Game: "Condemned 2: Bloodshot"
System: Xbox 360
Published by: Sega
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: The sole franchise in the narrow genre of the brutal improvised melee FPS game has a new offering for you. If you loved being able to beat a homeless person with a chunk of concrete and rebar, your ship has come in.
It's been almost a year since SCU Agent, and all around ugly guy, Ethan Thomas brought Serial Killer X to justice, but his life has been going downhill, and now he's a homeless, paranoid alcoholic. What's worse, his old mentor Malcolm Van Horn has disappeared, and the SCU wants him to take the case.
The most notable improvement in Bloodshot is the bolstered melee combat system. In Criminal Origins, your melee repertoire was limited to a weak hit, and strong hit, and a block. Now, you can work your enemies over with combo attacks, like a quick left-right combo that ends with powerful blow. Getting these attacks down and fighting well in general will give you access to chain attacks, wherein you and your opponent get tied into a short series of timed button-presses that can deal more damage, break an arm, or snap a neck.
Gunplay, too, has matured since the first game. You're still limited to only what ammo is in the current clip, but now you can actually aim those guns. Unfortunately, Ethan will need to take a swig of booze to cure his DT shakes, but even so, it's nice to see him finally putting that SCU firearms training to use.
Nicer still is that the gameplay is no longer relegated solely to dilapidated apartments and hotels. Yes, there are still quite a few decaying urban stages in the game, but they’re offset by a number of different stages, such as a junk barge and a museum (complete with a "medieval exhibit"). Given the plot, I can understand why they’d want to have some rundown city stages, but be reasonable.
The investigative portions of the game have been retooled as well. All the old tools remain, but now, you’ll be required to make observations and answer questions based on a list of choices, with the most accurate answer giving you the highest rating for the section. For the most part, these are fairly easy to decipher, but particularly in some of the questions you have to answer/pose, you have to choose from two or three very similar answers, and hope that you picked the more insightful one as you work toward getting the best rating for the mission.
The thing I take issue with is the insistence that the game is scary. The game is billed as a survival horror, but it emphasizes the "horror" part far more than the "survival" part. The game is loaded with plenty of creepy moments, but scary? There’s plenty of frightening imagery, but I can’t say I was ever actually scared by the game. Sure, it can be kind of off-putting when a psychopath steps out from around a corner to swipe at you with a 2x4, but when you can easily block that attack and lay into him? Not that scary.
The designers also seem to have a fetish for the color black. Dark areas can be scary, but when you’re in between fights/"scares" and you can’t see anything, that’s just irritating. The worst example of this comes in the very first stage, at the end of which you wind up fighting all black creatures against and all black background. I could feel myself getting eyestrain.
The way the narrative plays out may not work for everyone, either. Criminal Origins hinted at a larger plot, but by the end, you really had no idea what was going on. Without giving too much away, Bloodshot more or less lays out the entire background for the events of the series, and while it does leave some room for a sequel, I can't imagine there will be that much left to explain therein.
The game also throws in a few challenges and multiplayer modes, but for the most part, they amount to little more than "kill the other guy" with only slight variations to separate them. Also, the online multiplayer seems to be suffering from noticeable lag, which you’d think wouldn’t be much of a problem considering how limited everything is in scope.
All told, the new Condemned is a fun time, but it's a short time. I was able to play through the entire single player game twice in the span of a weekend, and when I was finished, I had pretty much seen all I needed to see from the game, and that includes the stuff I couldn't see because it was too dark. $60? Hell no. Wait til the price drops significantly, or just rent it. If nothing else, it’s worth seeing the bizarre scene in which Ethan literally fights his alcoholism.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
I think the first one had a few "jumpy" moments but you get used to them after a while, regardless of whether you're playing or observing. I didn't see the "horror" or the "fear" in that. So is it scarier and/or more horrific than the first? It sounds "weaker." Do we still get mutant weirdos and damaged creepy mannequins? Or a need to collect dead birds? Those things at least qualify as "unsettling."
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