Saturday, April 19, 2008

Condemned 2: Bloodshot (X360) - Review

Player(s): 1
Memory: 316KB
System Link: 2-8 players
Online Multiplayer: 2-8 players

Admittedly, I only just recently picked up the first Condemned game and got to experience what I found to be one of the best Xbox 360 games that I have played. The unique combination of horror elements with a crime story and a first person perspective felt quite unique to this horror gamer. As we all know, sometimes sequels have a tendency of losing what made the first game special. Unlike some games that have a more noticeable change, Condemned 2's appeal will depend on the player. Just how much change and new directions in story are you willing to accept?

Condemned 2 picks up a year from where the first Condemned left off. Once again we take on the role of Ethan Thomas, who has quit his job at his former agency and is now living on the streets while drinking his life away due to the events that he witnessed during the first game. Ethan is more in-tune with his aggressive side from the get go of this adventure. In the last game he wasn't afraid to duke it out at all but he was somewhat hesitant in tense situations. In this one, he just flat out doesn't give a damn and speaks his mind about everything around him.

Speaking of Ethan's change, his crime scene friend, Rosa, has undergone quite a makeover. She now has a much younger appearance from that of the character model used in the first Condemned. There are also a few more returning characters from the original Condemned that appear in the sequel. The changes to the lead characters take some getting used to. Rosa still contributes well to the story, but Ethan started to feel a bit annoying with his constant cussing and aggression by the end of the game.

The overall story doesn't feel as tense as the first game. Some missions stand out much better than others. With its overall scary atmosphere, The first mission sets the stage very well for what appears to be a good continuation of the story, but some of the other earlier stages overstay their welcome with the focus mainly on combat instead of taking a break to give the player some story development. Overall the story is satisfying, but fans of the first game are not guaranteed to like this one. The original Condemned was much more believable from a story standpoint and the stages and overall mood of the game never let up from the intense ride that it gave us. Condemned 2 has its moments but the game kind of oversteps its boundaries in terms of believability by the end of the game. One thing that will please fans of the original is that Rosa and Ethan still make a good team with their constant discussion on the situation at hand - the dialogue and overall interaction between the two still matches the game well.

Condemned 2's overall combat system is much deeper this time. Ethan can attack using the right and left triggers and he can chain together attacks for a more powerful combination. While chaining attacks, a bonus can be achieved with a well placed hit on an enemy which will increase a super bar on the top right portion of the screen. Once this super bar has been extended somewhat, Ethan can unleash a combination of blows that makes time slow down as Ethan delivers each powerful hit. Button combinations appear on the screen once the super move is activated and you must follow through with the timed button presses to keep the combination going.

It takes a bit of getting used to in order to become familiar with the new combat system, but it is quite pleasing once you get the hang of it. Ethan can still deflect enemy hits by holding up his arms using both triggers, but this time he can actually block instead of just holding up his arms in a quick deflection sequence like in the first game. The window of opportunity for deflecting an attack is much more forgiving this time around as well.

Like the original Condemned, Ethan can still make use of plenty of environmental objects. We still have the usual pipes and locker doors, but this time we get some extra objects such as bowling balls, antlers, and toilet seats. There are still a few projectile weapons this time and each of them can be refilled with ammo by finding another gun of the same type. Ethan can also holster a smaller gun and use another weapon allowing him to keep a secondary weapon on hand. The main focus is still on melee weapons but this time the projectile weapons are given to Ethan a bit more - it still doesn't turn into a standard first person shooter though.

Oh, and let's not forget about the actual forensic crime scenes where you get to whip out Ethan's gadgets and study evidence. The first game was truly unique with the crime scene aspect but the game gave you little control over what actually happened. In Condemned 2, the game actually leaves it up to you to solve the mystery behind the crime scene. Evidence is lying about in the area and it is your job to examine what is important and come up with the most logical conclusions from a list of choices. The crime scenes are very well done in this game and give the player more of a key role this time. The only problem that I had with the crime scenes is that you miss out on some slight story elements if you happen to pick the wrong choices. Rosa sometimes corrects you though.

Condemned 2 also has a few multiplayer modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Bum Rush, and Crime Scene. Each game allows players to choose from the SCU (SWAT police) or the Influenced (thugs). Deathmatch is your standard free for all deathmatch where you start with your bare hands then have to take on up to eight other players in challenge to see who can get the most kills. Team Deathmatch allows players to pick from the SCU and the Influenced and fight against the other group. Weapons are scattered throughout the environment in both games. In Bum Rush mode, several players take on the role of the Influenced and two players use two overpowered SCU soldiers. The Influenced players have about ten minutes to defeat the two SCU soldiers.

Crime Scene allows players to pick from the SCU and the Influenced once again. The SCU come armed with guns and the Influenced are armed with standard melee weapons. At the start of each round, the Influenced are required to hide two evidence containers somewhere on the map - these can be picked up and moved at any time by an Influenced player. The Influenced must protect the evidence for three minutes from the SCU. The SCU come equipped with scanners that show a hot and cold meter for each evidence container when it is taken out while walking. Use the scanners to find the evidence then scan both evidence containers to win the round. This was really my game of choice for the multiplayer portion of Condemned 2. The SCU seems overpowered with their guns but using the right tactics for the Influenced can turn the tides and make this game one interesting little game of cat and mouse. Hiding in the shadows and sneaking up on a player from the opposite team plays an important role while playing with the Influenced.

The Deathmatches feel rather standard and shallow. Bum Rush is ok but it really feels just like another form of Deathmatch. The Crime Scene provides a unique experience. Some frustrating lag can rear its head at any time during any of these matches and make the melee combat very hard to use. The combat in these multiplayer games doesn't feel as deep as in the main game and the movements aren't as fluid. Fights basically come down to attacking, stepping back to avoid an enemy's attack then countering. Deflecting and blocking can help out but the attacks are harder to see coming in multiplayer mode - it feels much like deflecting in the first Condemned.

The character models and surroundings in the game are very life-like, even more so than the original Condemned. The black gooey creatures give off an eerie shimmer from up close and thugs usually have a deranged face full of psychotic behavior. There are still plenty of hallucination sequences that help to deepen the tension and give you a break from the usual standard combat. The atmosphere is still well in place but sometimes the game got way too dark in some areas making me turn the brightness up nearly all the way just to see.

Controls remain very solid for the single player game. Once you get the hang of them, the game is quite fun. Multiplayer controls are ok, but the melee controls are a bit simplistic without the option to perform super moves. It's much harder to deflect attacks in multiplayer also since the attacks are usually so instant.

Once again Sega has given us some great sound effects to increase the tension in environments. From the bone breaking slap of a pipe to Ethan's constant grunts, the overall sound doesn't disappoint. Guns still give the satisfying blast sound effect and there is a satisfying crunch and spray sound when shooting an enemy's head. Character voices match up with those from the first game. The voice actors sound very much like the ones from the first Condemned and the newer voice actors fit their characters well.

Aside from some gripes with the multiplayer, the gameplay is very solid in Condemned 2. The combat is deep in the single player and many enhancements have been made here and there that greatly improved on that which was showcased in the first Condemned. The multiplayer isn't all that special, but the Crime Scene game can be quite enjoyable. For fans of the first game, Condemened 2 is worth a look for the continuation of the story - whether it will appeal to you or not is up to how forgiving you are on change. From a gameplay standpoint, the game is totally worth a playthrough since the combat has been greatly redone and the crime scene portions give the player a more involved role in solving them this time. Even with some shortcomings, Condemned 2 is still a satisfying horror- themed first person action game.

Graphics: 9.0
Controls: 8.0
Sound: 9.0
Gameplay: 9.0

The Good:

+ A much deeper combat system.
+ Players get more of a key role in crime scene investigations.
+ The Crime Scene multiplayer is fun.

The Bad:

- Some of the multiplayer games feel shallow.
- Overall story may not please Condemned 1 fans.


Condemned 2 is still a unique horror game with some nice enhancements but fans of the first game may not enjoy the new story direction.


sephirosuy said...

I wonder the PS3 controller works better for this game? Because I usually hold the PS controller :p

Berserker said...

It probably works just about the same really. The game mainly uses the top shoulder button for the most part so if you don't like the LB and RB buttons on the Xbox 360 controller then the PS3 controller might suit you.

To me, the trigger buttons on the PS3 would feel kind of weird since I'm used to the first Condemned on X360.