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Review: Condemned 2: Bloodshot
By Chris

I should probably start off by saying that Julie and I, for the first time in as long as I can remember, knocked this one out in a weekend.  Actually, technically, it was a Sunday and a Monday but it was during some vacation time between Christmas and New Year’s, so I’ll call it a weekend.  I don’t think we’ve been able to plow through a game like that in years.

Julie and I were both big fans of the first Condemned game, Criminal Origins.  The game came out on the launch day of the XBox 360 and was one of three games we bought with the system, along with the first-person-shooter-genre-advancing Call of Duty 2 and the less-than-stellar Kameo: Elements of Power.  The original Condemned slotted itself somewhere between the two in terms of quality.  While it was very successful in scaring the hell out of me, there were some aspects of the game that seemed like they were good ideas but were never completely fleshed out.

It probably didn’t help that Julie originally described the game to me as a “C.S.I.-like game”, more or less.  I had visions of running around like Grissom and solving crimes.  As it turns out, the game pitted you as anti-hero Ethan Thomas, a disgraced member of the Serial Crimes Unit (SCU) – part of the FBI.  Thomas falls from grace in the organization and ends up going rogue while hunting down the notorious Serial Killer X.  Seeing that I thought this would be a playful romp with forensic tools, I was quite shocked when the game became a dark and eerie trek through a zombie-hobo infested city.  Add in the element of dead birds everywhere (I’m an ornithophobe) and you can assume I was suitably terrified.  So much so, in fact, that we would rarely play the game with the lights off…which is really how all horror games and movies should be enjoyed.  It turned out to be such a piercing fear that I found my nerves too frayed to ever sit through a session longer than an hour.  For real.  Now that’s horror done right.

In Condemned 2 I found that the scare factor had almost completely disappeared.  I don’t know exactly what the problem was.  Perhaps I’m just less susceptible to being scared but it just seemed like I was less on edge while I played.  The NPC movements seemed more predictable and there were fewer points where a zombie-hobo would pop out of nowhere.  There were similarities in the presentations in the two games that should have lead to a similar experience.  In the first game, you venture through an abandoned department store (not scary, until you think about mannequins).  In the second game, you have to make your way through a decrepit doll factory.  Think of the creepy possibilities!  Sadly, other than the boss, who is an overly aggressive member of the lollipop guild, the level failed to give me the heebie-jeebies.

In the sequel, you once again take up the role of Ethan Thomas, now a cracked out junkie.  Serial Killer X is still on the loose and your help is once again needed by SCU, even though it seems that they would be just as content to put you in the slammer.  Where the game does improve upon its previous incarnation is with the use of forensic tools.  In the first game, the forensic tools were essentially useless, acting as little more than gimped plot advancers.  Condemned 2 forces you to use these tools to correctly answer questions to puzzles, whether they be about the body at a crime scene (Is it an entry bullet hole?  An exit bullet hole?) or about a bomb (What is the power rating? How many detonators does it have?).  One terrible addition to the game was the necessity to ask the right thing from a selection of multiple choice questions.  Failure to ask the exact question you should be asking to your loyal sidekick, Rosa, results in Ethan getting a less than perfect score at the end of the level, which means a silver or bronze caliber upgrade instead of gold.  There are also a few new additions, like responses, which consist of timed events where the player must hit ‘A’ before the second-ish long timer runs out.

Perhaps the must disappointing part of Condemned 2 was the greatly increased availability of firearms.  In the first game, you were forced to use objects like axes and pipe wrenches to bash your opponents in melee combat.  It is true that the first game did have the occasional gun but for the most part they contained very limited ammunition – usually a pistol with five to six rounds.  Bloodshot makes automatic rifles readily available and rarely does the player have to resort to using hand-to-hand tactics if they are thrifty with their ammo.  Perhaps the distance between protagonist and enemy inherent in first person shooter is what causes the game to be less scary than its predecessor.

All-in-all, Condemned 2: Bloodshot is a good sophmore effort for the series.  It lackies the creepiness of the first game but it builds well on the gameplay elements that were laid down by Criminal Origins.  It leaves plenty of room for an enjoyable experience while playing the inevitable Condemned 3.

4 Comments • Comments RSSTrackBack URI
  1. 2009-01-22 9:50

    I was taking a nap/coma when my opportunity to two-cents this passed me by. Oops. Congrats to Chris on an excellent review; I’ve always been a fan of the term heebie-jeebies. You can catch my opinion, as well as some more of Chris’s insights on this weekend’s podcast.

  2. Prince of Space
    2009-01-23 0:08

    Huzzah at the return of the podcast. I thought I had broken it.

  3. 2009-01-24 13:47

    Huzzah at the return of Prince of Space…we thought the Podcast had broken you.

  4. Prince of Space
    2009-01-25 14:48

    Thanks. I’ve been spending some quality time with some quality games (Mass Effect, Left 4 Dead) and with m’lady. Back in the swing in a big way. I may in fact owe The Completionist crew an apology or at least an explanation based on a recent purchase that I am thoroughly enjoying. Stay tuned?

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