Review by gtagamer

"When sequels don't disappoint."

Let me start off by saying that Condemned: Criminal Origins is one of my favourite games of all time. So when a sequel was announced, naturally I was hyped. Although the problem with all sequels though, is that they either don't change enough and feel like just an expansion pack, or they change too much and it's hard to tie the game to others in the series. Condemned 2: Bloodshot is a sequel that does not disappoint.

Story

The story picks up right where the first leaves off. You once again take on the role of Ethan Thomas, former SCU agent. However this is an Ethan with an alcohol addiction, a "Screw the world" demeanour and an "I could really use a shower" appearance. Needless to say; Ethan's changed.

Ethan isn't the only one changing, however. The city is on a downward spiral. Crime, violence and all sorts of weird events are becoming rampant. So, as Ethan you'll be tasked with the job of going all around the city and beyond, where no one else is crazy enough to venture to, looking for answers. Luckily for us, Ethan is just that kind of crazy. You'll, once again, be exploring the lovely vistas of this city such as a run-down hotel, a dilapidated bowling alley, a museum gone wild and a host of other colourful locals. Patrons of the series might just rediscover some familiar locations as well.

Though this game definitely answers a lot more questions than the first one, it'll also open up a whole slew of new ones as well.

Graphics

I have to say; while anticipating this game, looking at pictures and trailers and whatnot, I had my doubts if the game had improved very much graphically from the first game. However, actually playing the game in person has changed these doubts. The game is looks absolutely great in person. Images and trailers do not do this game justice, so wait till you see the game in person before judging it on its looks.

The environments look better than ever. The Condemned series has always been about making you feel like you're in these run-down, gritty locations. The graphics do wonders to help improve that. The game has a very realistic graphical approach and for the weak of heart out there, it might just be "too real" sometimes. One thing that looks especially great is the fire effects, and the game isn't shy about showing them off either.

Another thing that looks particularly great are the character models. Some of the best you'll ever see in a video game. This is in part to the fantastic animations of the characters and a great level of detail on them. My one gripe in this area though, is like the first game, you'll see a lot of repeated character models over and over.

Also, while on the subject of animations, the game has some of the best, most realistic first-person animations you'll ever see. Another great aspect of the series is the way it pulls you into the game with very believable actions done entirely from the first-person perspective. Things like crawling through a vent, or ducking under some object has never felt so believable.

You might encounter a bit of slowdown here and there, but it's not frequent or noticeable enough to be a problem.

Sound

Condemned is a series that sets to draw you into the game any way possible and the sounds of the game are just another area of attack. This is one of those games that make you appreciate your expensive sound system. The sound effects are very well done in particular. Walking over broken glass and having it crunch beneath your feet, dropping a metal pipe on the ground and hearing it clank, hitting a guy in the face, they don't sound any better than this.

The voice acting is top notch in every respect. All of the characters in the game are voiced very well. One particular, I don't want to say who it is because I might spoil something, suffice to say the voice acting of this person is very well done in my opinion.

However I did encounter one hitch in the game where the sound became muffled and hard to hear after one particular point in the game. This only happened on my second play through and a quick reset of the game easily fixed the problem, though.

Gameplay

This is what it all boils down to, isn't it? The gameplay has improved considerably from the first game and it's a much more fun experience this time around.

The combat, first off, has achieved a new level of greatness. The game has done very well to improve on what the first game started; a very visceral and satisfying melee system done in a first-person perspective, with the focus being on the melee weapons rather than guns. In this game, however, the focus has taken a little favouritism to the new hand-to-hand combat. And let me just say: it's a welcomed addition.

The hand-to-hand combat is very realistic, satisfying, fun, and surprisingly deep. As you might guess the left and right triggers control your left and right fists respectively and holding both will block. But added to the mix is the ability to click in the left thumbstick to make your next swing a hook. Clicking in the right thumbstick will perform a kick, and depending on where you're looking you can stomp toes, boot people in the groin or roundhouse them to the face. The right bumper will let you throw your weapon if you're holding one. The left bumper let's you sprint for a short period. And finally up on the D-Pad fires your tazer. Now all of these different tricks can be mixed and matched together to create a lot of interesting results.

The game rewards you for pulling off combos and such and all your actions go to filling up a chain-attack meter, which depending how full it is and how you execute it, will pull off a chain of attacks prompting you to press the triggers at the right time. The results can be a very simple un-resisted, beating, or breaking the guy's limbs, or ultimately snapping his neck.

And finally, if you beat the crap out of someone just that right amount it'll drop the person to his knees in a defeated stance. Some might remember in the first game enemies would do this and you were given one of four ways of disposing of him. However in this game when a person reaches that state you are prompted to grab him or her, and are able to carry them around in a choke hold, the left trigger will incapacitate them, the right will snap their neck, but the most interesting thing is that the environment will light up with skull icons everywhere which when approached with a restrained victim, will go into an environment finishing move which can range anywhere from smashing their head in a toilet or crushing their face into nothing with a printing press. For the twisted among us, these are all very satisfying, visceral, and great.

I do have a few gripes in this area, though. First to pull off a chain-attack you double tap either trigger. Sounds fine on paper, but in the heat of battle, when punches are flying everywhere and sometimes you want to save your chain-attacks for stronger enemies or until you have a full bar, you're constantly accidentally triggering one of these sequences, and it can get quite annoying. And with the combat being as deep as it is, is also very fast paced and hectic. It can be very hard to pull off some of the tougher combos and moves in the heat of things, and enemies don't just stand there letting you attack them. They'll interrupt your combos and make things very difficult for you. Ultimately you'll very rarely get to pull off a lot of great manoeuvres but it really is satisfying when you do.

Finally for this section I'll talk about the new and improved forensic system.Those familiar with the first'll remember that during the game you'd be asked to pull out some forensic tool to analyze a crime scene and look for clues relevant to your investigation. While really original for a game to do, especially in first person, it was very shallow and pretty much consisted of you pressing a button at a specific time. In this game however all that has been revamped. While prompted in certain areas to investigate some happenings it's a lot freer and open experience. You will be asked some kind of question related to the scene, and you must observe the scene and select the correct response. For example you'll come up on a dead body; you'll be asked what the gender is, what identifying characteristics there are and apparent cause of death. The system works very well and should be exactly what a video game based on the show CSI should be, instead of the really crappy cash in games they make now, but that's a different story.

Multiplayer

The first game didn't have multiplayer and it was fantastic, so the addition of multiplayer to this one is just an added bonus. This isn't the type of game that you would expect to have a very extensive, fleshed out multiplayer and you'd be right to assume so. You're given your typical Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch options but you also get two unique gametypes. "Bum Rush" which has 2 players as very tough SCU agents (Basically swat guys) who can bring guns with a limited amount of ammunition against 6 "influenced" who unlike the SCU agents can respawn indefinitely and can only bring melee weapons. The object is for the SCU agents to stay alive within the time limit while the influenced try to put an end to that.

The next gametype is called "Crime Scene." In this game you have an even number of influenced against SCU agents. The influenced have two containers with heads in them. They have to hide these somewhere on the level and protect them from getting scanned, should the SCU agents find them. You're only given one life in this game, which makes it difficult for the influenced that are only given melee weapons, against SCU agents who can bring firearms. Teamwork is very necessary in this gametype.

The multiplayer doesn't amaze or stand out in anyway, but it is a welcomed addition and for what it is, works very well. It's a fun break from the singleplayer and it's a good way to let some fists fly against some real human players for a change.

Overall

Condemned 2: Bloodshot is a fantastic sequel to a fantastic game. The game improves on what worked well in the first game, but still manages to stay true to its roots. It's not as good as the first one in my mind, but it does a great job of trying. I didn't find it to be as scary either but it has some moments that'll certainly get the best of you. If you've played the first one and liked it there's no reason you shouldn't be playing this one too. If you're new to the series I recommend you start out with the first one and move on to this one after. Die hards should definitely buy this, those just curious should probably just rent, just as long as you play this great game.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/19/08

Game Release: Condemned 2: Bloodshot (US, 03/11/08)


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