Take the bloody action of a Tarantino flick, meld it with the best in action cartoons, overlay it with a fast-paced 2D brawler game mechanic, and you know what to expect out of Shank. With both a single-player and multiplayer campaign and plenty of unlocks, Shank cuts a bloody swath to establish an identity on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.
Shank is a wronged man. As the south-of-the-border single-player story starts, there’s not much else to go on. But wherever that anger comes from, it has him mowing down gang members with chainsaws and using shotguns to make his point. Something awful has happened to him and someone he loves, and the world will pay one way or another.
The 2D action heats up from the very beginning, with gory battles against a teeming cartel of armed thugs. Combat is fast and fierce, and the amusing variety of devastating attacks and kill animations steal the show. Tight controls and a great combo system hit a bump due to some questionable button mapping, like the item pick-up button doubling as the main melee button. There are also a number of frustrating sequences involving poor enemy placement and bosses that take too many of the same patterned attacks to finish off. On the other hand, the challenge is high, which is ideal for gamers looking for a real fight.
An entire second campaign is available to play cooperatively with a friend. Though many of the environments are reused, the enemy encounters and bosses are unique to each campaign, and the multiplayer plot provides the backstory to the larger single-player adventure you just finished.
Shank suffers from too much repetition, even for a brawling fighter, but it gets high points for style and its gritty, dark subject matter. This is a game you can sink your teeth into and bask in its wild aggression.