Condemned 2: Bloodshot
When comfort lies at the bottom of a bottle.
Xbox 360, PS3
By Rick Larson
It's always disappointing when sequels don't live up to the original title's caliber. Being a huge fan of Condemned: Criminal Origins, I found myself fairly distraught seeing its sequel fall into this common rut. That's not to say Condemned 2: Bloodshot wasn't an entertaining experience - in fact, it kept me engaged for most of its eleven levels.
Bloodshot continues the story of protagonist and former Serial Crimes Unit agent, Ethan Thomas. After the events of Criminal Origins Ethan has become a disturbed, hallucinating drunk [welcome to Kikizo - Adam] who's only comfort lies at the bottom of a bottle. Of course this is exactly the type of guy needed to take on the chaos that has overwhelmed the city.
Once again Ethan is plummeted into the dark underbelly of civilization. These grimy worn locales are down right oppressive. Monolith delivers on the visuals with outstanding environments. The textures and models are stunning and the light work is perfectly foreboding especially in the early levels. Bloodshot's character models have seen a complete revamp and are much more impressive than the original's offerings.
Sound follows suit with excellent ambient noise that will send shivers down your spine. Interaction between a prosthetic limb and a psychotic bum's face never sounded so good. The weapons spread across the game all have great sound effects backing them up. Voice work is equally impressive with each character sounding believable from start to finish. I did notice in surround sound that it was fairly difficult to hear character voices during gameplay as they were overwhelmed by ambient noise. I wish that would have been tweaked a bit more.
Gameplay is where I found things starting to falter. It all started smoothly with the creepiness laid on thick and the close quarters combat in full swing. What made the first game unique was its compelling focus on first person melee combat. Bloodshot continues this style as once more anything you find lying around can be harnessed as a lethal tool of death. Pipes, tire irons, rebar, prosthetics, locker doors, golf clubs... you name it you can maim somebody with it. It's even been complemented by a new combo system and slow motion quick-time events that deliver devastating blows often followed up by snapping an enemies neck. Environmental finishing moves are also a visceral addition that allows you to take a dazed opponent and smash them through glass or crush their head in a vice.
That sounds all peachy, right? Here's where the downward trend begins. While Criminal Origins had a small selection of guns it never wanted you to rely on them. In fact it made it impossible to rely on them due to the constant lack of ammo. As mentioned earlier, this focus on close quarters combat is what made the game so enticing. Bloodshot decided in the later levels in didn't like its roots and would rather try to resemble its sibling, F.E.A.R. The last quarter of the game you find yourself getting into firefights with swat teams while toting around an assault rifle picking up loads of ammo off every corpse and locker you run across. The gunplay isn't horrible; it's just not what I expected.
Around the same time the story takes a dip. No longer is the game about doing forensic searches (which were greatly revamped and much more enjoyable this time around), horrifying scares, disturbing serial killers, or in your face combat. It instead becomes a shoot 'em up that lacks any form of dread and revolves around a disappointing and quirky sci-fi plot. This is what ruined the latter parts of the game for me. The only thing that made me really jump was one brief visit from the mannequins that haunt me to this day from the original Condemned. I came into the game expecting to be scared out of my wits and was sorely let down.
Multiplayer has also been added to this sequel but there isn't a whole lot to say about it. It's actually fairly solid and I had some fun with it but the game modes are straight forward and don't really bring anything new into the fray. It's a nice bonus that breaths a little extra life into the game once you've worn out the single player but compared to other multiplayer games currently on the market these few modes and maps won't hold anyone's attention long.
Condemned 2: Bloodshot as a whole was definitely worth playing especially for those that completed the original. It did grow on its predecessor adding more in depth fighting and much more engaging forensic puzzles, but late into the game it leaves those elements behind and forgets its identity. Here's hoping the third installment will go back to its roots and give me nightmares about mannequins again.