For those of you who never played the first game, it is recommended that you pick it up and play it before diving into the sequel; and you can grab a copy anywhere for under $20 bucks. Condemned 2 wastes no time, starting only a couple of months where the last game left off showing that SCU agent Ethan Thomas, has become a mess since we last saw him. Heís no longer with the agency and has ended up a dirty and lonely drunk that no one wants to deal with. But after an old friend of his turns up missing and the infamous ďSKXĒ (Serial Killer X) makes his return, Ethan has to put his demons aside, (or in this case bring them along) to solve this mystery.
Condemned 2 ups the ante on everything, starting with the graphics, which are incredibly well done, using some of the best lighting effects youíre going to see in a game. The first Condemned had moments where you had to defend yourself with your fist, but Condemned 2 takes it one leap further, incorporated a first person fighting system. When you canít pick up an iron pipe or donít have a gun, with a series of combos you can duke it out with the on screen freaks, using uppercuts, jabs, and head-butts. Obviously, weíre not talking about Fight Night, but this does add spice to the scenario.
Like the first game there are various objects that are within the environments to beat someone down. But now there is crazier stuff that you can use as a weapon such as a prosthetic arm, brass knuckles, swords, bowling balls, Foosball rods, and of course exploding baby dolls. The original only allowed you to carry one gun, then you dumped it when you ran out of bullets, but Condemned 2 features upgrades that you can earn for things like a holster so you can keep a pistol with you for when things get out of hand. You can also get other upgrades such as steel-toed boots to crush someoneís head, or a taser gun to shock it to them. Not to give too much away, you will also learn a thing or two about yourself that may possibly make you a weapon of mass destruction.
From time to time you will come across the corpses of victims and have to do some forensic CSI work to determine how the person was killed, and gather clues to learn more about what occurred during their last moments. You have several devices in your possession such as a camera, UV light, GPS, and communication device so you can transmit evidence back to Rosa, your fellow agent who also returns in this sequel. In many ways the techniques used are just like those in the last game, but now you are given more options to think about answering questions and investigate crime scenes. A rating of poor, good, or perfect scores your actions, rewarding your better judgments with upgrades at the end of a level.
Like other survival horror games such as Resident Evil, Condemned 2 immerses you in a dark environment where anything can jump out of the shadows and kill you, so you have to always be alert. This is a total freak show where youíre pitted against gun-toting thugs who wear hoodies, tar creatures, bat-like beings who hang upside down from the ceilings, and a crazy masked chick who does back flips and carries a razor sharp childrenís toy as a weapon. And some of these baddies are tough as hell, thanks to the solid AI, and it takes plenty of quick thinking to bring them down. The developers went all out to create a world that you would never want to be trapped in. Itís pretty sick at times and pushes that M rating to the edge.
Condemned 2 is not a long game, playing out for about six hours, but just like the first one, itís quality over quantity. There are times when it will creep you out and other moments where youíll be at the edge of your seat. Once you beat the game there are various modes to add replay value. First thereís the Bloodshot Fight Club, which are a series of mini-missions where you can adjust the settings to fight various opponents (one, two or three at a time). It gives you a quick fix and can also give you some sparring time, to increase your skills in the game. Also, when you finish the campaign mode you will unlock a FPS mode where instead of fists, Ethan can take on the enemies with all the guns at his disposal. Obviously guns can bring down an enemy quicker than two fists, and itís a nice alternative, but playing the game in the regular mode with limited guns and more brass knuckle punches is the way to play.
Being the first game was only on the Xbox 360, Condemned 2 is also available for the PS3, and even though the gameplay is identical, the PS3 does handle the lighting effects slightly better than the Xbox 360, and there is no noticeable slowdown on the PS3 when thereís a lot of onscreen action, which occurs at times on the Xbox 360. Normally when comparing Xbox 360 and PS3 games, rumble always falls in favor of the Xbox, but if youíre lucky enough to have the new DualShock 3 controller for the PS3, you can also benefit from rumble feeling every punch when you go face to face with baddies in Condemned 2. But the Xbox 360 does have rumble, achievements, and itís easier to find a multiplayer game on Live than it is on the PSN. No matter what system you play it on youíre still going to get a great gameplay experience. And why wouldnít you like a game that allows you take a quick break to chug back on a bottle of whiskey?
Wearing headphones or pumping up the surround sound speakers is the only way to enjoy this game to the fullest. The sound design is so well done that during quiet moments youíll hear a rapid heartbeat and then realize that itís yours because youíre anxiously thinking something is going to jump out at you. All developers should use this game as blueprint on how to create an atmosphere by use of sound; a Hollywood movie couldnít have done it better. The sound design is practically flawless in terms of effects, music, and voice work, making Condemned 2 a crowning achievement.
Condemned 2 is the first in the series to offer a multiplayer mode, and while this sounds like an interesting idea, it doesnít play out very well. Up to 8 players can play in four different modes, deathmatch and team deathmatch, youíre basic free for all. Thereís also Bum Rush where you must hold your ground for three minutes as a gang puts the beat down on you. The most interesting mode is Crime Scene, where you have to get as much evidence from a location as you can before your enemies can get to it first and hide it. Basically, itís a big plus that the option for multiplayer is there, but itís not very exciting after the first few play-throughs. And while itís easy to get an online match on Xbox Live, it takes a good amount of patience to get enough people up for a game on the PSN.
This is how to make a sequel and keep the fans of the series coming back for more. Condemned 2 outshines its predecessor in every way, demonstrating that with the right development team behind it, a sequel doesnít have to suck. The multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired, but the FPS and Fight Club modes do add to replay value. Condemned 2: Bloodshot is definitely one to own, but be warned, playing it in the dark at your own risk.