Game Opinion – Shank
Shank is a game of good concepts but some flawed executions. The core of the game is the combat system, where you enter the state of flow by combining together all the possible moves while avoiding attacks to deal with the enemies in the quickest, and visually stunning, way (the 2D graphic style really helps the ‘visually stunning’ part).
The problem is that you never really get fully into the flow. Dodge can be slightly so sluggish. Pounce attack can be incredibly imprecise, making you jump over all enemies (this is actually seen in the launch trailer as well). Animations sometimes don’t interrupt when you need them to, causing to take damage. But the most disappointing part for me must be the boss fights. Each boss has precisely just one strategy, which, once you figure it out, is the only thing you need to do throughout the fight. Except the final boss… that one doesn’t have any strategy at all.
And the PC version is a really strange port, even when playing with a controller. Because whenever an action prompt appears, it does so in form of an icon instead of a button. Some icons can be fairly similar, so it takes a while to get used to what action you’re supposed to be doing at which time (this applies mostly to contextual block and pounce actions).
What I find more interesting about the PC version is that apparently it got updated with reworked cutscenes, that cut out some details and change the flow of some story beats, and also remove some of the violence. And some people complain about that, saying that the update makes the story worse, so the developers from Klei have provided an option to change to the original cutscenes. And I must say, to me personally, Shank, the main character, is quite unlikeable in the original. Not because of violence even, but because of motivations.
In the reworked version that I’ve played, it’s a classic Tarantino-esque revenge story where the character was betrayed and goes on a rampage. It’s violent, but relatable. But in the original… Well, I’ll explain it in the next paragraph, there will be spoilers so skip it if you don’t want to read it.
Shank’s ex-boss, ex-mentor, and main antagonist, Cesar, ordered Shank to kill his wife to prove his loyalty to the crime family instead to an outsider. Shank didn’t do that because to him she was the family that mattered, and Cesar sent his henchmen to complete the task instead. In the original, though, there’s a scene and a flashback, where it’s revealed that Shank was actually intent on killing his wife, but didn’t do so only because when he got back home to do it she revealed that she was pregnant. So before she didn’t matter and it was fine to kill her, but now she matters and is suddenly family?
A thing like this, it can be considered a little detail, but it changes the whole perception of the character. I’m glad it got reworked, even though there might be a few holes in how the story’s told (though I wouldn’t call them noticeable), because original Shank is a total ass.
So with that in mind, even though the port to PC is strange, I would recommend this version instead of the X360/PS3 ones due to the reworked narrative. Shank is a fine game, fun for a walkthrough, even though the combat system that’s the point of the whole game is not as tight as it could’ve been. I hear though that Shank 2 has got the whole combat reworked, so am interested in trying that out.
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