genre.

I might get it, the backgrounds though not detailed are very engaging in a silent kind of way.

I actually like simple backgrounds in 2D games because it creates this feeling that it's only you against the world kinda feel. Too much stuff on the screen it just becomes a pain to follow.

Anyway good review, I'll see when I can get it.

This and Scott Pilgrim VS the world really show how good 2D is. I just wish they'd start making these games full fledged blu-ray games and not PSN games.

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Lawless SXE
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 1:47:39 AM
Reply

Aww, Sony really should do a 'Best of PSN Vol. 1' for those of us who are either unable or unwilling to purchase these titles online. That would most certainly be a D1P depending on what games were on it.

Great review as always, but you stuffed the beginning, it's now 2010, not 2009.
Peace.

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Orvisman
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 9:19:30 AM

I imported Wipeout Fury, PixelJunk Collection, and R&C: Quest For Booty on BluRay from the U.K.; and I plan to buy Pain and The Last Guy on BluRay. It seems Sony will release some of these PSN games on BluRay in Japan and the U.K., just not here in the States.

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BikerSaint
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 2:29:16 PM

Lawless,
Yes, make us a nice series of maybe 6 or more PSN games on 1 Bluray disc for sure!!!!



Last edited by BikerSaint on 8/31/2010 2:30:19 PM

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Kr3sn1k
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 1:52:36 AM
Reply

Really enjoy playing this game only thing i really didn't like was the voice acting but i suppose it did fit the game other than that it really is extremely enjoyable.

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___________
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 2:52:04 AM
Reply

ive been really looking forward to this since its a side scrolling platformer, one of the best and most deserted genres!
shame i wont be able to download it for a while.
when will developers learn not everyone lives in Japan with unlimited download usages?
when will they learn there effectively cutting their sales base in half?
sure, its cheaper to release a game on PSN instead of retail, but is it really that much cheaper to combat the sales lost?
i mean look at every game these days, 99% of them easily sell 1M units!
now, can anyone mention a PSN title that has matched that?
if i remember right joe danger by far the best PSN game out there has only sold 10s of thousands of units, minuscule in comparison to what it could of sold if released at retail!

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Underdog15
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 8:24:52 AM

I wouldn't buy either of them retail from a store. I might download them, however.

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___________
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 8:45:01 AM

why?
if you purchase a game online.
A you cant get any money back what so ever if you dont like it, at least if you bought it at retail you can trade it in or sell it on ebay.
B you can trade in other games you have to save a little cash.
i see no benefit of buying online except you can do it from the comfort of your home, but how hard is it to go for a drive to the shops?

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Orvisman
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 9:19:08 AM

I actually have to agree with ______ here because I prefer my games on disc compared to download. That, however, doesn't stop me from buying all the PSN/Wiiware/XBLA games I want though because Verizon Fios doesn't have a cap here in the U.S.

Still, I would prefer to have them on disc. I imported Wipeout Fury, PixelJunk Collection, and R&C: Quest For Booty on BluRay from the U.K.; and I plan to buy Pain and The Last Guy on BluRay. It seems Sony will release some of these PSN games on BluRay in Japan and the U.K., just not here in the States.

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FullmetalX10
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 6:35:04 AM
Reply

I enjoyed the demo, so if I can convince ma bud to split it, we'll probably get it.
Game sharing is a lovely feature.

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dkmrules
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 10:10:51 PM

how do you share games?

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Lotusflow3r
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 6:53:25 AM
Reply

"Heck, such people might even enjoy such a trait as it really makes the game feel…well, retro"

....And that's exactly why i love it. It's ol' school.....that's where i'm from, they got this game's feel down to the ol' school "T"! I MISS the ol' challenging difficulties and wish games today weren't so, so easy or held my hand.

I also disagree with the music criticism, heavy metal would seriously ruin it and majorly oppose the direction they went in. The music as is is incredible, one of the 1st things that jumped out at me. I sat listening to the spanish blues for ages!

Everything else, i agree.

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Scarecrow
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 11:27:37 AM

Most games these days dare not make you repeat a whole level or truly earn your power ups, etc.

I'm like you, old-school SNES is the best kind.

Really hope to see more games like this, specially in 2D.

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RebelJD
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 12:19:45 PM
Reply

I tried out the demo and though the games animation looks really nice, the game play lacked. I had this constant urge to roll during fights and the right joystick does nothing, pretty lame. On top of that, the music sucks, too quite and that makes the game seem unpleasant and dull. At least thru the demo stages it was that way, which was enough to give me a first impression.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 3:08:36 PM

You know, I saw other critics complaining that the right analog didn't do anything...but I'm confused as to how Shank bears any resemblance whatsoever to 3D action games like God of War III. I would never even think to look for a roll...Double Dragon didn't have a roll.

In fact, none of the old-school games that are most similar to this one ever had any such option. I thought about this a bit before writing, actually.

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ColTater
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 3:42:22 PM

Although there is a guard button, a roll would be nice come to think of it, if only to add a little new school feel into a retro style game. It would also help out when things get hectic and sometimes you can't tell where you are at amongst all the enemies. It could also add to the combo meter to keep it going ala GOW.

Last edited by ColTater on 8/31/2010 3:43:46 PM

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DazeOfWar
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 @ 9:27:27 PM
Reply

Another great review Ben. I've only played a little so far but I have loved it.

Funny thing about this game is that 2 days ago somebody friend requested me and asked if they could download this off of me. I just thought it was so funny that someone thought I was dumb enough to give them my account info. Specially someone I have never met before.

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GuinnessGulper
Wednesday, September 01, 2010 @ 4:04:01 PM
Reply

Cheap Editor Note: You used i.e. where you should have used e.g. ;0)

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Drake88
Friday, September 03, 2010 @ 12:02:00 PM
Reply

It is a hard ass game, even on normal. i'm beating it on hard now which is pissing me off more than on normal... :(

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