Condemned 2: Bloodshot Review

Condemned 2: Bloodshot is porn for audio and visual enthusiasts who don’t play games; a sensoral guilty pleasure from a medium not known for groundbreaking achievements in either category outside of the most knowledgeable of devotees. Because of the game’s reliance on this, a player’s enjoyment is heavily dependent on their ability to provide a dark and isolated playing environment, unsegmented game sessions and willingness to be immersed in a fanatical and gritty world. Not every game’s meant to be played at 3:00PM on a Sunday with the sun shining bright in the sky.

So much of the hype around Condemned 2 has been concerned with the many ways the player can “deal” with the enemies who are of the less economically fortunate persuasion. Get what I mean? No? Fine, I’ll say it, they’re bums. You kill a lot of bums in very graphic ways such as beating them with your fists, slamming their heads into the wall, snapping their necks, squishing their heads in machinery until they pop like big bone and brain filled pimples, etc. Look, what I’m trying to get at here is while all of that is fun in small doses and highly marketable (even bullet-point worthy), it’s not what the game is about.

Like I mentioned earlier, the audio and visuals (not necessarily graphics) are top-notch. So much in fact, they simultaneously become your greatest ally — much more-so than any weapon in the game — and your greatest fear. During the first half, you aren’t engaging in as many battles with bums or other things as you might think. For example, you might hear footsteps fleeing a garbage-filled scene with all the grace one would expect of Lurch. Heaven forbid, you might actually see said figure in the distance. Whatever the situation, self-preservation is the name of the game so you start to move a little slower, a little more cautious than before. Sometimes it’s nothing and the character has ran off; sometimes it’s a panhandler with metal objects in his mouth waiting around the corner to knock your eyeballs into your ballsack with a bowling pin. Comfy. Become too confident and the latter will most certainly happen, especially on the hard difficulty level. Remember, slow and steady wins the bat to the enemy’s face.

The audio and visuals are so damn good they deserve another paragraph of me, a guy with a degree in audio post-production, gushing about it like a schoolgirl with a crush on the new boy in town. To say they work in layers is like saying a modern automobile engine is composed of simply “stuff.” As you’re traversing the game’s 11 mostly linear levels, you’ll be exposed to a nigh overwhelming combination of video filters, fast cuts, and unnatural audio (mixed with Spock-like precision) to make both Darren Arronofsky and Michael Bay simultaneously wet themselves. It’s almost enough to drive you crazy, but since you’re playing as a character who battles alcohol demons, it’s kinda fitting. What’s also fitting is the music which sounds like some strange but welcome cross between Stalaggh and Angelo Badalamenti. Unfortunately the audio isn’t entirely composed of wine and roses since my impression of the voice acting started at “terribly miscast” and ended with “not bad.” Oh well. When you’ve drunk half a case of Lion Stout and find a bottle of Mich Golden misplaced inside, it’s hard to get upset.

One of the two biggest complaints people had of the first Condemned was how limited the combat system felt. Now you can unleash a bevy of combos with varying degrees of damage and effects and engage in new quick-time events such as breaking an enemy’s arms and legs. They’re all very satisfying to execute but seeing a big “L trigger” next to an enemy’s face or a bold-faced 2X at the top of the screen detracts from the immersive experience they have so painstakingly built. I get it; this combo makes me do more damage. You don’t need to tell me. Actually pulling off the aforementioned is a mixed bag as some of the more complex combos require more time to execute, something you don’t find on the later levels and especially all of hard.

The other complaint was that the half-assed forensics system seemed more like a desperate attempt to break up the action rather than a serious gameplay mechanic. Like the combat, this has been greatly improved on and your hand is no longer held during the process. This time you get to choose what tools you use. When she says “take a picture of that arm,” it’s up to you the player to figure out if you should use the UV light, camera, GPS or spectrometer to do it. If it sounds like too much pressure, don’t worry — they’re all optional. Completing them all perfectly will net you an achievement and, if you fulfill other criteria, upgrades consisting of stronger melee, stealth boots, and many others. Fancy.

For the first time in the series, players can engage in some multiplayer bum killin’. Settle down, it’s not that great. In fact, it’s like getting a pickle on top of your sundae. Sure, you like pickles, but eating it brings about completely different sensations of taste than a sundae. Why would you put the two together? Because you can! While the single-player game is a serious story-driven scare you out of your pants affair, the multiplayer is a casual (meaning not skill-based), oftentimes comical experience that’s actually enjoyable if you leave your brain at the door. Here’s some advice: don’t bother with Bum Rush and play Crime Scene. Why? Bum Rush is a mode where one person is a super-powerful agent with a substantial health bar that can kill anyone in one hit with any weapon. If you’re with players who lack skill it turns into an exercise in frustration. Crime Scene is where one team plants evidence and the other has to find it. Almost every match I played turned into a big game of hide-and-seek with me baiting the agents and greeting them with a sledgehammer to the back of their heads when they started scanning the evidence.

It’s also worth mentioning that later in the game is a bizarre unexpected touch of greatness found in the Magicman level and its boss that bears more than a slight resemblance to Sander Cohen from Bioshock. The experience was so short and well-designed it felt like a tacked-on tease. Was it made after Bioshock’s release? Who knows…

Without spoiling too much, the game culminates in a far too typical way and ends up being so grandiose it seems they are deliberately trying to appeal to the mass market. I understand a series needs to evolve and I even thought the emphasis on gunplay near the end was a welcome addition to really kick some ass, but please don’t turn the series against itself. I really dig it.

Condemned 2 is a game of atmosphere; an atmosphere which makes every fight, forensic minigame and non-interactive in-game cutscene much more effective. Because of its reliance on presentation, it may seem extraordinarily dated in a few years. That’s the way of the industry. But right now, it’s an unbridled one-of-a-kind mature ride with scant a boring moment in its 11 mission single-player campaign. Play it, but more importantly, play it in the right environment.


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Author: Kyle Stallock View all posts by

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