Review by Algus

Reviewed: 04/07/08

A satisfying, albeit unambitious, sequel

I had to think about Condemned 2. Surprisingly, my initial feelings about the game weren’t obvious to me. While I was playing it I had a terrific time and, as it continued the story from a game I had a great deal of love for, I had a terrible time trying to analyze it objectively. I do not mean to suggest with this build up that Bloodshot is a bad game. It is, in fact, a very good game. However, it is a game that is likely to leave a few fans of the original game let down and it is hardly a title that will convert people who didn’t like the first game into fans of the franchise. While it is a good sequel and a fair game, it is no Resident Evil 2. The first game was really not worth owning due to the shortness of its single player mode and relative lack of bonus features. The second game is really not worth owning because it simply isn’t a game you’ll find yourself wanting to play over and over again.

Plot wise, we catch up to Ethan some time after the events of the first game. The bizarre events of that game have left Ethan broken. He’s quit his job and become little more than a bum, drowning his sorrows in alcohol and getting chased out of bars after decking people. (Interestingly enough, his alcoholism is worked into the game as a gameplay conceit, without alcohol Ethan starts going through withdrawal, this gives him the shakes which, in turn, makes guns harder to fire. Boozing up can help steady Ethan’s aim). Certain things about the first game that were never answered satisfactorily are still on the minds of Ethan’s bosses though and they decide to bring him in to help them figure out what’s been going on in the city since SKX was dealt with. Like the first game, the plot is one of the more admirable qualities and Monolith has proved once again that they’re up to the task of weaving a bizarre but rather interesting mystery. If you’ve been keeping up with the team since Condemned and F.E.A.R. though then the concept might be starting to get a bit rusty. Condemned 2 does what has been done and doesn’t offer much in the way of new. Whether or not this is a bad thing is really going to boil down to personal preference – are you tired of Monolith’s creepy pastiche of reality and the paranormal or would you love to take another dive into such a setting? If you’re new to Monolith then this probably isn’t the game to pick up, check out the first Condemned, for the specifics on the plot, or F.E.A.R. which has no canon connections to the series but has the same sort of atmosphere.

As an extension of the plot, Condemned 2’s “fear factor” (hardy har har) is something of a letdown. The first game was horrifying because you had no weapons, couldn’t see well, and the psychotics would yell crap at you and mess with your head. The paranormal stuff was just there to make you jump if you were paying close enough attention to see it. Condemned 2, on the other hand, seems to be heavily influenced by F.E.A.R. The enemies are rarely frightening, as you often know their positions and they don’t yell as much, and most of the “scares” seem to rely on the paranormal which is in surprisingly short order. Taking a page from the Book of Silent Hill, you’ll occasionally enter these weird “dream” levels and start fighting some sort of black tar ghost monsters. This is evidently the game at its most horrifying but it will probably have trouble getting you anywhere past unsettled – which was probably the basic state you were in the whole time you were playing Condemned: Criminal Origins. That constant tense feeling that existed in the first game is gone and while improving the combat system to allow you to do combos and other moves was probably a good idea it makes the whole game less dangerous. You’ll still find the game challenging since enemies often have punishing levels of health and, even on the easiest mode, the game can occasionally surprise you. But while baddies might take a bit more of a beating to take down, they still manage to be less frightening.

The combat system, as I mentioned, is much improved. You can block, combo, and deliver combos after knocking an enemy off balance with a properly timed block. This can be done with your fists and with your weapons. The right kinds of combos can end up giving you big damage multipliers that can take down the tougher enemies in a hurry. If you sit there and just sort of dully tap them with the same hit over and over again, then one enemy can be a handful, but if you work on delivering the combos you can make short work of most of your foes. It still doesn’t quite have the finesse of a beat ‘em up but in a game built around melee it will probably be a welcome change for most players. Firearms have not gone away either. In fact, in one or two levels, the game simply can’t stop giving them to you – these levels end up almost feeling like a level straight out of F.E.A.R. You’ll be well armed and taking out foes who are well armed. You can actually earn an upgrade that will allow you to holster a gun so you can end up being exceedingly well armed. Some people may welcome these changes though I feel like it betrays the entire concept of the series. Condemned 1 was a game built around the idea that the rare gun would be a remarkably valuable treasure. Condemned 2 likes to pass guns out in certain levels as if they were candy, making such levels little more than a generic first person shooter. Other levels have no firearms at all, rendering the previously mentioned holster upgrade essentially useless. This might be for the best however as the holster defeats the purpose of firearms in the original game – sure you had a gun and it was going to help you, but it wasn’t like you could save it for a tough fight. Now…assuming you could find a gun you can do just that. I wouldn’t advocate stripping them from the series, but I would advocate a return to Condemned 1’s idea of how guns ought to be treated.

Crime scene investigations are, pleasingly enough, much improved over the first game. When you investigate a crime scene in Bloodshot, you’ll be given the clues but it will be up to you to understand what the clues mean. Rosa is back and you’ll get in touch with her and have to answer her, via dialogue choices, as to what you think the crime scene means. If you’re way off base then sometimes she’ll suggest what really happened…other times it’s left a mystery. This makes the whole investigation process much more interesting and also makes Ethan sound pretty professional when you can figure it out and call in all the right answers and hit what happened dead on. Other times it can be frustrated as you’re asked to identify the pattern in a blood splash for example but might have no clue what you’re looking at. Still, some of the more obtuse investigation pieces are more than made up for by how refined the system is in general. It really is the most improved gameplay concept and is perhaps the one area where Condemned 2 manages to outshine its predecessor.

Condemned 2: Bloodshot is a good game but is a game with faults. As I stated in my introduction, if you were a fan of the first game then you may find Bloodshot satisfying. I, personally, am glad to have bought it but if you do not easily care to part with your money than you might want to Gamefly this title. It’s a good game, albeit short, and the multiplayer elements are dubious at best but it does manage to satisfy the Condemned and F.E.A.R. junkie. It is, unfortunately, not a great game and I do not believe I will be finding myself recommending it to the new console owner any time soon. Unlike the first game, it is not an underappreciated gem faulted only by its lack of game content, rather it is a suitable sequel that doesn’t try to do anything fancy and makes up for the lack of content with a rather standard suite of multiplayer options for a first person game. If you’re thinking of giving this game a spin and haven’t checked out the original, then do play that first – otherwise you’ll be good to go. And, lastly, a word of warning – if you didn’t care for Condemned or F.E.A.R. then avoid this game. Monolith has tried to satisfy their fans and only their fans. There will be very little to interest someone who doesn’t count themselves as such a fan. For being a fun game to play, but by no means being extraordinary in any way, I give Condemned 2 a healthy seven out of ten.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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

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