In Monolith’s Condemned: Criminal Origins, published by SEGA, you took on the role of Special Crimes Unit agent Ethan Thomas and set out to catch the Matchmaker, a serial killer disposing of other serial killers in the same manner they killed their victims. To top all that off there was a strange illness driving the denizens of Metro City to violence, and you had to clear your name of false murder chargers. At the end of it all you saved the day, made some shocking revelations, and appeared to be losing your mind. This was all done in FPS format, and gameplay focused on melee combat vs. fire arms, with some sleuthing thrown in, and a strong emphasis on the atmosphere.
In Condemned 2: Bloodshot, Ethan is back. He’s quit SCU, turned into a drunk, talks to himself and there’s a familiar madness gripping the city.
He’s right behind you!
Condemened 2: Bloodshot will scare the crap out of you. Monolith knows how to do creepy atmosphere just right (just look at their F.E.A.R. series) and this game does not disappoint. I haven’t jumped this many times since playing Resident Evil on PS1. The graphics in this game are astounding and it’s clear right away that great attention was paid to detail; the way blood splatters against the scenery (and camera lens), the garbage that lines many of the games levels, the way your shadow stands when hit with different sources of light, the body parts littering a crime scene, or the uncomfortable feeling you’ll get as you enter a dark empty room, it all looks and feels equally great.
It’s these little things that make this game shine. And it doesn’t stop there. The character models look equally as good. For example, Ethan looks like a deranged, homicidal, homeless man that hasn’t slept in ages. Everything fits and is right up there visually with the best that the 360 has to offer.
Have a drink and whip some ass
But all the graphical prowess wouldn’t make a difference if the game played like a tech demo gone wrong, and thankfully Monolith didn’t try and re-invent the wheel here. The controls are what we would come to expect from a good FPS, buttery smooth and just right.
Movement and aiming is handled by the analogue sticks, the triggers are for throwing your fists or firing, and the buttons are used for a variety of task: checking ammo, calling up your forensic tools, flashlight, etc.
When facing off against enemies, you’ll have the option of using a wide range of tools to smack enemies silly with, with the majority of the weapons being melee based. With the melee system you can pull off some brutal combos and finishing moves that revolve around parrying or connecting successive hits on your opponent.
The guns that are available in the game, while limited in ammo are very powerful. This adds a bit of realism to the gameplay. Instead of giving you a semi-automatic with a clips containing 100+ rounds of ammo, you’ll get one with 30, and hand guns of course have even less. Ammo is also very scarce and it doesn’t take a whole lot of shots to kill an enemy, one to the head and they’re done for, or a couple body shots and that’s it. And through it all you will need to be sure to keep yourself nice and loaded on the alcohol that is scattered throughout most levels, so you can steady your nerves and keep that shooting hand steady.
Welcome to the jungle
Levels in Condemned 2, while linear, offer plenty of diversions to keep you from getting bored. On one hand, you’ll have a bunch of maniacal enemies trying to kill you. On the other hand, sometimes levels will warp and go from ugly to gruesome as Ethan slips into the dark corners of his intoxicated mind.
Enemies will come at you hard, but they will also attack each other. This works great with the theme of the game in which the city seems to be going crazy, and makes for good comedy to see different enemies going at each other. The enemy A.I. is pretty smart too, for example there was one point where I was fighting off a tactical kill squad from the second floor of one of the levels. One of the last soldiers in the squad was firing and covering while advancing and managed to make his way upstairs. I ran at him firing connecting with 2 or 3 shots, and he totally jumped over the railing and went for cover downstairs. Brilliant, plain and simple.
The only problem I had when facing enemies is the game can get really, really, really dark. With no damage direction indicator, at times you’ll find yourself getting beat up on, and trying to fire or swing your way out of the fray. While you can adjust the brightness in the settings, if you turn it up too much, it kills the atmosphere.
In between the bouts of action Ethan will be given objectives to complete the level and advance the story. Most of the time these are handled by you having to look at ‘evidence’ and use some sleuthing to determine what happened at a crime scene. It is here that Condemned 2 solidifies itself as a contender with the best in the business.
This is handled by an on-screen prompt that says ‘evidence’ – once initiated, you’ll be given a selection of choices to make about what it is you’re seeing. Most of the time you’ll be using one of four forensic tools, but sometimes you’ll just have to use your eyes. After you determine what it is you’re looking at, you can submit them to your tech support for that level (usually Rosa) who will give you a some dialogue about what you reported and lets you progress. The game will then assign you a grade (poor-perfect) and at the end of the level, this as well as hidden items found, and optional objectives, will factor into a score which will help you get character upgrades. While some of these portions of the game may seem like trial and error, I can assure you there are always clues around the environment pointing you in the right direction.
If you’re a fan of survival horror games, first-person shooters, and or looking to be entertained, this is the game for you. Condemned 2 takes solid FPS practices, reinforces them and does enough to stand out from the standard FPS fodder that litters store shelves every week.
The game grabs a hold of you with its mood and atmosphere from the beginning and does not let go until you’re watching the credits roll. You’ll tense up with anticipation exploring the seedy underside of Metro City (and at one point Trenton, NJ), and you will probably jump more than once at the sight of your own shadow. The sounds add to the package, bullets rip through flesh like metal on meat, and every blow with your fist or any other object will make your teeth rattle.
The games length is just right. Whether it’s searching for a body in a dilapidated hotel, trying to find your way out of a burning toxic doll factory, or navigating the delusions of your mind, all 11 levels move at the pace they should move. The game doesn’t even slow down for auto-saving. Monolith doesn’t want you to go through a level and then back track 4 times to find the one key to open a door from the beginning of the level. At all times you’re moving where you need to be, and the level puzzles make sense and don’t force you to do a whole lot of unnecessary stuff.
There was only one part of the game that I personally felt was drawn out and even that was handled in a way that kept me pushing forward. When you’re all done with the single player portion, you can help yourself to some online carnage, or try your hand at the various modes in Bloodshot Fight Club.
Condemned 2: Bloodshot is a must play game, and I would recommend its purchase based on the atmosphere and brutal gameplay alone. If you’re looking for solid gameplay, an entertaining story, and breath of FPS fresh air, this one right here is worth every penny.
No damage direction indicator, combined with dark visuals, equals frustration
Cinematic scratching, and some of the graphic style choices used for flashback sequences make the visuals suffer at times
Story can be predictable and the pacing seems rushed during the last 3 chapters
Melee combat offers enough depth and variety to make you want to skip the guns altogether
One of the best in-game atmospheres ever, get ready to be scared
Watching enemies beat up on each other never gets old