Review by horror_spooky

"The scariest game on the Xbox 360"

If you asked me what my favorite horror game was on the Xbox 360, it'd probably be a tie between BioShock and the original Condemned game, which was one of the most beautiful and equally terrifying games ever released. I loved that game, though it did have some flaws. The ending made it obvious that there was going to be a sequel, and I'm glad that I finally have had the chance to play the sequel, Condemned 2: Bloodshot.

Condemned 2 is much more combat driven than its predecessor. However, there wasn't much of a respectable combat system in the original game, so the developers have created a brand new combat system that while it is definitely an improvement over the original, it does bring its own flaws to the table.

The left and right shoulder buttons act as your fists. By tapping both of the shoulder buttons simultaneously, you will block enemy attacks. Combos can be built up in order to dish out more damage, but it's really, really hard to keep a combo going especially later in the game when your choices are either block or get hit.

Chain attacks, while not a very integral part of the gameplay, still play a pretty important role in the game. Resident Evil 4 popularized these little mini-games where you have to press a button quickly in order to do something or face severe consequences. However, in Condemned 2, these button press sequences are used for special combat moves. By completing all of the command on screens, you can do various things to your enemies and hurt them severely. Unfortunately, this is where one of the game's flaws pops up as these aren't always very responsive, meaning that there will be times when you will attempt one of these sequences, be cheaply forced out of it, and then whacked in the face with a 2x4.

Melee combat was a huge part of the original Condemned and it still is in the sequel, though with some improvements. There is a ton more weapons for you to pick up and a wider variety, from a bowling ball to a battle axe. You can also throw your weapons at enemies if you so wish.

While melee combat is all fine and good, Condemned 2 does have a larger focus on battling it out with firearms, of which there are also plenty more of in the game. Machine guns are available to you as well as a variety of pistols and shotguns. You cannot carry around extra ammo, but you can reload your gun if you find ammo lying around. This adds a new layer of terror to the game as you have to constantly check your ammo.

So, what's the big deal of looking at the bottom right corner of the screen to see how many bullets you have left? Condemned 2 doesn't really include a HUD, but rather only shows you your health when you're getting hurt or demand it to with the press of a button. Sometimes a small icon will show up indicating you of something, but most of the time the screen is pretty clear. The developers wanted to make the game's combat a little more realistic by forcing you to literally take the clip out of the gun in order to see how much ammo you had left. This means you'll have to actually think about whether checking your bullets or not because in the time that it takes you to check your ammo, you could be attacked by some devilish looking creatures.

That leads me to more praise for Condemned 2. The original didn't have much of a variety of enemies for you to take down, but the sequel has plenty of different enemy types. From suicidal exploding dolls to giant men in suits of armor, this game is definitely delivering in the enemy department. There are even some boss battles, of which there were very few in the first game.

What about the taser? If you are familiar with the first game, you would know that the taser was a huge part of the gameplay and was essential if you wanted to survive. While the taser does return in Condemned 2, you have to earn it by completing a level, and its power depends on how well you do in that level. If the batteries run out, you're out of luck until you find another battery.

After you complete a level you are given a rank based upon how many optional objectives you completed. The rankings you earn are bronze, silver, or gold, but there's more to it than just getting a shiny medal with bullet holes in it. You are also awarded an upgrade that can greatly help you in the next level. For example, the next level may require you to work stealthily, so you will be rewarded with boots that don't make much noise, but another level may require you to plow through enemies with weapons, so you may be given a holster so you can carry two weapons at a time. Depending on what medal you earned, your upgrade will be of varying quality. You may earn the taser, but you may only get to use it two times before you are able to recharge the battery, or you may get to use it up to five times before you have to hunt down more batteries.

What made Condemned stand out from most games in the genre was its unique investigation mechanics that allowed you to investigate crime scenes for evidence. This returns in the sequel, but it's much faster paced and simply more fun to do. You will be required to do a variety of things including simply taking a picture or identifying a body. Honestly, it kind of felt like playing Phoenix Wright, only much more gruesome and entertaining. You are given a rank depending on if you found the right evidence and if you ask Rosa the right questions once she begins analyzing the evidence. You may learn some helpful information if you get a good rank, but if you get a bad rank you may miss out on some stuff.

You can't just go around investigating crime scenes without some tools and Condemned 2 has four gadgets for you to use. A UV light is helpful for following blood trails that are invisible to the naked eye while a spectrometer will help you follow some strange noises. Your camera can be used to take pictures and finally you are given a GPS device just in case you get lost. Later in the game, you can even set markers on your GPS just in case you want to remember where a stash of health or ammo is incase you need it later.

I was a little annoyed that the first game had you collecting dead birds for optional objectives, and I'm glad that Condemned 2 has you doing more interesting things. You may have to take pictures of torture devices or you might be tasked with destroying meth labs. However, the most prominent optional missions are destroying these strange devices that emit terrible sounds. You can destroy them by running up to them and punching them, but this may result in the loss of health. An easier way to take them out is simply by throwing an item at them.

Environmental kills are awesome in any game they are in and Condemned 2 is no exception, though I wish they were more gruesome and varied. If an enemy ends up on their knees, you can grab them by the head and drag them to a specifically marked area in order to kill them. This is usually done just by slamming their head into the wall or something, and it's a shame that this feature wasn't used more in the game.

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! During some moments of the game a huge almost invincible enemy will try to kill you, and you are forced to run for your life. These moments really break up the gameplay and while you may miss some of the extra stuff, it is a hell of a lot of fun and just as terrifying. The run button also helps to make the game go faster so you'll rarely be bored.

You are able to interact with the environment much more than you could in the first game. Sometimes you'll have to jump from a ledge to another ledge and other times you'll simply have to pull a lever, but the fact is that Condemned 2 is much more interactive than its predecessor, which can only be a good thing. You are also prompted to respond to characters by hitting the A button, but you have to press the A button fast or the opportunity to hear Ethan's response will pass.

Ever since the events in the first game, Ethan has developed an alcohol problem. Without his precious alcohol, Ethan's hands are very shaky while handling firearms, so you can grab some liquor bottles in order to increase your accuracy. Don't worry, there is a hefty supply of alcohol lying around. You can also use the bottles as a weapon if you so wish.

News reports can give you some background information, but while they aren't necessary, finding them does help to increase your rank. You can't just walk up to a TV or a radio and expect to get the information though. You have to adjust the antenna using the right control stick. While this obviously isn't very thrilling, it does help to make you feel more immersed in the game and the mechanic is used later in the game to a more interesting effect.

Unfortunately, one of Condemned 2's biggest flaws is the lack of any offline multiplayer components. Sure, there is some online, but the game doesn't transition well into the multiplayer universe and without the multiplayer horsepower of games like Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4, the game's multiplayer ends up falling flat on its face and is only good for getting achievements.

Fans of the original will be glad to know that Condemned 2 does fill in some plot holes found from the first game and answers many questions. The plot does seem to just randomly jump all over the place sometimes and towards the end things go from awesome to just plain ridiculous, but it's still worth your time. I do have a problem with the character Rosa though. While in the first game she was a tad overweight, had spiky hair, and was butt ugly, in Condemned 2 she has slimmed down, has long hair, and looks a lot younger. Ethan looks exponentially larger as well for some reason and some of the other characters just look silly. There are plenty of really scary moments in the game that will without a doubt make you jump, but some of the scares are overused so they really lose the power behind their punch. Set eleven months after the original, Ethan Thomas has become a drunk who constantly hallucinates and has become extremely violent. However, he is soon brought back to the agency that had accused him of murder when they need his help again and he begins to discover a lot about his past and what is happening. There are plenty of surprising and memorable moments in the game, but the ending is a little irritating.

Everything does look much better than it did in the first game, which is saying something because the original was absolutely beautiful itself. Environments are extremely realistic and the physics have definitely been upgraded, though they still aren't as good as some other games' like Oblivion or BioShock, which is kind of disappointing. Sometimes the game is a little too dark so you can barely see what you're doing and the flashlight doesn't do much to fix this problem. Lagging is also a problem and it does detract some from the overall value of the game. Thankfully, the environments and enemies are varied so you won't get bored with your surroundings and everything always feels fresh as you go from level to level, though some of the levels are so big that you may get lost.

Condemned 2's soundtrack is a mixture of some awesome rock music and some creepy older tunes that definitely help set the mood of being brutal and scary all at the same time. Voice acting is a little sketchy at points, but that's not the only problem. Listening to news reports is nigh impossible because the background music is so loud and when other characters try to talk to you, you really have to strain your ears just to hear what they have to say, which is just due to laziness on the developers' part.

There was one particular level that really bothered me. You are in a magic theater and I was instantly reminded of BioShock. The entire level looked like something lifted straight from BioShock and you are even taunted by a man through a speaker, just like people did to you in BioShock. I know that BioShock is a great game and it was obvious that it was going to be copied, but developers shouldn't only borrow elements from great games, not almost recreate an entire level from the game to boost their product. It's a little shameful.

Condemned 2 is actually shorter than the first game by at least two hours, but you won't feel disappointed with the length because there is still so much to do after you're done. You'll want to go through the missions and earn the gold ranking in order to unlock all of the best upgrades, plus there are achievements to unlock which definitely help with the game's replayability. There are three difficulty levels for you to try out and despite the multiplayer being pretty bad, you might just end up liking it. After you complete the game, you unlock a first-person shooter mode that gives you unlimited ammo. While that may detract from the game's difficulty it's still a ton of fun to play and it is easily one of the most brilliant design decisions ever made by a developer in order to keep gamers coming back to the game. Bonus content can also be unlocked for you to enjoy by unlocking achievements, mostly through multiplayer mode.

Despite its flaws, Condemned 2: Bloodshot is a great game and is one of the only video games that have managed to actually scare me. The graphics are great, the soundtrack is great, plus the gameplay isn't too shabby, but the plot loses a lot of its greatness towards the end of the game, plus there are inconsistencies from the first game. Despite this and a somewhat flawed combat system, Condemned 2: Bloodshot is a definite improvement over the first game and with another sequel obviously on the way, I can't way to see what the next installment has in store.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/24/08

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

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