chamberlain's Condemned 2: Bloodshot (Xbox 360) review

Jigsaw called, he wants his ideas back.

Scary is a sweet spot somewhere between seeing too little and seeing too much that very few 'survival horror' games actually find. Silent Hill 2 did during the infamous Pyramid Head voyeur scene. Fatal Frame 2 found it as well, and is probably the most frightening game I have even played. Condemned 2 never does, instead becoming the video game equivalent of Hostel: interactive torture porn, and the bums being crushed between electrified metal bed frames aren't the only ones feeling the pain. The player gets his fare share as well. 

Condemned 2 is the first game I have every played that has managed to go too far. The environments and sounds are the most immersive since Bioshock, but more then a few are so unpleasant that I could not wait for them to be over. I have no problem with blood in games. On the contrary, when used appropriately it can be the perfect frosting on a nicely violent cake, but injuries and torture rendered this sadistically and with as much realism is more then a little to far. If Condemned 2 had Rockstar on the cover instead of Monolith and Sega it would have never come out. When the game isn't trying to find out what the player had for dinner it does manage to pull off a few good scares, but never enough to justify seeing a man whose chest had been torn open and throat removed in un-glorious high definition detail, or popping a bums head in a press. It's just too much.

Staying true to its intent, the game is actually at its best when it is most focused on showing somebody's insides on the outside. The investigation sections from the first Condemned are back and are much more interesting. The player is asked to look at a crime scene and actually do some investigating. Imagine: critical thinking in a video game; amazing. As disturbing as they are they work very, very well and there are not nearly enough of them, presumably because poor Ethan (the main character) is no longer a cop but a drunken bum who suffers from alcohol withdrawal shakiness whenever he tries to fire a gun. Never fear, there are bottles of Jaegermeister scattered about that will steady his aim. Having never been an alcoholic, at least not that I remember, I don't know if this is how it really works. But it is the only point of levity in the entire game, so I'll take it.

Inevitably the detective work comes to an end, the crazy homeless guys show up, and the game falls apart. First person, hand to hand combat has been done right only once: Breakdown, go buy it and join my hatred of Namco for not making a second. It is clear that the developers have never played or even heard of it because the combat from Condemned, which was passable at best, has somehow deteriorated into a floaty mess in Condemned 2 in spite of the addition of more moves, weapons and combos. It is almost impossible to know the range of any given weapon, either the players or the enemies, which is only made worse by the dark and murky lighting. This leads to catching a rusty pipe in the chops or missing a parry over and over. Nothing kills tension or fear faster then frustration, making Condemned 2 its own worst enemy: it wants to be an action game and a scary game, but the action is so bad that it kills whatever scary is left after being grossed out by the over the top gore. It is actually less then the sum of its parts.

Condemned was one of if not the best Xbox 360 launch titles. It was an original IP, played well enough while showing off the hardware and had some pretty weak competition. Condemned 2 does not have the luxury of going up against atrocities like Perfect Dark Zero. There is already a dark, scary, great looking game with good combat and an excellent story out (that just happens to take place under water, would you kindly) so there is little room for a game that means very well but stumbles over its own design choices this badly. Even without the competition of a game of the year in the genre it is very much a sophomore slump. More Eli Roth then Alfred Hitchcock (or even John Carpenter), Condemned 2 did not know when to stop and the player ends of paying the price.    

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