IGN Review of Condemned 2: Bloodshot
If it came down to it, would you be willing to rip your toilet seat off of its hinges to beat down a frenzied meth addict? You'd better be prepared to answer 'yes' to that question if you're going to take a swing at Condemned 2: Bloodshot. The sequel to Monolith and SEGA's Xbox 360 launch title returns to the seedy underworld for more first-person melee combat with a hint of horror. Ok, it's more than a hint. Condemned 2 offers up the same formula that made the first game a success and tackles every criticism levelled at the franchise with success in most areas. It's not the perfect sequel, but it'll do for those of us that found the first a refreshing alternative to the standard first-person formula.
Condemned 2 picks up several months after the first game ended. Ethan Thomas, our unlikely hero, has fallen on hard times since leaving his job as an SCU agent. The alcoholic stupor he lives in has taken its toll and this game finds him battling demons both real and imaginary. Things are bad for Mr. Thomas. Not quite Leaving Las Vegas bad, but the sauce has become such a part of his life that he can't hold a gun steady without first downing a bottle. It's a sad state of affairs, but an interesting gameplay mechanic to be sure.
Against Ethan's will, Condemned 2 drags the protagonist back into action. Things start with a search for the missing Van Horn, an old friend of Ethan's. As a survival horror game, it should come as no surprise that things get crazy fast and the story quickly diverts down a supernatural path. The narrative of Condemned: Criminal Origins imploded towards the end of the game, leaving many confused as to what the ending meant. You won't have that problem with the sequel. Of course, the first game was never released on PS3 so comparisons are a bit moot. The sequel can stand on its own but it certainly is more enjoyable if you have the first game under your belt. Regardless, the story here is presented in a more focused manner with cutscenes book ending each chapter and an easy to follow tale that continues to unfold as you play.
A focused story is not always a better one. While Condemned 2 starts off with a bang, the story is oddly unsatisfying by the end. Perhaps this is because Monolith had to at once tie up all of the loose ends (of which there were many) of the first game and create a stand alone story for new initiates. Or it may be because some parts of Condemned 2 appear written into the story simply because the level designers had a good idea. I'm looking at you Magicman. Whatever the reason may be, Condemned 2 doesn't have the sense of urgency or power that the first game did.
Even so, the tale does have its high points. There are moments you'll never see coming that are very cool and memorable in all the right ways. I'll keep this review as spoiler free as possible, but know that Condemned 2 takes Ethan beyond the city limits into a number of attractive and twisted environments.
Or course, the first Condemned didn't become a moderate hit because of the story. It was the unique first-person melee take on the survival horror genre that caused it to make a splash. Monolith has taken this concept and run with it. The combat system is fleshed out with combos, environmental finishers, brutal quick time event special attacks and good old fashioned fisticuffs. This is a huge leap up from the first game and continues to be a great alternative to traditional first-person shooters.
Like the story, the combat loses its way a tad as the game moves along. By the end, you'll have been tossed into a number of situations where gunplay takes on too much significance for a game that supposedly isn't about shooting. If guns are your thing, you can even unlock a first-person shooter mode by completing the game once. Still, nothing beats the grotesque satisfaction Condemned 2 provides with its weapons of convenience. Toilet seats, bowling balls, broadswords and more are all in play and all a great deal of fun to wield or hurl at an oncoming lunatic.
Another area of success is the improved forensics. The crime scene investigations are an involved process in the sequel -- you won't simply point a tool at a dead body and learn its mysteries. Condemned 2 requires you to use your noggin. You won't have to pull any Law and Order knowledge out (unless you consider Ice-T's character the brains of the operation), but you will be graded on your ability to make observations and simple inferences. Occasionally you'll be given a list of questions to ask with a somewhat arbitrary "perfect" answer, but on the whole this is a great game mechanic and adds to the immersion level quite well. There's a bonus to doing well here, too. These investigations, along with meeting bonus objectives and finding all of the collectibles in a stage, are summed up into one grade that determines how good of an upgrade you receive for your job well done.
A game like Condemned 2 lives and dies on its level of immersion, so the new investigative sequences are a nice touch. There are a few small things in the game that can bring you out of the creepy spell Condemned 2 casts. The framerate drops occasionally, though not drastically. This problem is a bit more noticeable on PS3 than Xbox 360, but not game killing in either case. Object physics also sometimes felt a bit off, or were broken. We saw a few weapons and objects hovering impossibly in the air a couple times and we're pretty sure that an empty cardboard box on the ground should not impede our progress until being swatted out of the way. The animations of other people, particularly SCU agents, leave something to be desired as well and the load times in between deaths are a little too long to keep you engrossed in the dark world. These are small gripes though and mostly fade into the background when compared to the good things Monolith has done.
With all that has been updated, changed and improved in Condemned 2, there are some things that haven't changed. That's a good thing since the first game had a lot going for it. The sound is as impressive as ever. The game makes full use of your 5.1 surround system to keep you on the edge of your seat. It should go without saying that the fright effects sound great, but Monolith went the extra step here. A simple fistfight becomes so much more as the game adds aural effects to the soundtrack to complement your actions.
The graphics look good, particularly the artistic direction, and do great service towards creating an aura of fear. And there are many genuinely creepy moments in the game. The designers have a fantastic grasp of what can, and should, be done with a horror videogame. The atmosphere is there with troubling graffiti, oil seeping from the walls and ceiling and splashes of strange reddish liquids that can only be fluids meant to be kept inside the human body. The goal was to make a world gone awry and success was had. I mean, you go to a bowling alley in Trenton at one point. Case closed.
The experience doesn't end when the campaign is over, though the extras aren't nearly as strong. First is the Bloodshot Fight Club. These small missions are a quick way to hop into some psycho-slaughtering action. Each has a specific goal for you to tackle and see how you stack up against the online leaderboards. These little arena brawls are a nice distraction, but little more than that in the long run.
There's also a multiplayer game for up to 8 people online or through system link. We experienced some mild lag in a few games that we played on PS3. A first-person melee-centric multiplayer game might sound fun, but it isn't all that hot. The deathmatch modes are a confused cluster-fudge. There's really only one game type worth playing. It's called Crime Scene and it pits a team of crazies against some SCU agents. The goal of the afflicted is to prevent the SCU from finding a box with a head in it, which they can do by moving the box at any time or putting down emitters to mess with the SCU's equipment. Even with this fun idea, I can't see the Condemned 2 multiplayer community really taking off.
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