Condemned 2: Bloodshot
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1, 2-8 online
Words By:

When I eventually managed to get hold of a 360 a month or so after launch, I bought it with the original Condemned: Criminal Origins. It may have lacked the polish of say, Call of Duty 2, but it did something that very few games can achieve – it genuinely scared me. Mainly forgoing guns for fists was a brave move but coupled with the incessant darkness and ‘WTF’ storyline the game somehow managed to hold itself together reasonably well. It’s been a while, but Ethan Thomas is back for more tramp slaying - and wouldn’t you know it, he’s had a bit of a facelift.

In all honesty the lead couldn’t be more far removed from the tubby and believable character from the first game, wonderfully voiced by Greg Grunberg, now of Heroes fame. This time he’s pissed in both senses of the word (oh yes, our hero is now a bit of a boozer) and from the look of him has been working out whilst rolling around in his own vomit since the end of the last game. Not a pretty sight.

Without giving too much away from the story, Ethan is still plagued by supernatural visions and on top of that he’s got the demon drink to deal with, but wouldn’t you know it, pesky riots and unnatural violence has erupted in the city yet again. Ethan’s former employer the SCU (Serious Crimes Unit) has no option but to drag him from out of the Dumpster he’s been hiding in and send him back into the field.

Within the first couple of minutes of gameplay you’ll have a good idea as to what to expect from Bloodshot. This is one violent game let there be no mistake. Bricks, planks of wood, pipes and just about everything you can pick up can be used to smash someone (or something’s) skull in, not forgetting your bare fists. There are firearms, but for the vast chunk of the game you’ll be using your environment as weapons. These makeshift weapons all have a lifespan so if you use one too much it will break in your hands and you’ll have to seek out another blunt object.

Combat is handled with the two triggers, which control each of the characters fists. This is a little weird to get used to, especially when blocking is handled by pulling both triggers at the same time. You have to get to grips with how the game works or you won’t last very long. For the first few minutes I was running around not bothering with blocking, but I got my arse well and truly kicked doing this. But it all eventually drops into place when you get used to this mechanic, and whilst the game is never overly easy, it does become more instinctive the more you play.

Several new fighting elements have been included, such as the environmental kills where you can drag a semi-conscious enemy to one of the many skull symbols which appear; for example a toilet where you can smash their head into it as a finishing move. There are also a number of timed attacks that you may have seen in gameplay videos. Here time is slowed down Matrix-style and you’re encouraged to tap the relevant trigger at the right moment. This allows you to inflict more damage with your fists and take down the enemy quickly. It looks great for the first few times but it does outstay its welcome towards the end of the game.

Locations are much more varied this time round, as is the overall gameplay. Whereas before you were mainly confined to abandoned houses, shops and offices you now get to explore bowling alleys, museums and much more. This definitely helps break up the relentless face smashing, as do the included multi-player modes which allow up to 8 players to compete in a selection of different game types. It’s a little strange playing an adversarial first person game with mainly melee weapons and it doesn’t work all that well all of the time, but the Crime Scene mode is more interesting. Here one team of the ‘influenced’ have to hide a box containing a severed head from the team of investigating SCU agents. It’s mildly amusing for a while, but multiplayer isn’t this game’s strong point.

The biggest overhaul is with the underused CSI aspect of the original. Now players can interact with the evidence and use their tools to discover things about the crime scene for themselves rather then just tapping a button on cue. Once you’ve found everything you think you need to see you’ll be quizzed by your partner Rosa. Answering her questions correctly will improve your rating, which along with the optional objectives dotted throughout the levels will allow you to unlock special moves and items. The higher the rating the better the reward, which encourages further play-throughs.

Despite being almost entirely pitch black except for your torch the game doesn’t look half-bad. There are several types of enemies for you to clobber and all are suitably menacing especially when close up. The environments are eerily lit and the use of shadows to heighten the already tense gameplay is welcome. The use of the camera is fantastic as well, as it follows Ethan’s movements as if in real life. For instance when he climbs a ladder or steps over some debris the camera sways from side to side. It’s a small touch but it works so well in this sort of game.

There are a few problems though. Firstly a small number of the levels are rather dull and predictable and whilst there is nothing particularly wrong with them when compared to the other highlights in the game they feel out of place. Regarding the story I think many fans of the original will be a little disappointed with the outcome. It starts off well enough but after a while it gets bogged down with supernatural silliness and the conclusion lacks the punch I think the game deserves.

For all its flaws Bloodshot does everything a sequel should though. It retains the best bits of the first game and improves on pretty much everything else. If you can get past the radical character change (he’s not that bad - honestly) you’ll find a lot to like with this one.

Best Bits

- Satisfyingly brutal combat
- Nice and gritty visuals
- Genuinely scary at times
Worst Bits

- A few ‘by the numbers’ sections
- Silly plot twists
- Anyone ever heard of a light switch?

by: Pedro

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