Review by xenodolf
In the sequel to Monolith's sleeper-hit survival-horror beat 'em up title - players once again take the role of Ethan Thomas in a violent and shock-driven adventure of forensics and fisticuffs. Monolith seems to have read over the various gaming forums and took notice of the various complaints and suggestions from fans of the first game, but have the improvements led to the creation of a superior game? Read on..
The murky origins of the insanity from the first Condemned, along with the questionable ending scene, left me with a bit of unfavorable opinion of the game's plot. Steps were taken here to make the reasonings behind the action less vague, more coherent, and less reliant on reading through minor text files. Be as that may, I found the thematic elements of Bloodshot to be significantly less horrifying - in part to the gung-ho protagonist and I'll also blame some extremely hammed up and cliche portions of the character interaction. Kind of how FEAR's "evil little girl" scare factor made me yawn, Bloodshot's triple entree of demonic dolls, magician settings, and annoying lollipop wielding harlots made me roll my eyes more than clasp my cheeks in terror. While the majority of the game was above average in this area of the criticism, the Condemned series still has a way to go before reaching the level of storytelling seen in Silent Hill or even Resident Evil.
The visuals have moved up a notch from Criminal Origins - featuring a better looking cast (Rosa seems to have had plastic surgery), improved textures, and lacking the gigantic Gears of War torso style that plagued the first game. The fighting goes about more fluid, especially in multiplayer - and there are little to no graphical hangups worth mentioning. Some areas could have used a little more polish, like a rampaging enemy's instant-killing sequence that was somewhat ruined by very-obvious jagged polygons and flimsy facial physics. Aside from these relatively small issues, I was impressed with the graphical qualities and hope Monolith continues upgrading the visuals in each additional Condemned game.
The soundtrack was entirely average, coupled with rather forgettable voice acting and a surprising lack of music in the brawling portions of the online multiplayer. The sound effects were good enough though, and even I got the occasional creeps from the haunting ambiance of the Crime Scene games while playing as the SCU. Outside of that multiplayer mode though, the jarring background noises seemed toned down from the first game except when they were actually overused in certain parts (hallucinations/brain damage sequences).
Like the original game - Bloodshot sports almost perfect handling of the combat and other areas of character/game control. I will mention that I disliked the analog-stick shifting radio/tv/disruptor sequences and the guns felt somewhat superficial in use. For the most part, though, it functioned better than both I came to expect and corrected the doll-rag glitches of Criminal Origins.
The campaign consists of 11 missions, some rather long in length and others I can beat in 10 minutes tops even on the hardest difficulty. While most of the environments take place in the soiled urban hell that passes as a city - a couple of levels take place away from this setting, although I dislike most that end up doing so. The majority of the level structures are pretty good, with the exception of the cabin's confusing mess of guest wings and various near-identical hallways. I also came to hate how one of the levels felt cramped and suffocating (no pun intended) when you are forced to wear a gas mask that takes up about 10% of the screen's viewing area. The puzzles are different than they were in the first game, more elaborate and involving choosing branches of answers correctly to solve crime scenes or, more annoyingly - work through the guesswork of things like re-wiring a broken elevator. As expected, the crime scene portions involve actual virtual detective work and are fun to partake in, while the latter category had me rushing to Gamefaqs after about 10 frustrating minutes of randomly guessing outcomes. The enemy A.I. is still pretty good, with the various bums, cretins, and demonic entities operating on the same level as you - allowing them to arm themselves from the environment and pick up any weapons you allowed to fall into their possessions. In what I'm assuming is a nod to DOOM, any time an enemy injuries one of it's buddies trying to hit you - the two will start trading blows until the stronger one prevails - allowing you a few seconds to attack them or simply escape to safety. As strong as the enemy combat design is, the boss battles are one of the worst aspects of the game and channel much of the negative feelings I have for reviewing Condemned 2: Bloodshot. One battle consists of you heaving exploding dolls over a bunch of cumbersome barricades while wearing that stupid gas mask I mentioned earlier - while another would last about 20 seconds if you weren't so busy having screen-shaking seizures from psi-blasts. Now, while the majority of this section of the review makes the game sound subpar - it isn't. The combat is much more interactive than the original game, featuring more precise methods of landing blows and even initiating chain combos. You'll have to see for yourself how graphic and satisfying it is to knock a hulking bad guy down, pummel its spinal column - then snap its neck in such a vicious matter that Steven Seagal would puke his ponytail off. There are once again a variety of weapons, including lovely items like toilet seats, deer antlers, a foosball bracket and about a half-dozen firearms for those times when the killing needs a little distance. Overall, the campaign is about on even terms with the original - featuring better combat in exchange for less scares and those boss battles I was quite vocal about.
The online multiplayer is entirely new to the series, and is broken up into three (three and a half technically) modes. Deathmatch is basically like taking Final Fight or Streets of Rage and shoving all the various brawlers into a small environment to chaotically beat each other to death with little in terms of planning or strategy. It basically exists for bragging rights and as a killing stage for people who think Crime Scene and Bum Rush are too complex. Team Deathmatch will exchange your killcount for a bit of order - as you will have to maneuver the skull-bashing with your buddies or find yourself surrounded by three for four people who will take upon you like inmates in a prison shower. Bum Rush consists of a couple of extremely tough SCU officers who have to endure an outright assault by infinite bums - who while significantly weaker than the cops - are superior in number and relentless until the timer runs down. Bum Rush, like Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch is another guilty pleasure that could have used more polish but is fun in small doses. The real treat online is the Crime Scene mode, arguably the best feature of the entire game. A group of SCU officers armed with guns and scanning devices have to explore derelict locations for two boxes filled with dead body parts while the other team (the bums) have to hide these boxes and set up ambushes. Nothing can describe the joy of hiding a box in a clever location - leading an SCU cop away from it and his buddies - then rushing out of the shadows and jamming a meat cleaver into his face. Even better is when no one on the other team has a mic, and they are entirely taken by surprise when you show up killing them with the aforementioned cop's shotgun. Playing as the SCU in this mode is sometimes more unnerving than the campaign mode - with the environments feeling like something out of Silence of the Lambs and your box-scanning device bleeping like a motion detector out of Aliens. Overall, what could have been a poorly tacked on online multiplayer mode turns out, more or less, to be worth the effect involved.
Lastly, there is the Bloodshot Fight Club which reminds me of Instant Action from the FEAR games. Basically, you have to complete small scenarios with goals like "kill all the bums" or "protect the wussy museum guards". I only briefly messed with this mode since it lacked any achievements and didn't have the interactive qualities of the online modes.
Replay Value 7/10
I'll admit that the single player game gets pretty stale after beating it a second time, and it will never entertain me repeatedly like most of the Silent Hill, Resident Evil, etc. titles. The online mode is surprisingly engaging - with the sloppy-but-amusing deathmatch modes a good place to vent nervous energy and the Crime Scene mode my favorite non-standard online addition since Kane & Lynch's Fragile Alliance. Even though I already have most of the achievements, I'll probably come back to the game to keep my rank on the leaderboards high (in the top 20 as we speak), and further explore the possible outcomes for the cat-and-mouse conflict of Crime Scene.
While most of the complaints of the original Condemned game were addressed correctly in Bloodshot - I see some room for improvement. Boss fights need to be better crafted or simply left out - and any kind of puzzle that doesn't involve me doing CSI work needs to be a lss involved fetch quest kind of thing. I paid $60 for my copy of this game, and I do not regret spending a penny of that price. For beat 'em up fans and survival-horror enthusiasts - I ask that you at least rent this game and help contribute to both of the under-appreciated genres this game services,
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/19/08, Updated 03/23/10
Game Release: Condemned 2: Bloodshot (US, 03/11/08)
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