Condemned 2: Bloodshot Review
Sega's Condemned games aren't like most standard FPS games. As opposed to just being a run-and-gun affair, developer Monolith has implemented a whole melee system that deals with fists and objects, but fire power is included too. Picking up a year after the events of the first game, you reprise the role of Ethan Thomas, who has receded into a depression coupled with alcoholism and homelessness. His former FBI-SCU co-workers are trying to find him, as once again a paranormal occurrence is sweeping the city.
As mentioned before, this isn't your typical FPS game. Condemned 2 places a focus on melee combat, as opposed to excessive use of weaponry. There is a whole combo system that deals with timing and parrying, as correct actions will trigger a timed-meter, and if you pull of the maneuver correctly, you will successfully perform the attack against your opponent. If you mess up, you'll be left vulnerable, giving your attacker the chance to strike you.
Timed blocking, or parrying, is a great way to throw your enemy off guard, by leaving them briefly defenseless, which, in turn, allows you to carry out a counter attack. All of this will feel extremely complicated at first. Initially, I found myself rather frustrated by the game's mechanics, and continued to struggle with them well into the adventure. Ultimately, the difficulty curve may throw some people off. When playing on the medium setting, you'll be met with frequent trial-and-error restarts. That said, as much as it pains me to say this, a lot of people will be better off trekking through Bloodshot on Easy. It's just too bad that the difference between Easy and Medium is a bit too wide, and a difficulty in between the two would've been nice.
Your weaponry will consist of your fists and legs, baseball bats, pipes, bricks, shotguns, handguns, sniper rifles, environmental objects around you, a magic power I won't spoil, and much more. Environmental objects, you ask? Sure! Hey look, a washing machine with its door open. What can you do with a stunned opponent, and the door of the machine? Drag him to it, stick his head into the machine, and slam it with the door - that's called an environmental kill, and it's one of many.
In terms of modes, the game offers more than just one diversion, as in addition to the main quest, you also have a multiplayer and Fight Club mode. The Fight Club mode is actually a pretty solid way to adjust to the game's learning curve, as its training stage will explain and allow you to practice attacks on enemies. Stages in the mode will unlock as you progress throughout the game, and it's surprisingly a rather enjoyable mode.
Multiplayer can carry eight people, which isn't much, really, but for a game like Condemned, it makes for a good bonus. Modes include the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, Bum Rush, and Crime Scenes. Bum Rush is a gauntlet match, where agents have to stay alive for as long as possible. As an agent, you get one hit kill, health increase, and weapons; but you don't re-spawn - so once you're dead, it's over for you. Crime Scenes is a game of search, as agents will have to retrieve bits of evidence scattered around before the time runs out. In total, you'll partake on eight maps, spreading across locations from the story.
Condemned 2 is a very good take on the first person shooter genre, but it features a number of flaws. First, not being able to turn off the head-bobbing is infuriating, as the game gets pretty excessive with it. If you're the least bit sensitive to motion sickness, avoid Condemned 2 - or prepare to make friends with a toilet, or wherever you prefer to hurl. Additionally, combat controls could be more intuitive, as you never really feel like you're in complete control over Ethan. Punches and kicks lack an immediate response, and comboing can feel clunky. Where as I'd like to unleash punches left and right like a jackhammer, I can't do that because of how the melee mechanics work. Ultimately, I also didn't find myself very engaged with the whole experience. Sometimes it felt like the story and its dialogue forced itself to be overly gory and profane. And while I have a tendency to swear like a sailor myself, many times the swearing just felt unnecessary in the game.
Condemned 2 isn't a bad playing game, and fans of the original will probably love it. But I found a number of flaws with the game that prevented it from achieving 'great' status in my book. It's still worth a look, and it's clearly a better game than the original, but the more typical FPS fans will find frustration with the gameplay. I have must say that things do get much better once weapons become more readily available, even if it takes a bit.
Visually, Condemned 2 is much like other horror-themed FPS games; it features a brooding color palette, complete with lots of blood-splats, carefully dark lighting, and gruesome imagery. Don't expect to be blown away, or expect to see anything remotely new here. But Bloodshot isn't a bad looking game. Unlike many first-person shooters, this one runs at a buttery 30 frames per second, rendering 720p, with very minimal issues. Furthermore, other performance issues don't hinder Bloodshot, largely because it was developed on a game engine that isn't Unreal.
Not that I'm bashing the Unreal Engine, but naturally, a developer is more likely to pump out a better product using a proprietary engine, as opposed to a licensed one. Monolith's Lithtech engine moves the game around well, with no screen tearing issues, and minimal aliasing problems. The lighting is well done, and the texture work is solid, overall.
I mentioned earlier on that the profanity in the dialogue felt a bit too forced and unnecessary. Regardless, the voice acting, as a whole, is very well done. Ethan Thomas' new voice actor suits his 'eff-it-all' demeanor quite nicely, and all of the hysteria around you does a very good job of immersing you into a panic. Some of the hysteria includes the frantic cries of the demented bums who will attack you at the drop of a hat. Them shouting at you as they try to kill you makes your blood boil successfully, as you feel your only course of action is to beat the living the hell out of them. Monolith definitely did a great job with most of the game's audio.
All in all, there are games that are far more average than Condemned 2: Bloodshot. Monolith has once again proved that they are quite capable of developing fear-based first person shooters. I found a number of problems with the game that will frustrate most FPS fans, such as the often clunky hand-combat controls. If you liked the first Condemned game and would like more, Bloodshot should serve you well. If you're the type of FPS fan who likes his arsenal complete with nothing but firepower, then Condemned 2: Bloodshot isn't for you. It is a technically well done game, boasting solid visuals and nice audio - but not everyone will agree on its gameplay. If you're on the fence, I suggest renting it and seeing for yourself. But fans of the first game should buy it.
4/21/2008 Arnold Katayev