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Shank


Last seen on the Xbox Live Arcade in 2007 with the release of Eets: Chowdown, developer Klei Entertainment has been hard at work on Shank for the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network this week and the PC later in the year. Shank pays homage to all the beat em up brawlers and side-scrolling fighters of the past, wrapped in a beautiful design. The player is thrust into the role of the hard-nosed, incredibly angry Shank who is ready to take down some nasty dudes for revenge. The story is told in an incredibly violent, bloody light perhaps making it more similar to Tarantinoís Kill Bill movies than any game released in the past couple years.



The gameplay design is ultimately simple. Shank has to race through the side-scrolling world and take down the endless stream of enemies with all the weapons at his disposal. The combat system takes some getting used to, but is highly effective once you understand how to rack up combos. Thereís a deep level of combos that you can pull off and involves all the buttons / triggers on the controller. If you are a fighting junkie, thereís more to learn here than many mainstream $60 fighting games.

Thereís also a bevy of weaponry that gets introduced throughout the levels, chainsaws, katanas, knifes, pistols, shotguns, machetes, chainguns, explosives etcÖ You really have to memorize the timing on the different weapons to become effective in a major battle. Tearing through the levels filled with enemies eventually leads to the boss battle. Bosses are cartoonishly enormous compared to Shank; think the Batman versus a juiced up Bane. Every boss has a King Hippo style weakness, some easier to determine than others based of interpreting what can damage them within the environment. Bosses in the single player campaign are relatively easy to defeat once the weakness is learned, but certainly entertaining while it lasts.



The multiplayer mode in Shank is restricted to local co-op play only, but itís an entirely different campaign than the single player. Itís a prequel, covering the events that occurred leading up to the start of the single player campaign. Itís just as fun as the single player campaign, but the difficulty ramped up considerably considering there are two of you now. You have to dissect strategies for the boss battles, something that I havenít had the fun of doing since the Sega Genesis days. It would have been nice to have online multiplayer, but Iím guessing the frantic gameplay doesnít lend itself well to lag issues. The achievement set in Shank is actually pretty simple to complete, assuming you have someone to play the co-op campaign with. They are mostly for beating bosses, killing a certain number of enemies or finishing the two campaigns.

Graphics

  • Wow, the visuals in Shank are simply stunning for an Xbox Live title! The cartoon inspired design moves effortlessly around the screen and the animations are silky smooth. The cutscenes are equally as stylistic and violently bloody. Itís really evident that the developer took a painstakingly long time to create and polish the visual world, characters and animation effects in Shank.



Audio

  • The music in Shank sets the tone for the off-the-wall style of the game, mostly with the mariachi inspired guitar music. It sets the tone in the cutscenes as well. The voice acting is pretty lame, mostly due to a terrible script writer. The moronic lines would barely work in a crappy 80ís action movie, much less Shank.

Conclusion

There should really be a warning that comes with Shank. If you are terrible at side scrolling brawlers or your nearby co-op partner stinks as well, you are going to have a rough time finding enjoyment out of Shankís stylistic, fast paced gameplay. But I loved the single player campaign and the multiplayer co-op campaign, mostly because I spent my early days of gaming on fighters and barely still have the split-second reflexes to take on the hordes of enemies in Shank.

Thereís also a value question around Shank. Before spending the $15, you really need a qualified co-op player on hand locally to help you get your moneyís worth out of the game. You are really doing a disservice to yourself if you canít experience the entire multiplayer campaign. If you are only going to be playing the 2.5 hour single player campaign, I would wait until Shank goes on sale around $5 to $10 before snatching it up. In any case, lovers of old-school beat em ups and simply those looking for a quick blast of high intensity action are going to love the dazzling visual style and rewarding gameplay of Shank.

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