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PAX ’09 – Shank

PAX 2009

While wandering the show floor at PAX this past weekend, one game jumped out immediately to me and that game was Shank. Having never heard of or seen the game before, I was really excited to get some hands-on with the sidescrolling action title.

At first glance Shank might appear to be just another highly stylized gore fest. After all, Shank is packing dual pistols, grenades, a chainsaw and, you guessed it, a pair of shanks. If that isn’t enough he’ll pull a shotgun out on occasion during the various grapple animations to put down his opponents. Having this large arsenal available to our hero from the get go allowed me to unleash some truly insane combinations, which includes air combos and various ways to juggle and catch enemies. The sheer variety of ways to cut through the bad guys in the demo was an absolute joy and it was obvious the developers on hand really enjoyed seeing the unique combos people were coming up with.

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The other thing that is really striking about Shank is the art style and animation. The game has a very distinct cartoon look with thugs that look ripped straight out of Saturday morning’s best. In fact, I got a Brock Samson vibe from the entire game. Really though, it’s the crisp silhouette based key poses of Shank and his enemies that sell the title. Not only did I have a blast coming up with combos but I was immediately in love with many of his exaggerated key poses, most notably his John Woo gun dive and pounce.

In the short time I had with Shank I was also able to see some simple platforming, which consisted of jumping, wall running, climbing and swinging. It certainly didn’t seem that these sections would end up being too prevalent in the final build but it was nice to have some breaks in between the armies of thugs.

The biggest highlights of the demo included a section where all the characters were only shown in black silhouettes and the hulking boss Toro. Now I know that the silhouette thing has been done before and some people might even claim that it’s played out, but it really makes sense in Shank. The silhouettes really reinforce just how good the animation actually is, plus it’s totally badass. As for the other literally big moment, Toro stands at least twice as high as Shank and pushing a rough estimated five-hundred pounds of pure muscle. Fortunately for Shank and I, none of those pounds appeared to have been devoted to brain power because Toro was very happy to slam himself into walls leaving him stunned. Once stunned you could grapple him which led to an absolutely hilarious scripted animation of Shank jumping on top of the brute and plunging his chainsaw into the back of his neck for major damage. After Toro’s energy was depleted I was able to grab him one final time which triggered a cut-scene animation of Shank shoving a grenade into the big man’s mouth and then diving away guns a blazing. I think it’s safe to say you won’t be seeing much more of Toro after that point in the game.

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Even though I really didn’t get to spend a great deal of time with Shank it was easily one of my favorite titles at PAX. The game was still extremely early according to Klei Entertainment and they haven’t even actually announced what platform(s) the title is coming to. Seems safe to assume XBLA but the game was being run out of a cardboard box with a huge question mark on it. No matter what the game lands on, I can assure you I’ll be ready and itching to kill a ton of guys in preposterous but elegant ways.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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