doctor_kaz's Condemned 2: Bloodshot (PlayStation 3) review

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Frustrating, but less scary than its predecessor. Disapppointing

I am a huge fan of the first "Condemned". It was one of the scariest games in years and it had a very interesting story to go along with its intense, brain-bashing first person melee combat. "Condemned 2" tries to address some of the faults with the first game by adding a lot more variety to the combat while upgrading the forensics aspects of the game. They are noble attempts, but Condemned 2 ultimately fails. The game's story fails to live up to the first one, and in the meantime, it has become a lot more frustrating and less fun than its terrifying predecessor. Suffice it to say, Condemned 2 was a disappointment for me.

The root of this game's woes is a handful of irritating problems with the combat. The defining trait of the series is its brutal and visceral first person melee brawling. Bashing someone's head with a metal pipe in first person is one of the most intense experiences that you can have in a video game. Melee combat in first person is at a disadvantage though, since it lacks the perspective that makes it better in third person. It can be difficult to tell how far you must be from your opponent to just barely reach him with your weapon or exactly where a punch is going to land. This game has that problem, and then a few more.

A major issue is horrible hit detection. Enemies will often register a hit even if you watch their fist or weapon pass three feet in front of your face. This problem makes it very difficult to goad an opponent into swinging and just barely missing you while you counter with an attack of your own. In addition, sometimes they will register a hit even before their punching or swinging motion is only half-finished. Block-and-counter is necessary for survival, but it is next-to-impossible to accomplish with any consistency. Sometimes you will push the L1 and R1 buttons to block a punch and right before it becomes effective, your enemy will score a hit with his arm in mid swing. Sometimes, they will punch through your block for no apparent reason. Enemies can sometimes string together fast combos and can lunge forward and score a hit from far away. They attack with almost no pattern, making it incredibly hard to establish any rhythm.

Occasionally, you will find some guns that you can briefly carry around to defend yourself with. The bullets are strong and will generally take down most enemies pretty fast, but the gunplay generally isn't very good. Aiming isn't very fine-tuned, and the game auto-switches to a melee attack when enemies are close – this means that it is impossible to shoot enemies at point blank range. The tight, cramped level size and the frequency of close encounters makes this problem come up frequently. Speaking of close encounters, it's not uncommon for two or more enemies to ambush you while you are busy fighting someone else or manipulating something next to a wall. They will trap you and kill you within a few seconds. Even on the easiest setting, Condemned has a lot of kills that are cheap and irritating, giving you the feeling like you got a raw deal more than that you did something wrong.

The game encourages you to attack with combos such as the block-and-counter or a left-right duo. Enemies can break your combos by scoring a hit, which is easy for them since they will always immediately counter your first hit. This is an even bigger problem if you are facing more than one enemy, which is next to impossible on the medium difficulty level. Enemies seem to have more stamina than they had in the first game – they can take a half dozen wrenches to the face before finally going down. Combat problems are exacerbated by Condemned 2's punishing and unforgiving difficulty level. This game is so hard that even the "Easy" setting is harder than the "Medium" for most games. It crosses the line between "challenging" and "irritating" far too often. You will frequently find yourself getting pummeled for a third of your health by enemies that you thought were too far away to hit your, or that you just had no chance of blocking. The first "Condemned" was pretty hard, but it was fun and compelling. "Condemned 2", on the other hand, had me struggling just to get through it.

"Bloodshot" looks virtually identical to the first game in most of its areas. By-and-large, that statement is not a compliment. The first game was a good showcase for the capabilities of the Xbox 360 at launch, and it looked great on the PC. Since then, six years have passed, and the bar for what looks average and what looks outstanding has been raised substantially. Games like Metal Gear Solid 4, Heavenly Sword, Crysis, Mass Effect, and Gears of War easily blow away Condemned 2 in their visuals. This game isn't ugly per se, but the graphics aren't a selling point. The dark and shadow-filled levels can are very atmospheric, but never being able to see much on the screen gets tiresome. Some occasional well-lit levels, such as a police station, are not very impressive and look out of date. In general, the technology in the game isn't all that impressive. The levels are small and constricted, full of one foot high walls of rubble that prevent you from deviating much from a tight path.

Condemned 2 doesn't get a lot of mileage out of its story either. The first game was more of a mysterious horror game where your goal was to find a violent serial killer. This game takes all kinds of twists and turns where you uncover some kind of huge conspiracy that spans thousands of years and reaches high levels, including the President of the United States. There is some Illuminati-like organization responsible for the ills of the world, called The Oro. It's all rather silly, but the game takes it seriously. The dialog, by-and-large, is uninspired.

These complaints may make "Bloodshot" sound like a terrible game, but it isn't. The combat could have used a lot more fine tuning, but when it works, it can be great. It is still, by far, the most violent and intense experience that you can have in first person gaming. Grabbing blunt objects in the environment and beating opponents to a pulp increases adrenaline flow more than just about any other experience you can have. The enemy AI is impressive at times. They will also grab objects out of the environment like pipes and wrenches and attack you with them. The forensic aspects of the game require more puzzle solving than they did in the first game, and this is the biggest improvement. You don't have to work very hard in these sections to get through the game, but getting a perfect score on them helps unlock better upgrades such as improved accuracy and more melee damage.

Even though I loved the first "Condemend", I have a very hard time recommending this game. It is essentially a first person beat-em-up, and because of all of the problems with the combat, it fails. By the time the eight or ten hours that it took me to finish the game was over, I was sort of relieved. After a few dozen times of getting killed by phantom weapons and fists from enemies that were six feet away from me, I had had enough. If you are looking for a creepy game that will give you a tough challenge (and you don't mind a lot of cheap irritations), then you might enjoy this game. If, on-the-other hand, you desire a high level of polish in combat, impressive technology, and/or a compelling story, then you should probably pass on it.

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