‘How My Chainsaw Got All This Blood On It, Officer’

It’s been a while since an X-box Live Arcade title has caught my attention enough to justify buying the full game, but within roughly 35 seconds of playing Shank, I knew i was going to.

It follows the story of blade-wielding, borderline psychotic 80’s action throwback ‘Shank’, a man who was wronged in a tragic, formulaic past event that left him broken, betrayed and supposedly dead. But, being the double-hard bastard he is, he survives and sets about confronting his ‘killers’ in an improbably bloody campaign of vengeance.

The first thing you’ll notice about Shank is how eye-gasmically sexy it all looks. The eponymous muscle-bound hero is stunningly crisp and well rendered, ready for action, his scowel firmly set in place and his blades gripped tight. The comic-book graphics are indeed pleasing to behold, the backgrounds are well-crafted and diverse, and the animation is fluid and smooth, but it’s when Shank starts to get violent that it really shines.

Sometimes, a picture says more than you ever possibly could. This is one of those times.

There are multitude of pleasant (or, more accurately, horrific) ways of killing your enemies that will both amaze and arouse you in equal measure (maybe not the latter), with Shank packing heat in the forms of a big piss-off knife, a big piss-off pair of guns and, perhaps most excitingly, a big piss-off chainsaw, and that’s only for starters. There are several more weapons to unlock as you progress, each one adding a new and more satisfying spectrum of pain for you to dish out.

While it’s all well and good for your toys to be exciting, the real test is how those toys feel when you use them. Shank certainly has no major problems, and surprisingly, the combat is near flawless in the way it feels. Combos flow smoothly and effortlessly, a bloody ballet that throws bullets and blades around the screen like confetti at a wedding. It’s satisfying to chain massive combos together by launching unfortunate victims in the air and juggling them with your pistols, and it’s even possible to switch weapons, using the D-pad, midway through combos to make you feel totally and utterly badass.

There are several platforming sections throughout the campaign mode that can be frustratingly tricky due to a jittery collision detection system, but they are more minor aggravations than game-ruining cock ups.

Shank even offers the option to double up the carnage with a co-op mode, playing through what is essentially a prequel to the main game, bringing two people together in a glorious and violent matrimony. It doesn’t treat you and your chosen partner gently either, the difficulty gets ramped up to accomodate another player, and the bosses dont pull any punches in their quest to smash your face up.

Overall, Shank is a fun and bloody good time, harkening back to an era when heroes came with more muscles than a horses leg and more weapons strapped to those muscles than a small militia. A few other extras like unlockable costumes (including a ‘DeathSpank’ one) help to keep you coming back for more, but when a game looks and plays this good, what possible reason could you have not to?



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