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Condemned 2: Bloodshot

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Monolith Productions
Release Date: March 18, 2008 (US), April 4, 2008 (EU)

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PS3/X360 Preview - 'Condemned 2: Bloodshot'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 20, 2008 @ 4:22 a.m. PST

In Condemned 2: Bloodshot you assume the identity of Ethan Thomas, former Serial Crimes Unit investigator, who has been called back to duty to track down his missing partner.

Genre: Action/Puzzle
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Monolith Studios
Release Date: March 13, 2008

Condemned: Criminal Origins was one of the Xbox 360's better launch titles. A combination of unique melee combat, CSI-style forensic investigation and a dark and engrossing storyline made Condemned one of the most sought-after titles for Microsoft's new console. Unfortunately, it also suffered from an incredibly short length and little replay value, as well as a cliffhanger ending that left players hungry for more. While it was certainly a fun game, Condemned lacked the staying power to become a true classic, although it was fairly high quality for a launch title. There were slight worries that Monolith Productions' own F.E.A.R franchise would mean that Condemned would remain an unfinished title, due to the stylistic similarities between the two. Thankfully, this is not the case, and after two years, players will finally get to continue the story in Condemned 2: Bloodshot .

The first Condemned: Criminal Origins put players in the role of Ethan Thomas, a detective with a touch of supernatural psychic power. Ethan was a Metro City police detective who was framed for murder by Serial Killer X, a mysterious killer who tracked down and killed serial killers with their own methods. Unfortunately for Ethan, SKX's killing spree coincided with a mysterious increase in the violent behavior of the city's citizens, and he had to battle his way through the crazy homeless population in his search to prove his innocence. While Ethan eventually succeeded, the events took their toll on his mind.

Condemned 2: Bloodshot flashes forward almost two years, and time has not been kind to Ethan. He's living on the streets, battling a crippling alcohol addiction and his own increasingly disturbing visions of something terrible lurking deep within Metro City. Ethan is finally pulled out of the street by his old partner, Rosa, who calls him in to help track down Malcolm Vanhorn, Serial Killer X's uncle and Ethan's old friend, as well as the only person who knows the truth behind the SKX murders and the visions that plague Ethan's mind.

Unfortunately for Ethan, his current mental state has also affected his body. His addiction to alcohol has all but destroyed his health, and unless he's got a pint of cheap hobo liquor in his system, he trembles and shakes. While this doesn't cause too much of a problem for Ethan's hand-to-hand fighting, it makes using a gun quite a challenge. Guns in Condemned 2: Bloodshot are not like the weapons you'd find in most first-person shooters. They're exceptionally powerful, but also inaccurate and suffer from extremely limited ammo; you'll require headshots and careful aim to take down more than one or two foes before the gun becomes nothing more than a fancy bludgeoning tool. It would be difficult enough to use the handguns, but trying to hit a crazy hobo in a pitch-black room while suffering from withdrawal is almost impossible.

Luckily, while Ethan can't fire a gun to save his life, he remains the master of hand-to-hand combat and is more than capable of using any item in his environment as a makeshift weapon. Everything from bricks and pipes to bowling balls and locker doors can be used to bash the ever-increasing wave of crazies that populate Metro City. Ethan can even use the environment as a weapon by tossing enemies into electrical boxes, impaling them on rebars, or simply chucking them out a nearby window for an instant kill.

Life on the street has forced Ethan to adjust his formidable combat prowess into a truly brutal street-fighting style. He's capable of launching devastating combos that allow him to do five times the damage of a regular strike — assuming the enemy doesn't interrupt him. Ethan's new brutality does more than allow him to beat the living daylights out of his foes: The more brutally Ethan fights, the faster his Chain Combo meter fills up, and when the meter is full, he can activate a Chain Combo. Essentially a special attack that does massive amounts of damage to a foe (ranging from breaking their limbs to an instant-kill neck snap attack), Chain Combos grow more powerful with each use. If you perform enough, the Chain Combo will level up and the meter will extend, thus allowing him to perform even deadlier attacks.

Given Ethan's combat prowess, it is easy to forget that he was once a respected detective. Luckily, his sleuthing skills haven't dulled in his months of living on the streets, and every so often, he'll be required to perform a forensic investigation of a crime scene. Unlike the first Condemned, however, these forensic investigations actually require players to use their brains, rather than simply pressing a button and watching Ethan do the work for them. Players will have to use their brains and Ethan's notable supply of forensic tools to figure out exactly what happened to the unfortunate victims.

All of the evidence is located in the room, and it's just up to players to take a careful look and figure out exactly what happened. Once Ethan knows the deal, he can pick out what he thinks happened from his PDA's menu, and sends the info to his partner Rosa, who reports back to him based on what he found. Correctly assessing the crime scene lets Rosa give Ethan more hints and details on the current situation, as well as occasionally revealing bits of backstory that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Investigate poorly, however, and Ethan may find himself without a clue.

While investigations are important to figuring out the mystery behind Ethan's mysterious visions, they serve another, more useful purpose. In every level, Ethan is given a set of side objectives to complete, ranging from finding hidden objects scattered throughout the levels to sneaking through an area without alerting any of the patrolling guards. These side objectives, when combined with Ethan's success in investigations, form Ethan's score at the end of a level, and depending on how well he does, he may receive a bronze, silver or gold medal.

Medals are not just shiny objects, however, but rather represent new abilities for Ethan. Every medal you get earns a new ability, such as rubber soles that allow Ethan to sneak, a stun gun that can be used to instantly stop a foe, or a holster that lets Ethan hold an extra gun. However, the quality of these power ups is directly connected to Ethan's ranking. A bronze-ranked stun gun, for example, will only have two charges and may not stop certain foes, while a gold-ranked stun gun has a full five charges per battery and can stop even the nastiest foes in their tracks. While it isn't necessary to get gold-rank equipment in order to beat the game, earning these high scores makes Ethan's life a lot easier.

One of the biggest complaints about the original Condemned: Criminal Origins was its lack of replay value. Once you finished the main story and found the collectables, the game was over. Thankfully, Condemned 2: Bloodshot is going to offer a lot more bang for your buck. First and foremost is the Bloodshot Arena, a series of single-player missions that involve completing different, difficult objectives. Players may have to aid guards against rioters, battle evil exploding dolls, or defeat a series of foes in as short a time as possible.

For those who are looking for something of the multiplayer variety, Condemned 2: Bloodshot also offers a series of online multiplayer game types, ranging from the classic Deathmatch to a series of more unusual options. For example, in the Crime Scene game type, one side plays as the Special Crimes Unit, who must use forensic tools to find evidence while battling the other side, who play as crazy citizens of the city and must stop the SCU before they can find the evidence.

It seems as if Monolith Productions has heard all of the complaints that gamers had about the first Condemned for the Xbox 360 and have done everything in their power to ensure that the sequel is an improvement in every way. The changes to the combat system are substantial, making the actual gameplay deeper and give everything a grittier and more realistic feel. The new rewards system and the addition of extra single-player and all-new multiplayer game modes mean that Condemned 2: Bloodshot will have a lot more replay value than its predecessor, Condemned: Criminal Origins. Assuming everything comes together well when it hits stores this March, Condemned 2: Bloodshot should be a solid addition to any horror game fan's collection.


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