Thursday, April 3, 2008

Beat On The Brat With...Well, Anything

I think everything I need to learn about having fun can be learned in Condemned 2: Bloodshot, Sega and Monoliths sequel to Condemned: Criminal Origins, for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Here is what I learned:
It’s fun to beat on the homeless.
It’s more fun if you’re drunk.
The only thing better than a burning meth head is two burning meth heads.
The cake is a lie…….um, no wrong game.

Condemned 2: Bloodshot continues the tale of now former officer for the Special Crime Unit, Ethan Thomas. It’s nearly a year later and Ethan has sunk into alcoholism following the events of Condemned: Criminal Origins hunt for SKX (Serial Killer X). Ethan’s not the only one worse off. Metro City has deteriorated, largely due to sonic emitters planted throughout the city which amplifies aggression and violent behavior, and the streets are teeming with enraged homeless and homicidal addicts. Ethan is called back to SCU to investigate the disappearance of his friend, and coincidentally SKX’ Uncle Malcolm Van Horn. The investigation uncovers a plot by a secret society known as the Oro as well as the truth behind SKX’ fate and Ethans own role to play in the unfolding plot.

The only way I can describe Condemned 2 is first person brawler. While firearms do play a larger role on certain levels (upon completion you can play through the game a second time as a shooter with unlimited ammo) the true hook lies in good old fashioned melee. Weapons are plentiful in the form of a 2x4 with nails, rebar, pipes, even a foosball stick or prosthetic arm. Pretty much anything you can use as a weapon is. Granted there is not as much flexibility as Dead Rising, and I found myself missing the rebar with concrete from the first game, but there are more than enough blunt instruments of destruction laying around. New additions to the combat system are chain attacks which if executed properly can bring on a world of hurt, and environmental kills that allow you to use your surroundings on a dazed opponent.

The AI seems smarter this time around. They will attack from a distance if possible either shooting if armed, or throwing bricks, pool balls or whatever they can get their hands on. They will hide and jump out or sneak up on you from behind when you least expect it. Your flashlight is your best friend and worst enemy as it reveals your foes while telegraphing your position. It is possible to sneak through levels, but why would you want to?

Forensic investigations play a larger role in Bloodshot, and the familiar tools are back. I didn’t find much use for the GPS, but the UV light, camera and spectrometer are used fairly often and in satisfying ways. The investigations are less linear and take more thought than in the first game and it’s easy to miss something or respond incorrectly leading to a less than perfect investigation score.

Each level grades you at the end based on investigation, timed responses, emitters destroyed and antennas (news reports) found awarding you with a bronze, silver or gold badge. Trust me, you want the gold as this means the best upgrades granted. Upgrades come in the form of taser shots, bullet damage, stealth ability, kick combos, health effectiveness etc. The game also keeps a record of successful combos and extends your chain attack meter as milestones are reached.

The storyline of Bloodshot ties well to Criminal Origins, answering some questions and creating some new ones while setting you up for the inevitable sequel. You don’t necessarily have to play Criminal Origins to enjoy Bloodshot, but since it’s a budget title, why wouldn’t you?

Graphically Bloodshot doesn’t disappoint, though there were some levels that were eye straining headache inducing nightmares. There is a lot of detail in this game and the character models are great and move well. Ethan looks like he’s about to start suffering from DTs at any time.

The control is much more fluid, and at first I thought the game was easier than its predecessor, it’s not. It is more reactive and in the long run a more satisfying experience than the first game. (which was no slouch – seriously, play the first)

There are several multiplayer modes, but I haven’t tried any yet. I did spend some time in Condemned Fight Club where you get to dictate which and how many enemies to fight as well as weapon selection. It’s a good way to hone combat skills and chase after some of the more elusive achievements if you are playing the game on an Xbox 360.

All in all I had a blast with Condemned 2: Bloodshot. The game is atmospheric, raw and engrossing. It’ll probably take you about 10-12 hours on normal difficulty so you may want to give it a rental. However, higher difficulty and the FPS mode alone offer some replayability so if this is your type of game there are worse ways to spend $60.

Condemned 2: Bloodshot is Published by Sega and was developed by Monolith Productions. It carries a mature rating for violence and language, alcohol, drugs and gore. It is available for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3

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