When playing Shank, you are experiencing the video game equivalent of Kill Bill. The story is style and the plot is so perfunctory that Shank and friends usually only mention it in passing on the way to rejoinders. Unfortunately for Shank it’s missing what Kill Bill served up in excess; variety. When Tarantino embarked on his 4 hour martial arts film, he chose to touch base with many different genre pastiches from anime to Bronson revenge thriller. Shank lands like a meteor in its gritty Mexicali cartel trappings and stays put there over the course of about three hours.
Similarly evocative of movement without progress is the combat gameplay, which tasks you with button mashing your way through endless waves of 70’s and 80’s goons. To the game’s credit the pallet swaps are interesting and the variety of goons will change up your target choice. Once you get to said target though, you’ll mostly be hitting square and triangle over and over again inbetween button mashing dodge. Can you slash away the lifebar of Dirk before Derk attacks you? If you space out and focus on managing the flow of combat there is some macro level zen to be had, especially since the cell shaded art is very pleasing. Speaking of flow, I found myself sprinting through the entire game unconciously.
Forgiving checkpoints help smooth over much of the frustration, which is exacerbated in parts by goofy platforming and input lag. The shank comes out fast but each gun takes almost a full second to fire. Guess what’s going on the bookshelf in the heat of combat? Making a cameo from the NES days, bottom-less pits and damaging detritus that hit stuns you into them does no one any favors. These quibbles and the bloodlust make Shank a dead ringer for a 2-dimensional ‘God of War’, another game that asks you to context kill bosses, awkwardly jump chasms, and grind away on lesser enemies with weapons of presumably butter-knife sharpness. However the transformation is incomplete leaving the game somewhat spare. At 3 hours it just understays its welcome, but the mindless bloodlust doesn’t leave much of an impression.