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Condemned 2: Bloodshot

Firstly, I like survival horror games. In my opinion creeping down pitch black, dark industrial corridors filled with gibbering freaks is a pretty good way to unwind, so it is nice to see Condemned 2 delivering on these grounds.

Having never played the original I was a little anxious about not being able to follow the plot, but thankfully the game provides several catch up sections to help get you up to speed without wasting too much time. The game throws you in at the deep end, playing Ethan Thomas the protagonist from the first title, who has become an alcoholic tramp following his previous experiences.

Soon it becomes clear that the city is in the grip of some strange crisis, the streets are lined with people desperate to batter you to death with various nasty implements. To make matters worse, Ethan's old employers contact him to help out with a series of bizarre murder cases. Inevitably nothing is quite what it seems...

The core gameplay consists of first person combat, which is one of the games strongest elements. This perspective gives the game some real scenes of tension and the immersion created is impressive. There are some memorable set pieces, the escape from a burning building wearing a gas mask which restricts your vision, whilst trying to fight off waves of psychotic lunatics is a particular standout.

The first person view also helps to add a visceral strength to the truly brutal melee combat which is genuinely bone crunching. Fire arms are a luxury; instead you will tend to fight off people using rusty pipes, broken bottles and in one surreal situation a table foosball piece. When your blows connect you have nowhere else to look and this lends real weight to the violence. The brutality of the moves and the reactions of the enemy only help to add to the general viciousness of the game.

The system can be punishingly difficult to master though, with L1 and R1 being your left and right attacks which form the core basics of melee. You have to quickly learn the combos and the importance of blocking and gaining the upper hand with any weapon possible. There are times in the game when the system seems unforgiving, but by persevering or trying a new tactic you can get past these with a sense of achievement.

It is worth mentioning that this game is definitely not for those under the age of 18. There are some scenes which are pretty shocking and I was surprised at some parts being passed by the censors especially with the furore over video game violence at the moment. The inclusion of environmental finishing moves, reminiscent of The Punisher game, allows you to execute your enemy in a particularly hideous manner.

However, the game isn't entirely about clubbing junkies to death with table legs and there are some interesting forensic sections which remind me of CSI. These puzzles are much better than most obscure survival horror ones and there certainly isn't any "combine the apple with the turnip" weirdness.

Mostly they involve analysing evidence at a crime scene then selecting from a list of options on what you think happened. These generally include searching for clues, photographing evidence and examining blood spatter. Most of them aren't necessary to proceed and simply improve your rating at the end of a mission, but I enjoyed them and although they are a little underused it makes them seem fresh.

I was also very pleased that Condemned 2 wasn't over in a flash like most games these days. There is a good selection of levels, most of which take at least an hour to complete, especially on higher difficulties. There is a good sense of replay value with plenty of unlockables, a serious of combat based challenges and even a multiplayer mode. Multiplayer builds on the combat of the main game and whilst I only played it briefly it seemed to be acceptable if difficult. Although, I am unsure of how popular a melee first person multiplayer game will prove to be in the long term.

The above is all strong and very well handled by the developers, but Condemned 2 has a number of problems which prevent it from becoming a psychological classic like the Silent Hill series.

Firstly, you generally can't go 5 minutes without a deranged murderer jumping out at you. If the game's developers had rationed out the combat a bit more then it might have created more tension and atmosphere. Whilst there are a number of scripted moments which work well, the game as whole tends to descend into violence whenever it thinks there is a lull. Whilst this by no means ruins the game, it prevents it from really getting to you and having a lasting impact.

There are also occasional "shooting" levels where the melee combat goes out of the window and instead you spend it blasting people with assault rifles which tends to undo the hard work of making guns seem a lethal godsend in the earlier missions. The shooting combat is also tricky, with a few hits required to kill you, making you replay some sections over and over, especially on harder difficulties.

I was also annoyed that at times when your character needs to progress you can press X and clamber over lockers and obstacles, yet when the game doesn't want you to do this it is unavailable. It creates a strange inconsistency where you can't even step over a foot high metal girder, which breaks the realism of the game.

However, perhaps my main issue with the game is the frankly weird plot direction the game moves towards in the final few levels. I can't remember playing a game when things get so odd in such a short space of time. I won't go into the details, to avoid spoilers, but you may well be left disappointed at the switch away from horror to other genres.

Yet, criticism of the plot is merely my opinion and I am sure there will be some people who enjoy the changes. However, I really prefer it when a game takes time and focuses on the chilling elements that are familiar and distorts them. The first few levels of Condemned 2 really succeed in this and I found it disappointing that it undid this with a story which had me scratching my head at the peculiar developments.

Yet, if you are a fan of survival horror then Condemned 2 is definitely worth a play, though a rental may be a slightly better idea to get a feel for the game first. The first true next gen horror title for the PS3 does a good job; the visuals and sound in particular really push the boat out and rarely have those pitch black industrial corridors looked so good.
One word of advice though, try not to be overheard talking about the game out of context otherwise people might start to worry. "Well, there was this tramp that jumped out at me, so I grabbed a toilet seat and started to beat him...." You have been warned.

Pros: 
  • Excellent start
  • Visceral and chilling
  • Good sound and graphics
Cons: 
  • Plot twist is bizarre
  • Combat is difficult to adjust to
  • Not subtle or psychological
  • Some bugs

Playability:

8 out of 10

Replayability:

7 out of 10

Graphics:

9 out of 10

Sound:

8 out of 10

Overall:

8 out of 10
evilgiraffeman | 12th November, 2008

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