The original Condemned was a one-of-the-kind atmospheric thrill ride, and certainly knew how to get your blood going. It had some of the most genuinely intense first person melee combat I've ever seen, and was at times terrifying to boot. I was hopeful that Condemned 2: Bloodshot could fix some of its quirks to deliver a more streamlined package, but the end result is a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of the core mechanics have been improved, but the game's narrative has taken a turn down crazy lane, and made it hard for me to care about what was going on.
First off, the combat in Condemned 2 is a step up from its predecessor. Attacking, blocking, and countering all feel a bit better than before, though it's still a bit wonky. It's sufficient to get you through most of the game's encounters well enough, yet when things start going south it still just doesn't feel quite right. Perhaps that's why Condemned 2 is more friendly with giving you guns to use. This made some of the more hectic encounters a bit more manageable, even if it's not what the series is known for (and it's certainly not the best shooting out there either). Finally, the detective segments are more interesting, and the silly fetch quests have been removed all together. These little changes all help Condemned 2's basic gameplay feel better than the original, even if it's still a little rough around the edges.
What hasn't improved, however, is the fantastically eerie atmosphere that defined the original Condemned. The creepy back alley fights with hobos, the suffocating air of solitude, the constant state of being in the dark about what's going on- all gone. Well, you still fight hobos. But they aren't creepy hobos. They seem more like normal hobos, and as a result just aren't that scary anymore. Neither is the rest of the atmosphere- it all comes across in a more matter-of-fact kind of way, and explains away a lot of the unknowns that were only spooky because they were unknown. Even Ethan Thomas has lost a lot of his charm, transforming from a believable, likable cop to a pissed off drunk who's lost his razor. You know, a hobo. I found it hard to root for the guy anymore, and he didn't get any better as the game went on. Perhaps worst of all, however, is the story. It completely jumped the shark in every way, abandoning the pretense of reality that made the first game so damn terrifying, and instead relies on the supernatural and mystical to explain everything. It got to the point where I didn't care what happened, because I knew they would just make up something totally random to justify the game's happenings.
And in the end, that's where Condemned 2 lost me- I just found it hard to care. The original Condemned drew me in by giving me a likable hero in a creepy, mysterious, yet ultimately believable world. Condemned 2 throws all of that out the window. It does improve some of the finer points of the gameplay, however, and the resulting visceral melee combat should be enough for many out there to ignore the game's other missteps. Just not me.
For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.