Condemned 2: Bloodshot Xbox 360, PS3
You’ve probably already heard about multiplayer being shoehorned into Condemned 2, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear it’s absolutely pointless. Not only is there almost no one playing the mode online, but when you finally get a match going it just descends into idiocy as you realise a game that is almost solely melee-based cannot work well against other human players. It reminds you that Condemned is not a game that needs multiplayer; no one was asking for it after the first one, and no one will be happy to see it make an appearance in the main menu in number 2. Maybe Monolith got their priorities wrong this time?
In itself, the inclusion of multiplayer is not a bad thing, but time was taken to add it into the game, probably because marketing types demanded it after consulting their charts, and as a result the rest of the game suffers. Sure, the main melee-based mechanics of the original have been improved, but crucially the game is nowhere near as scary as it once was. The potential is there, but it seems there is a layer of sheen missing that was on show the first time round. The pacing, mood, and tone all seem somewhat off.
As expected, the game starts off by once again placing you in the shoes of Ethan Thomas. Unfortunately for him, he’s slid down a rather slippery slope since the end of the original game, and now finds himself somewhat inebriated and dishevelled sitting alone at a bar. Following this first cutscene, which sees him having one drink too many, you end up in an alleyway. Subsequently, you are lead into an area surrounded by wired fencing, which serves as a nice tutorial on the game’s new controls by tossing a few nondescript bums in to fight you.
Most of your attacks are still melee-based, but this time round they have been refined past the simplistic controls of the past. Where the first game saw you attacking with the right trigger and blocking with the left, this has been changed so you can now attack with both the left and right triggers independently. As a result, blocking is now controlled by depressing both triggers at the same time. It is also possible to chain together combos if you time your attacks correctly, and environment hotspots can be used to deal a finishing blow to a downed opponent. It’s all very fancy compared to the original, but although it improves the core gameplay, it also makes you feel more powerful, which is yet another aspect that somewhat lowers the game’s fear factor.
Condemned 2 is still an interesting game though, with many unique settings. Unlike the first, which had many memorable moments in the outdoor sections, most of the sequel’s standout sequences take place inside buildings – a burning doll factory, a derelict bowling alley, and a wrecked theatre are top of the pile – and all build up the tension well throughout. Those mannequin guys make a welcome reappearance as well, although they’re not quite as imposing as the first time you saw them come to life in the predecessor.
The range of weapons you can lift from the environment has been upped. Different kinds of bats, lead pipes, crutches and much more are all there ready to be picked up to thwack someone across the head with, and when used in conjunction with the new controls they can lead to some satisfying battles. Guns are also back again, this time appearing much more frequently. To tell you the truth they turn up a bit too much, with the game falling dangerously close to turning into a run-of-the-mill FPS in the latter stages.
Furthermore, you still get to do your best CSI impression as you examine dead bodies and crime scenes to try and decipher what happened to cause the unusual deaths you stumble upon throughout the game. New gadgets appear in this mode too, so you’ll be doing more than just following trails of blood with your UV light this time. All in all these scenes are a bit more complicated than before, but still very satisfying. There’s even a rating system implemented this time round to push you to try and do better as you stumble upon each forensic scene.
So, the game is not the best it could have been, but it’s still possible to love Condemned 2 for the simple reason that it contains an upgraded form of the fun mechanics found in the original game. However, crucially, it is nowhere near as scary as the first. The tense atmosphere is just not there anymore, and you never really feel that lingering sense of doom that made the original such a standout launch title for the 360.
In truth, you’ll probably end up being more shocked by the gore and brutality you see on screen this time round instead of jumping from your seat at the shock of one of the game’s set pieces. At times it seems to have gone down the route of films like Hostel and Saw, excessively revelling in gore-porn instead of sticking to the psychological horror of the original. As a result, it’s hard to call Condemned 2 a must buy.