Earlier this week, EA and Klei Entertainment announced Shank 2, a sequel to the well-received downloadable title. Shank 2 still sports a violent and animated style, but not everything is staying the same for this bloody brawler.
If you enjoyed the gonzo gunplay and brutality of Shank, don't worry. That isn't going anywhere. In the single-player level I ran through, Shank sliced through countless enemy soldiers, stuffed a chainsaw into their stomachs, and used them as human shields. The basic gameplay still brings to mind the chaos of side-scrolling arcade shooters, and it feels like an action-packed and gory cartoon.
As Shank runs across burning rooftops wiping out the bad guys, I notice a handful of changes to the combat. The grab maneuver is much more useful, acting as a effective counter as well as a fun way to mix up your assault. Shank can also pick up a variety of weapons from fallen foes, including limited-use heavy weapons. I grabbed a huge shovel off of a musclebound dude, and by performing a heavy attack while jumping, brought the massive implement down on a line of advancing thugs. The animations for all of these moves is well done, conveying brutal satisfaction with every kill.
At the end of the level, I encounter a boss with a giant flamethrower. One of the complaints the original Shank was the difficulty of the boss fights, but the team at Klei Entertainment seems to have addressed the issue. The battle isn't easy, but it doesn't require the same degree of repetition as the last game. After grabbing and tossing some exploding containers at the brute (and shooting some when he's underneath), Shank is triumphant. However, it requires a lot of deft flame-dodging along the way.
The single-player mode feels like a more refined version of its predecessor, but the co-op mode is completely different. Instead of having specially designed co-op missions, you team up with a buddy locally or online to defeat waves of oncoming enemies. As your foes air-drop into the arena, your job is to mow them down and prevent specialized bombers from setting up explosives on three piles of crates. You accrue money along the way, which you can use to buy special weapons (like turrets and air strikes) to gain an edge, but you can also spend your cash on healing items. Survival is the name of the game, and things get hectic as you progress, increasing the importance of spending your money wisely and using your items well. It may not have the crafted and story-driven feeling present in the first game's co-op, but it definitely has more replay potential.
I never managed to play all the way through the original Shank, but I enjoyed what I played. My time with Shank 2 not only got me pumped for the sequel, but also made me consider giving the first one another shot.