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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Xbox 360 Review - 'Condemned 2: Bloodshot'

by John Curtis on April 9, 2008 @ 1:19 a.m. PDT

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

From the demented minds at Monolith comes Condemned 2: Bloodshot, a blood-drenched nightmare that's the sequel to one of the most popular psychological thrillers of all time, Condemned: Criminal Origins. Bloodshot features bigger and badder enemies, next-gen graphics, semi-interactive environments, tons of new weapons, a new combo fighting system, totally new online play, and more blood and gore than a Rob Zombie film.

If you're partial to games that involve collecting rings and avoiding cartoon baddies, then Bloodshot is probably not for you. However, if kicking and pounding your fists into a guy's face until blood gushes like Old Faithful from every orifice sounds like fun, then this game is right up your twisted alley. At certain points in this insanely horrific, blood-soaked, first-person psychological thriller, you can smash homeless people's heads into television sets or arcade cabinets, decorate by hanging modern art (i.e., impale a loony man on a precisely positioned piece of rebar), give the ultimate swirly by drowning a foe in fecal matter left in a toilet bowl, and even crush the heads of victims in a massive vise. You get to do all of this, and you're considered the "good guy."

As the player, you once again take the role of Ethan Thomas, a washed-up yet respected special agent who is continuing a strange battle with his own inner demons while drowning his sorrows in alcohol. Players who have played Bloodshot's predecessor may notice that Ethan has taken on an entirely different look graphically and may not even appear to be the same character. Rest assured that Ethan is the same, albeit more sarcastic, bitter and badass than ever before. Playing as Ethan, you are called on by the FBI Serial Crime Unit once again to investigate strange happenings and brutal murders that are occurring all over Metro City.

During the course of his investigations, Ethan discovers new information regarding a surprisingly twisted conspiracy. The real and paranormal worlds often overlap, leaving a player a bit confused, and just when you think you have the story line figured out, a new plot twist leaves you with even more questions. Everything comes together very well, thoroughly enhancing the game's playability and eeriness and leaving you begging for the probable sequel.

As in the original Condemned, Ethan must once again collect evidence from murder site investigations and communicate his findings to Rosa back at the SCU lab. On a side note, the character Rosa has also undergone a major visual change and apparently weight-loss surgery for Bloodshot. Investigations have been vastly improved and require a little bit of actual thought from the player this time around. Investigations add to the puzzle aspect of Bloodshot and do so by having the player discover how a victim was killed or how to disarm a bomb. Certain times during an investigation, a player may have to utilize one of the four SCU-issued investigative tools, including a black light, camera, device that tracks sound emissions, and a GPS/telecommunications device.

Players also have a number of canned responses, which they'll occasionally use to reply to questions that key NPCs ask of Ethan. At the end of each level, the number of investigation items discovered and the number correct responses determine how a player ranks. Finishing each level awards the player with an upgrade item, such as a bulletproof vest (drastically lowers the amount of damage taken from projectile objects) or a set of brass knuckles (increases the amount of damage dealt in physical attacks). If you get a 100 percent ranking by finding all pieces of an investigation and answering all questions correctly, and you will receive a reward, gold medal, and the highest-ranking upgrade for the corresponding level. Each level's upgrade item can be used through the remainder of the game.

Bloodshot's unique story line will assuredly keep you on the edge of your seat, and the next-gen visuals create eerily immersive environments. As you move through the city's dark alleyways, you fully expect someone or something to jump out at you from the shadows. The overall creepiness is further emphasized through the use of lighting, especially Ethan's flashlight. A few visual effects, such as when Ethan is in a paranormal hallucination, are over the top, which makes some levels difficult to navigate due to the static overlay. The effect does, however, capture the moment and develop the freakish mood for the event.

The thud and blood splatter as a nail-studded two-by-four slams against an enemy's head, the pitter-patter of footsteps slowly approaching from an unknown direction, and the moans of enemies when you send them to the afterlife will send chills down your spine. Well-planned intervals of silence will leave you all the more terrified when something horrific actually does occur, and as expected, dialogue and voice acting are superb.

Bloodshot leaves its roots in the shadows when it comes to usable weapons and the overall fighting system. Weapons vary by level; common weapons include bricks, electrical conduits, lead pipes and nail-studded two-by-fours; other exotic weapons include a bowling pin, deer antlers, foosball rod and even medieval axes. A variety of guns — a 9mm handgun, a shotgun and a sniper rifle — have been included as well, although accurately using them in tight spaces may prove to be more difficult than a player would expect. When using aimed mode, the weapon reacts in a very jittery way because of Ethan's alcoholism; this can be temporarily fixed by the use of alcohol bottles, which can be picked up and imbibed throughout the game. All weapons can be used to bludgeon an enemy or be thrown from a distance to stun or instantly kill an enemy. All melee weapons last for a certain number of attacks and/or blocks and will emit a cracking noise just before it breaks and leaves Ethan with only his fists. With that said, Ethan can now punch and kick, so he's capable of unleashing an arsenal of hard-hitting combos, both with his bare hands and while wielding weapons.

Players can block and counter enemy attacks, but they must be perfectly timed; mistime a block for a counterattack combo, and you may find yourself lying face-down in a pool of your own blood. Enemy artificial intelligence is very challenging and constantly changes attack patterns. For instance, foes sometimes seek cover in hopes of ambushing you when you least expect it, while others may pick up a nearby weapon to pound you with. Additional baddies would run to a weapons cache, such as a pile of bricks, and throw them at you from a distance.

There is also a meter that fills as you kill enemies; it fills at a higher rate when performing any of the 30 or so combos. The bar includes three levels, and filling the bar to a certain level allows the player to unleash one of 18 finishing moves. When performing a finishing move, everything goes into slow motion, the camera changes to a more cinema-like angle, and each is followed by a Quick Time Event, which means the player must press buttons as prompted in order to finish off the target.

As if the finishing moves weren't enough of a reward for downing tons of enemies, you can also use the environment for some pretty gruesomely satisfying kills. After grappling an enemy that has been subdued, white skulls will appear on different objects around you. Simply drag your enemy over to one of these objects, and witness the ever-so-satisfying brutal vengeance. Drag an enemy to a run-down arcade cabinet, shove his head in the screen, and watch the glass and sparks fly. You can also drag an enemy to a dumpster and throw him in to crush his head with the heavy lid. Some environmental kills, such as banging a foe's head into a concrete wall, are not as spectacular as others, such as putting a guy's head in a vise and twisting it until bursts like a ripe melon, but they all add to the game's violent gore.

Everything in Bloodshot is customizable, including the difficulty level, which has the following modes: easy, medium, hard and FPS. In FPS mode, baddies are insanely smart and powerful, but playing as Ethan has its benefits because he starts each level with a gun and can find more guns and ammo throughout the mission. The player can also utilize other weapons, but the mode is meant to be used with a gun, hence the name. A quick tip: Finishing the last level on hard mode with a 100 percent investigation rating will award unlimited ammo during FPS mode. The gamma can also be altered to the creator's ideal brightness, along with changing the sound options and turning on/off subtitles for all speech.

There are several aspects of Bloodshot that could have used some tweaking, such as the weapon prompts. Generally speaking, if you don't specifically aim your camera at a weapon, you won't be prompted to pick it up. This can be kind of difficult to do when your bowling pin suddenly snaps as you're fighting off some baddies and need to pick up the golf club lying at your feet, but you can't do it because you have to look down first.

Some games are better as offline single-player affairs, and to me, Bloodshot was one such title. Monolith jumped on the online bandwagon with this one and tossed in a handful of online multiplayer modes, most of which are completely unnecessary and lacking in any fun. These modes include: bum rush, crime scene, deathmatch and team deathmatch. In bum rush, deathmatch and team deathmatch, players run around trying to kill each other in a lag-ridden environment. Crime scene is the only mode that is remotely decent. There are two teams the SCU agents and the influenced team. The objective for the influenced team is to hide briefcases full of evidence, and the SCU agents must find them. If you haven't played the game online by now, though, the odds of finding a match are few and far between on any mode or platform. I love achievements as much as the next guy, but I hated the headache required to attain the game's 1,000 achievement points.

Condemned 2: Bloodshot is one of the best games in the action/horror genre. The game had its fair share of ups and downs, but at the end of the day, the title wasn't meant to have weapon pickup ease or great multiplayer modes. This game was intended to scare the pants off of you and gross you out, and Bloodshot definitely does that. It gives other games high expectations to live up to, and it's an instant classic for any horror fan.

Score: 8.4/10

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