Gears of War 2 was the most misogynistic game I’ve ever had the displeasure of playing, and it had one of the worst attempts at a story that I can recall. Then I played Shank. The only really redeeming quality of this game is the art, which looks fantastic. In terms of narrative, combat, controls, and everything else needed to make a game great, Shank fumbles, wasting the three hours I invested in beating the game.
The combat in Shank was clumsy and imprecise, with hit-boxes and collision detection that felt like they were being generated by an invisible dice rolling system. The gore, over-the-top violence and visual style could have been what made this beat-em-up stand out, but instead it’s the shoddy control system that ties picking health items up with the default melee button that will help Shank live on in my memory.
Oh, and the worst cutscene ever scripted:
I’ve seen quite a bit of wonky videogame logic in my time, but Shank magically freeing himself and then replacing a boss that took significant effort to beat just prior to the scene is officially the stupidest thing I’ve seen in any kind of entertainment media, anime included.
Videogames don’t have any kind of significant history when it comes to portrayals of women, but some titles like Mass Effect and Beyond Good & Evil break the mold and present strong, interesting, and non-sexualized woman characters. Shank shreds any such progress with a vigor that seems almost too complete to be a simple mistake on the part of the developers.
Shank’s motivation from the opening cutscene is revenge for the rape and murder of his lover. The game tells the tale of Shank killing everyone that was involved in the act. When Shank borrowed heavily from Tarantino’s masterful Kill Bill series that turned the revenge trope on its head and showed a mother’s love for her child, the project replaced anything interesting with simple woman-hating.
There’s one scene where the protagonist is on the screen and some of the women aren’t being beaten or killed. Some of the women that Shank fights must be entertainers by night and monks mastering the ancient art of stripper-pole fu by day. The villains aren’t even ever shown killing a woman, which paints Shank as a protagonist in a very interesting light. The only women he doesn’t beat (or that don’t provoke him) are in cages. If the shoddy storytelling didn’t try to otherwise make Shank out to look like a “good guy” there would be something to comment on here, but that’s just not the case.
One of the bosses, Cassandra, gets her face cut by Shank right before the rape-murder. Unlike a villain with any substance (like from Kill Bill), this alone is what haunts her and what she comments on. It’s predictable and just plain boring, but in line with the rest of what Shank has to offer.
After much repetitive combat with guys that look the same you finally get to the last boss. It’s an epic showdown not because of the fight itself or how the story gets resolved, but instead the twist, which I’ll let Shank spoil in his own words:
I guess to Shank, and his ex-boss, women only have value when they’re making babies. I was utterly shocked to hear him admit that he couldn’t kill his girlfriend because she was pregnant though, and not because he loved her or some ridiculous nonsense like that. Words fail me.
I think I’ve wasted enough time and effort on Shank. Normally I don’t feel bad for throwing money at game devs, but in this case I’m making an exception.