Condemned 2: Bloodshot ReviewMatt Andrews
Horror films and horror games share just about everything in common, including the fact that a truly good one is tough to find. Monolith and Sega have teamed up again for the latest installment in the Condemned series, Condemned 2: Bloodshot, to once again try to strike gold in a coal mine.
Condemned 2: Bloodshot is considered a first-person survival game. Like the first game, it focuses primarily on a melee combat system, mixed with a healthy dose of truly scary horror. Youll be forced to smash your demonic enemies into submission, or theyll do so to you. As you progress through some of the games large and terrifying locations, youll have to grab whatever you can find to use as a weapon. Electrical conduit, nail ridden boards, swords, toilet seats, and everything in between are scattered around the environments for your bludgeoning pleasure.
Condemned 2 continues the story of the first game, and many fans will be happy to know that the story makes a bit more sense than its predecessor. Your character, Ethan Thomas is a former SCU agent, whose discharge was anything but honorable. Hes been sucked back onto the job to help SCU find a former friend Malcolm Van Horn. The game fully immerses you in your character, Ethan, by combining his survival abilities with his alcoholism and even the inclusion of a camera that rocks back and forth with Ethans limp as you move. Your time in Metro City will be spent trying to uncover the reason that the citys homeless have become psychotic killers. Without revealing too much, Condemned 2 provides an incredibly compelling, very unpredictable storyline, which would be impressive for any action game, but Condemned 2 does it even while dodging all the clichs horror game so often present.
Visuals, Sound & AI:
Visuals in Condemned 2: Bloodshot are nothing to write home about. The graphics in general could be described as good, maybe great, but anything more than that would be a real stretch. Environments are definitely the most visually pleasing aspect, offering nice textures, and strategic lighting and map design. Character appearances and movements leave a bit to be desired, but dont seem to detract from the experience. That being said though, the artists created some truly horrifying characters, creatures, and environments, which do a terrific job of adding to an engrossing game play experience. They often leave you the fateful choice of turning left or right, taking a pitch black hallway or the slightly lit one, and the maps do a good job of not letting you peak ahead down hallways and around corners (common, that would ruin half the fun!).
The audio picks up right where the visuals leave off. Melee sound effects are a highlight. Each time you connect to your enemies head with a lead pipe or metal bat, the ping of the metal, the crack of the skull, and the groans of your enemy sound just a bit different each time. Subtle sounds are constantly showing up throughout Condemned 2s story mode and add immensely to the haunting experience. Down every hall way there are footsteps to be heard, some yours, some not. The giggles of raving lunatics running around corners and through hallways keep you on the edge of your seat.
The AI in Condemned 2 is worth noting too. Enemies seem well-trained in the art of scaring the hell out of you. Youll see shadows of enemies crossing hallways ahead of you, sneaking between furniture, and waiting just around the corner at the end of that dark alley. Once you engage your foe, enemies will block, attack, and counter just like players can. The highlight of enemy AI is that you will be snuck up on from behind, and when you run, your enemies take the opportunity to hide themselves to strike again.
Overall, the game effectively combines some creative, well-rendered environments, with some great AI, and convincing sound effects to create a truly haunting game play experience. The game prides itself on being a true horror game, and it definitely nails the scare-factor.
The control system is in depth, comfortable, and unless playing on the easiest level, encourages gamers to learn and use the combo system and special finishing moves. Melee combat lets you throw right and left hooks and jabs, block punches, disarm enemies, and stomp them on the ground all with individual controls. When you combine this intricate control system with the reality that youre smashing some sort of hellish creature across the head with a cinderblock, the result is pure melee combat perfection! The game introduces you to guns in the second mission, which will come as a great comfort for jittery newcomers to the horror genre. Many fans will prefer a nice metal baseball bat over any of the guns, and the game certainly leaves you the option to shoot or smash throughout most of its levels.
Most of your time in Condemned 2: Bloodshot will be spent roaming Metro City, completing objectives given to you by SCU. This was discouraging because the game begins by making you feel as though you are truly trying to survive, but this feeling is lost as the objectives become clearer cut and your character, Ethan Thomas, seems to be more on the offensive side of things. This is a small complaint though, because the game will maintain its scare-factor throughout, and the combat system is expansive enough to keep you constantly learning and using new combinations.
Condemned 2 deserves major credit for implementing a very unique set of side missions. Throughout the game, Ethan will be asked to do a little detective work. As you encounter corpses of important characters, youll be asked to identify points of interest like blood splatters, wounds on the body, etc. The range of difficulty is what truly makes this a spot on feature though. At first youll be asked to draw the conclusion that the police badge indicates the victim was a police officer. Congrats! The game quickly ups the thought level to requiring you to distinguish the difference between entry, exit, and stab wounds, as well as blood splatter patterns, whether a blood trail is from a dragged body or a crawling victim and so on. This feature provides a great change of pace from the exciting bludgeoning of demonic creatures, to the intricate thought provoking task of investigating a crime scene.
At the end of each mission, your performance and completion of main objectives, side objectives, as well as in the forensic investigations, will reward you with upgrades to your character like brass knuckles, bullet proof vests, and a variety of other upgrades, that will last throughout the game, and provide a sense of accomplishment to each segment of the story.
I really feel bad about having to even include this segment in the review, because multiplayer is the one area that Condemned 2 tried, and really failed. Whether playing online or via system link, the multiplayer does not help the game in the slightest. Condemned 2 allows eight players to play a variety of game types all centered around the games melee combat system. You and the seven other players who will very soon be playing some other online multiplayer game are placed in a small environment littered with melee weapons and turned loose on each other. Sounds fun right? Well its not. Before you can put together and type of kill streak, one of the eight players whacks you from behind with a crutch and youre off to a respawn point.
Remember how great the sound effects and combat system were? Prepare to hate them. There seems to be no sense of melee combat mastery, as each and every game youll die just about as many times as you kill someone in most matches. The only time any player seems to do convincingly better than another is when they become the lucky holder of a gun, in which case they tend to dominate the entire match, leaving their opponents upset that they ever tried the multiplayer. Any sense of a combo system quickly loses effectiveness, and the grunting of eight characters begins to sound very repetitive much more quickly than it ever did in the single player game modes. No one ever expected the game to include a great multiplayer mode, and most wouldnt be disappointed if it was left out altogether, but unfortunately it has to be considered in the review.
Condemned 2: Bloodshot was expected by gamers to do three things: be scary, create a truly fun melee combat system, and put together a compelling horror story. On all counts it succeeded. Multiplayer set aside, only some technical hiccups, and the limitations of the genre keep this game from being one of those top-notch, must have games. Anyone looking for a bargain bin thriller though would be wise to pick up a copy of Condemned 2: Bloodshot.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.