Shank (video game)
Cover art featuring Jeff Agala
|Genre(s)||Action, beat 'em up, hack & slash|
Shank is a 2D side-scrolling action beat 'em up video game developed by Canadian independent studio Klei Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts in 2010. It was released on August 24 for the PlayStation 3, on August 25 for the Xbox 360, and on October 26 for Microsoft Windows. In December 2011, it was re-released as part of the collection Humble Indie Bundle 4.
The game features melee and ranged combat, as well as acrobatic gameplay. Its plot was penned by the God of War series' co-writer Marianne Krawczyk and tells the tale of the ex-hitman Shank's quest for revenge in the single-player campaign, also featuring a prequel story in the form of a cooperative multiplayer campaign for two players.
Shank received mixed reviews, but generally positive reception overall. Critics generally praised the art style of both the gameplay and cutscenes, however some critics felt the game had uneven level design and repetitive gameplay. The game was commercially successful, selling tens of thousands of copies and remaining in the top 20 Xbox Live Arcade games during September 2010. It was followed by a sequel, Shank 2, released in 2012 for the same gaming platforms as the first game.
Shank is a side-scrolling beat 'em up with a comic book art style. In the game the player controls Shank, an ex-mob hitman. The game features three main types of weaponry: a pair of knives, heavy melee weapons (the starting one is a chainsaw) and firearms (the starting one is a pair of pistols). Each weapon is assigned to a controller button, and the attacks can be combined to perform various combos. The player can collect temporary-use weaponry from fallen enemies, such as machine guns, rifles and hand grenades.
Shank has other attacks such as multiple grapple attacks, throw enemies, and is able to perform a pounce maneuver, in which he jumps in the air and lands on a nearby enemy. Some acrobatic abilities can also be performed, such as swinging from lampposts or other tall structures, and running along the front of things such as billboards. On-screen enemies each have a health bar that displays on the player's HUD, akin to Final Fight.
Shank features a cooperative campaign designed to be played locally, which is a prequel to the single-player campaign. The multiplayer allows players to play as Shank and his partner-in-crime named Falcone. In this mode players are often required to work as a team to accomplish objectives, such as defeating level bosses. Players can combine moves for special attacks with the characters perform together. Also available is the ability to revive a fallen teammate should they die in combat.
The story of Shank is told in two parts, single-player campaign, and a cooperative campaign, which serves as a prelude to the former. It follows the character Shank (voiced by Marcel Davis) from his time as a hitman in the mob through his revenge on the same mob for the murder of his girlfriend Eva (voiced by Becky Poole).
The cooperative campaign begins with Shank and fellow hitman Falcone (voiced by Gavin Cummins) as they head to Cassandra's (voiced by Sheila Goold) strip club, which has been overrun by a biker gang. As they arrive she is kidnapped by the biker leaders. Shank and Falcone chase them to a back alley and kill one, leaving the other for Cassandra. The pair then head to a wrestling match that their mob boss Cesar had rigged. The Butcher (voiced by Dave White) was supposed to lose the fight, but the wrestler instead decides to defeat his opponent. Shank and Falcone are ordered to teach the Butcher a lesson. Later, Cesar phones the two hitmen and asks them to go and oppose a priest and the members of his congregation. They succeed in kidnapping the priest, Father Gomez (voiced by Steve Lange), taking him to Cesar (voiced by Dave White) and his cousin Angelo (voiced by Tim Gouran). Angelo shoots the priest in the face, much to Shank's disapproval; he then dons the dead priest's garments and takes his place in order to make the murder go undetected.
Afterward, Falcone calls Shank about an important hit: the deputy mayor is in town and he must be eliminated. By taking him out, the mob will be able to gain control. Shank and Falcone kill the deputy's final bodyguard, and are about to take the deputy out when Eva is taken hostage. Suddenly Shank is full of doubt, and is not able to pull the trigger. Rudy (voiced by David Goldstein), Cesar's personal assistant, kills the deputy mayor, threatening to kill Eva since she's deemed as a nuisance. Shank quickly dives in front of her and kills him. Realizing they must flee, Eva and Shank drive off into the sunset. The player then hears the voice of Cesar who tells his assassins to find and kill them.
The single player campaign begins as Shank walks into a bar looking for vengeance for Eva, his murdered girlfriend. He asks the bartender where he can find a wrestler named the Butcher. He pulls down a poster of a fight that mentions the Butcher's next fight. As he leaves the bartender reports to Cesar about Shank's return. As Shank makes his way to the wrestling arena, the player learns through flashbacks that the Butcher had kidnapped Eva. Shank arrives at the arena and confronts the Butcher, killing him. He soon realizes that he killed an impersonator, as the dead fighter does not have the same tattoo as the Butcher. He discovers that the Butcher is in another town and travels there.
After a violent train ride Shank arrives at a meat factory, the Butcher's hideout. The Butcher reveals that he killed Eva and taunts Shank, stating that he enjoyed every second of it. Shank and the Butcher fight, with Shank finally choking him with a chain. He then makes his way to Club Stardust, a strip club owned by Cassandra. Shank meets with Cassandra at which point a flashback shows that as Cassandra was about to kill Eva with her katana, Shank stopped her, slicing the right of her face and leaving a large scar. He kills Cassandra and escapes the club. In a nearby bar he encounters a man from the Venom gang named Mello (voiced by Eric Reidman) who has information. The player learns through another flashback that Shank used to be part of a mob ruled by a man named Cesar. However, when Cesar asked Shank to kill Eva as a test of loyalty, Shank refused and Cesar ordered his top men to track down and kill them both.
He follows an ex-friend from his former mobster life to track down "Father" Angelo. He soon catches up with his prey, severs his left arm and tells him to tell Angelo that he's coming. Shank follows the trail of blood left by the mobster which leads to a church. At the church Shank has another flashback, which shows that Angelo lit Shank's house on fire, ensuring Eva could not be saved. As Shank fights through the church, Angelo attacks him with a rocket launcher. Shank battles him, gaining the upper hand, but Angelo fires a rocket causing a church bell to fall on Shank, knocking him unconscious. He wakes up strapped to an electric chair, face to face with Cesar. After Cesar leaves Shank frees himself, then ties Angelo to the chair and electrocutes him.
Shank pursues Cesar to his villa, where the final showdown begins. As they fight, more of his past is revealed. Shank would have obeyed the order to kill Eva, but upon arriving Eva revealed that she was carrying his child. Shank explains that Cesar had always taught him the importance of family and so he did not kill her. Cesar replies that if he had known this things could have gone differently. As the fight nears its end, Shank is stabbed and shot multiple times in the chest. Despite this, he still manages to kill Cesar. The game ends as Shank walks towards the sunset, his revenge fulfilled.
Development and marketing
Development for Shank began in January 2009. The game was publicly announced at Penny Arcade Expo on September 4, 2009. On March 4, 2010 Klei Entertainment signed with Electronic Arts and were able to finalize which platforms the game would be released on. It was shown at the 2010 Game Developers Conference, showcasing where new features such as environment hazards and new types of enemies, such as attack dogs. Also showcased was the ability to throw enemies in to said environment hazards. It was then shown at E3 2010.
The idea for the game was created by Jeff Agala and Klei Entertainment CEO Jamie Cheng. Cheng described it as an "ode to Double Dragon with a Tarantino film feel to it." The story was written by God of War co-creator Marianne Krawczyk. Character designs were first created as paper drawings before being recreated via computer. Agala served as the game's creative director and was responsible for the primary design of the characters. Klei Entertainment artist Meghan Shaw was responsible for conceptualizing the level design for the game. The team used a combination of level and effects tools along with a custom flash pipeline for the animators to build assets in. The majority of the character animation was done by artist Aaron Bouthillier. The animation team was composed mainly of cartoon animators, making the flash asset pipeline more intuitive and production faster. Lighting in the game is also dynamic, with characters becoming darker when away from light sources, or appearing as silhouettes against a sunset background. The art style was influenced by Golden Age comics, Saturday morning cartoons and graphic novels.
On August 5, 2010, Klei Entertainment announced that they would release Shank original soundtrack for free to download on their official website, if 1,500 people joined their community on Facebook. They reached their goal in three hours. Subsequently the full soundtrack was remastered to be "suitable for consumption" and released free of charge on August 23, 2010. As a cross promotion for the game, the titular character from DeathSpank is available as one of Shank's alternate costumes.
Shank received mixed reviews from critics, but generally positive reception overall. The PlayStation 3 version holds a score of 75.86% at GameRankings, while the PC version holds a score of 76.33% and the Xbox 360 version a 75.11%. Metacritic reports similar scores, with the PlayStation 3 version averaging 75/100, the PC version 74/100, and the Xbox 360 version averaging 71/100.
Reviewers were universal in praising the game's art style. 1UP.com's Scott Sharkey called it "gorgeously, fluidly animated, in both its cut-scenes and within the actual gameplay." Joystiq's Justin McElroy stated "animations are so smooth between attacks that you scarcely get to enjoy snuffing out one human life before you're on to stabbing the next soon-to-be-ghost." Tom Mc Shea of GameSpot agreed, adding "colorful visuals and well-crafted cutscenes add a lot to the experience." Mc Shea also praised the cooperative campaign, stating it was the best aspect of the game. Sharkey further praised the cooperative campaign for its inclusion of a separate story, complete with cutscenes.
The game's gore and graphic display received mixed reception among critics. GamesRadar's Carolyn Gudmundson called it "embarrassing attempt at 'Mature' rating." McElroy was more forgiving, stating that the blood and gore has "a great Americanime, Samurai Jack-esque style that makes the murder look cool but never so real that you wonder about the families of the people you're beating to death." Sharkey expressed approval, stating Shank is "bloody, violent, adolescently indulgent, and absolutely beautiful in execution." Shea stated it is "a savage game that revels in the brutality of street fighting." A review by GameTrailers called Shank "a savage Saturday morning cartoon filled with blood, boobs and Berettas."
While some reviewers gave high marks for the game's control scheme and responsiveness, others expressed frustration with the same issues. Sharkey lauded the controls, saying they were "split-second responsive even with the absurd amount of lovingly rendered action happening on screen." Mc Shea criticized the controls, stating that they were inconsistent and did not respond at given times. Gudmundson echoed these comments, citing similar control issues. IGN's Arthur Gies was critical of the short three-hour campaign. GameTrailers' review likened the game to a cartoon series, then called it a "short season, [...] one that you can finish in a single sitting."
Over 9,200 units were sold on the Xbox 360 in the first week after the game's release,[note 1] and in August 2010 alone Shank sold 41,000 units on the Xbox 360. It also remained in the top 20 Xbox Live Arcade games for the month of September 2010. The game won the Canadian Game Development Talent Awards' "Animator of the Year" award for Aaron Bouthillier, and was also nominated for the 2010 Independent Games Festival's award for "Excellence in Visual Arts" and the Canadian Game Development Talent Awards' "Visual Artist of the Year" (for Jeff Agala).
The sequel was released in February 2012 for the same platforms (Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), also developed by Klei Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts. Shank 2 features a new multiplayer survival mode, updated combat mechanics and new weapons. Contrarily to the first game, Shank 2 lacks a cooperative story mode, instead offering a two-player survival mode. Klei Entertainment's Jamie Cheng said: "What we did was rip the game apart and reconstruct it to allow us to have more responsive controls and better graphics. We tore our combat system apart... and created new controls to be able to use the enemies' weapons against themselves."
The sequel takes place after the events of the original Shank. With his mentor figure Cesar dead, Shank heads back home to find that the cartels have been replaced by a military regime and his foster family is fighting to oppose the general who is slowly dying. These events have forced him to take a cruel but expedient measure to deal with the cartels. When Shank attempts to break past a military checkpoint, he becomes embroiled in a battle between the rebels and the army.
- Sales data for the first week was driven from the game's leaderboards, which only post a score once players complete the game, so actual sales are likely to be higher for this week.
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- Canadian Game Development Talent Awards - The winners are...
- January 2010 - Independent Games Festival
- Canadian Game Development Talent Awards finalists announced
- McWhertor, Michael (2011-09-27). "Bring A Friend Along for Shank 2's Brand of Shooting, Stabbing and Slicing". Kotaku. Retrieved 2011-09-28.