Poor old Ethan Thomas, he’d have a permanent appointment with a shrink, months of counseling and years of doctor prescribed sedatives if Condemned 2 was set in our fragile little world, instead he has to resort to the most violent means and methods to sort out his and the worlds’ emotional issues. Ah, the perils of being an FBI agent in a survival horror title.
When the original Condemned emerged as part of the slew of launch titles for the Xbox 360, few would have imagined the dark and twisted world that awaited them. Not for the faint of heart or those without a change of underpants, Condemned: Criminal Origins was a master class in tension and suspense, while giving early adopters of the Xbox 360 one of their first tastes of excellence in next-gen gaming. Now the sequel has arrived, also available on Playstation 3 and cranking the blood to 11.
An unusual choice for a first person shooter (relying on a lot of melee attacks, traditionally avoided in first person shooters), Condemned 2 will feel very familiar to fans of the original, but provides enough of a step up all around to warrant a look even to those that have never picked up a copy of the first game.
As mentioned above, this game is not for the entire family, if grandma comes around; turn it off immediately before she thinks you’re a crazed lunatic and starts watching your every move for signs of possession. Ethan has access to an enormous amount of weapons to lay waste to those that cross his path and isn’t afraid to use them.
Most of the weapons are your typical blunt object types: bricks, baseball bats, crowbars etc, but the occasional bowling pin, toilet seat or samurai sword really cranks up the entertainment to the extreme. Combat is again a matter of great timing and patience, with the shoulder buttons used to execute jabs or to block attacks (block your enemy attack and they’ll be staggered for a moment, allowing you to string together a combo and deal tremendous damage).
The game also caters for unique kills as you can put a headlock on a kneeling opponent and drag them over to a designated kill area, signaled by a skull, and then inflict a painful detailed death sequence. (You can set the enemy on fire; put their head through a TV, the normal sort of Sunday night good time stuff). Finding the various sequences is one of the pure joys of the game and makes each level and fight unique when you first encounter them.
The world that Ethan wanders about in Condemned 2 is gritty and depressing, reflecting the inner turmoil that exists within Ethan himself. The level design is so dark and foreboding it can be overwhelming at times, something that the producer would have been well aware of when designing the game. Condemned 2 is a game built to scare, with dark alleys and things of nightmares lurking down them. And while the game is not as scary as Monolith’s F.E.A.R, it does have some petrifying moments.
But the game does have its faults. As fascinating as the world is, it can be a little linear at times and feels like a walk from point A to point B in its simplest form. Although you could argue that this approach to the level design allows for greater tension and a better manipulation of the player (in terms of scaring them) more freedom would have meant that the frights, when they did come, would have a lot more impact as well.
All in all Condemned 2: Bloodshot takes everything that was good about the first title and makes an incremental improvement. With the first game being pretty damn good, that makes this an essential purchase for any survival horror fan as they wait for the big two (Silent Hill and Resident Evil) to make their way onto systems later in the year.