“A clown will not bite me und throw me in the basement.”
This is exactly the sort of game the anti-videogame crowd does not want you to play. Condemned 2: Bloodshot features some of the most bloody, visceral, and sickening gameplay yet to be seen in a videogame, period.
As alcoholic protagonist Ethan Thomas, you have a wealth of violent options at your disposal for taking down your mutated, psychopathic foes. Ranging from crushing heads in an industrial press to using your bare hands to forcibly snap necks clean in half, the developers at Monolith certainly aren’t shy about giving the player their fix of extreme violence.
Alone in a dirty, rundown watering-hole Ethan Thomas spends his time drinking away the pain bestowed on him from his experiences in the first game, Condemned: Criminal Origins. After a guy with a serious need for facial reconstruction knocks into our hero at the bar, Ethan takes it upon himself to beat the living crap out of him, which earns him a trip to the cold, icy gutter outside.
This opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the game. Fans of the original will be all too familiar with this level of brutality but, newcomers should be aware that this game will not be to everyone’s tastes.
Condemned 2 is a truly frightening experience. Every cliché of the horror genre is included here, from bad guys appearing behind you while looking into mirrors to creepy shadows darting back and forth around corners ahead of you. A constant air of dread and paranoia lingers in the air throughout the vast majority of the game. Play this at night, with the lights off by yourself and only the most hardened of souls will fail to feel the chill the game emits.
Metro City is a dark, grimy, and unforgiving place. Every part of the game feels like it has just pulled itself out of the darkest depths of hell and landed straight in your back yard. You’ll need to make constant use of your flashlight in order to be able to get around the environment. The beam emitted by the flashlight is creepy in itself, in the way it quickly disperses in front of you, never allowing you to see as far you would like. You’re always more scared of the things that you can’t see, right?
I’d also have to say that this game has some of the finest sound design I’ve ever experienced. Everything from the grunts and squeals of your enemies to the thud weapons make upon contact, and even small things like knocking a tin can over, sound realistic and satisfying. The voice acting is also of brilliant quality from all involved.
The dominant game mechanic, as with the original, is the melee combat system. Whereas in the original this never felt quite right, it has now been refined and built upon to give a much more complete and engaging experience. Precise timing of attacks, blocks, and parries is now essential in order to stand any sort of chance at defeating an enemy.
The strength and unpredictable nature of the attackers means that scuffles are intense affairs in which it’s all too easy to get pummelled if your on your toes. You’ll often find yourself scrambling around the environment searching for any sort of weapon will give you an advantage in battle; not finding one can often lead to lengthy battles in which your skills are put seriously to the test.
Of the refinements to the melee system, the combo function is the most satisfying. Landing a one-two punch sequence allows you to pull off a third punch of significantly more deadly strength. Although, not always enough to take an opponent out first time it does send them off balance allowing you a moment to launch other deadly attacks or perhaps pick up that weapon lying nearby.
And what a wealth of weapons there are! Crowbars, pipes, prosthetic limbs, bottles, exploding dolls, foosball rods to name but a tiny amount. Differing in various attributes such as power, reach and speed they offer a significant upgrade from your bare fists. It’s hard to beat that satisfying crunch as you smash a piece of lead piping over a bad guy’s head. Each weapon has a finite lifespan and will break after a set amount of successful hits or blocks, forcing you to search around the area for some other tool of destruction.
Once an enemy is on the verge of death you have the option of performing an environmental damage finishing-manoeuvre on the unlikely soul. Depending on your location you can hurl them headfirst into television sets, smash their heads into walls or urinals and even, as mentioned earlier, crush their heads in an industrial press causing it to explode in a bloody mess. Depending on your thirst for violence you’ll either relish the opportunity to perform these moves, or just simply kill the guy with your weapon/fists and move on quickly.
A variety of firearms are also included in the game but, compared to modern first person shooters they feel extremely awkward and the enemy A.I. doesn’t seem to have been programmed in such a way as to make firefights exciting at all. Enemies wielding weapons will typically just run away to a piece of cover and try to pick you off at distance. The lack of any cover system and crouch abilities also highlights the deficiencies in firearm combat. Ammo is extremely scarce however; so you’ll not be relying on a gun very often and in most cases you’ll opt to just rush at the guy and get your hands dirty with some hand-to-hand combat.
The other of the game’s reoccurring gameplay elements are the investigation scenarios. These involve searching for evidence in a given location, a dead body perhaps or a strange note left you must decipher. Generally, these work extremely well and involve the player arriving at logical conclusions given the evidence presented. You’ll need to make use of some standard police equipment such as a camera and UV light in order to progress through many of these, predictably gruesome, scenarios. While they won’t push your brain into overdrive they can be mildly challenging and offer a, often much needed, break from the intensity of the combat and general doom and gloom of your surroundings.
There can be no denying that the gameplay is extremely linear. Usually there is only one way out of rooms that may have several doorways. In all honesty I believe this actually adds to the experience. Its linear nature makes you feel like you’re playing through some horror movie as the action never really lets up, and the fact that it’s almost impossible to get yourself lost in the environment is very reassuring in a world full of terror.
While Condemned 2 is generally excellent, it’s not quite the perfect spectacle. All too often the game can suffer from moments of horrible slowdown at inexplicable moments. At one point the game literally freeze on me for a second or two as I was turning a corner despite there being no on screen activity at all; I expected some enemy or another to attack me as soon as it happened, explaining the slowdown, but no, nothing.
Also, the collision detection between yourself and the environment can be painfully overdone. The smallest obstacles, which you would expect to be able to walk straight over, completely halt your movement and force you to find an alternate path. Point in case – a thin metal door to a laundry machine was lying flat on the floor, but I couldn’t walk over it. I was forced to walk around a different path.
As for the multiplayer, I’m just going to say this: It’s barely worth playing at all. The melee combat that works so well in single player just doesn’t translate well at all into multiplayer. Deathmatches tend to just boil down to a group of players rushing towards each other in a huddled mess randomly throwing punches at anyone and everyone.
Two other modes are included– Bum Rush and Crime Scene. Bum Rush involves a few heavily armoured police agents trying to survive as long as possible as a larger force of weaker criminal players try to take them out. It’s a totally futile mode that typically descends into the criminals sacrificing themselves to land a couple of hits on the agents and then respawning and repeating the process until all the agents have died.
Crime Scene is a marginal improvement over the other two modes and involves a team of criminals who must hide some evidence from a team of agents who attempt to find and scan the evidence, ending the match. With no respawns available discretion is rewarded. Still, Crime Scene is hardly going to keep you satisfied for long.
Overall though, multiplayer aside, Condemned 2 is a terrific game. Full of action, puzzle solving and plain old-fashioned scares, fans of survival horror and action adventure games in general should seriously think about picking this up. It’s certainly not a game for kids, and perhaps even some queasy adults, but it adds to the original in more ways than I had expected and is mostly very successful along the way.
The game is full of set-piece moments you’ll remember for a long time after the credits roll– a pulse racing scene in a run-down lodge being a personal highlight. If you like to be scared, and don’t cringe at the first sight of blood, this game is for you.