After purchasing both Modnation Racers and Mafia II this weekend, I was fairly sure that I had enough to keep me occupied for the next week at least. Upon booting up the Playstation 3, I also downloaded what was to be one of the greatest surprises of the year so far: Shank. Capturing the simplicity of classic 2D brawlers, as well as adding competent platforming action to complement and punctuate the violence; Shank is the best downloadable title since Battlefield 1943. I say this as a heavy consumer of downloadable titles, as well as one who very rarely completes these (usually) bite-sized gaming experiences.
Shank plays like Final Fight crossed with Mirror's Edge and Devil May Cry. Swordplay (and chainsawplay) and gunplay are merged seamlessly into a beautiful ballet of blades and bullets. Boss fights, while difficult, usually have a recognisable pattern and seldom feel cheap. The art direction and the quality of animation on display is a true visual treat. Blood is in ample supply, and some of the attacks are unbelievably brutal. There are some standout moments when sprites are blackened (a la Kill Bill), and all that can be seen is the occasional muzzle flash and shower of crimson. I thought I would be playing this for a few minutes before moving onto some of the year's more acclaimed titles, but it really sucked me in. I've truly enjoyed Shank, all three and a half hours of it. Is it worth 20 dollars (or 1200 MSP)? I would argue in its favour, as I had a great deal of fun for the majority of the experience.
For all of my gushing above, please do not purchase Shank under the impression that you will be playing a perfect game. The sound design is truly uninspired, and the music rarely matches the intensity of the action on-screen. The story is not overly original, and the dialogue is rarely anything other than roars and screams of anguish. The game also features some examples of poor level design, with overly lengthy climbing sections and cheap deaths aplenty. Shank is also host to the most frustrating boss fight in recent memory. The final confrontation has me beat. I'm not giving up, but last night I came close to destroying my lovely TV with a lightweight Sixaxis controller.
Crtitical opinion on this game is mixed, but I am fairly sure that most would enjoy this brawler. It's dark, but distinctive visuals are a joy to behold and the action rarely lets up. There are some frustrations to be found, but if you are looking for a short, enjoyable thrill-ride; I highly recommend it.
What did you guys play this weekend?