I dare you to play with the lights off!
Condemned 2: Bloodshot
Release Date: March 11, 2008
Developer: Monolith Productions
ESRB Rating: Mature
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
I try to not have very high hopes for any game, as you will always be disappointed when a game fails to meet your expectations, but I did have very high hopes for Condemned: Bloodshot . The main reason was because Condemned: Criminal Origins (CO) had taken me completely by surprise. The game was bold, creepy and provided an "in your face" combat system that was both gritty and involving in a way that a shooter cannot. In my opinion, CO was the best launch title available for the still baby fresh Xbox 360 console. Twenty-eight months later and Bloodshot no longer has the advantage of being fresh and new so the developers decided that Bloodshot would be bolder, creepier and more in your face. This is usually a good recipe, but more is not always better.
The story in CO was not mind boggling, but it was very good. In CO, you had a serial killer that kills other serial killer using their own MOs. The story also hinted at our protagonist as having some supernatural powers (no Xray vision here, more akin to Medium than Smallville), but not much more. The game story was not remembered for it's amazing plot, but more for how creepy it was. This time the story line attempts to be creepier and for the most part, it does succeed but I personally found it to a bit over the top. There is an actual plot to take over the world (well city), and how have to stop it. The story also tries to explain why our hero has "powers". The problem is when the story starts to take turns and twists to the point you do not know who is who and what is what and why you even care. I now understand what Ken Levine meant when he indicated to keep the story simple.
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Part of what made CO so creepy was the in-your-face combat system. When playing a first person shooter, very rarely do you ever feel a personal connection with your opponent. The style of game has you take out the bad guys as quickly as you can, often when they are nothing more than a few polygons high on the screen, visible only through your powerful scope mounted to your sniper rifle. In Criminal Origins, you did not have the luxury of sniping a bad guy from across the battlefield as your weapons were nothing more than pipes, wooden boards, signs and other various debris you manage to scavenge in your adventure. I mean, realistically how often do you happen upon a gun and boxes of ammunition in real life, but 2x4s are plentiful enough (but not as easy to detach as portrayed in the game, I should know, I tried). At times, you cannot even find a single board or pipe so you had to resort to your trusty fists and feet to take care of business. This combat system forces you to get up and real close to the bad guys. But just as you are trying to survive and smash some teeth, the enemies are also wielding pipes, boards, baseball bats and more in an attempt to separate your head from your body. Condemned 2 expands upon this combat method of delivering justice and then attempts to refine this process through new tricks. Now you can combo punch and perform special "finishing moves" like smashing thugs heads into a TV or sandwiching heads in a dumpster. The finishing moves are fun even if they add little to the game, but the combos are not as fun. For the most part, the combo system is nothing more than following a visual prompt on the screen to press either the left or right trigger in a sequence. To start a combo, you must double click a button quickly, and then follow the on screen combo that leaves less than a second for you to follow. The result is that you end up attempting the combo over and over again. The more complex the combo, the more you will feel like pounding the game with your fist in a similar fashion.
One of the greatest changes in Bloodshot was the refining of the enemy AI. In CO, the deranged loonies would act and react as I imagined deranged loonies would act. They would not just attack blindly, but they would ambush you, then attack when you least expect it. The enemy would sometimes retreat if they notice that you have a better weapons than theirs and try to find something more sturdy to bash your brains in. In Bloodshot, they still do all that, but are more intelligent about it. Since Bloodshot features way more guns and firepower than CO ever did, these enemies are especially dangerous.
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This game features an online multiplayer option. The choices of online modes are quite interesting. You have your standard Deathmatch and team deathmatch but since there are few guns, you must pick up some debris and start whacking each other senseless. Blocking and counter attacking becomes an extremely important skill to winning this mode. Team deathmatches can be more fun, because you can mob a player of the other team, and group pummel him till he goes limp. Other multiplayer modes are Bum Rush, which has one or two members of SCU (cops) fend off a horde of bums. The SCU cannot re-spawn, but get to use guns.
The final and most original of the multiplayer games is Crime Scene. Here the infected (bad guys) must hide two coolers containing a severed human head, from the SCU. The goal is to either hide the evidence well enough so that the SCU cannot identify the "evidence" within the time limit, or kill all the SCU. Since the SCU are armed with guns, this is not an easy task. I found the best strategy is to finding an hiding spot for the evidence that is not hidden to well, then laying in ambush and wait till a SCU agent starts to scan the object, then jumping him. While the multiplayer is fun at first, it does get old quickly. Even with the game so close to the release date, it was somewhat difficult to find players to play each game type. Most games were filled with achievement junkies just boosting their gamerscores.
Overall, I am glad to say to my fellow virtual hobo bashers (I do not condone any violence towards real life hobos or any other living creature for that matter), there is plenty of good with this game. If I have sounded a little harsh thus far in my review, it is only because the first Condemned was so good, that I place it on my list of best Xbox 360 games and recommend it to all but the most squeamish to experience. Condemned 2 in contrast tries a little to hard, and looses part of the original appeal, but the game is still a stunning horror/survival game that must be experienced, just as the first was. Condemned: Bloodshot is not Condemned: Criminal Origins, but it's close enough to be worth your time.