Condemned: Criminal Origins was the most underrated game of the Xbox 360’s launch. Part survival-horror, part first-person shooter and part adventure game, Condemned flew under the radar of those more interested in Perfect Dark Zero, even though it was arguably a better game. So with Condemned 2: Bloodshot, Sega and Monolith spiced-up the gameplay in an attempt to reach more a few gamers, a valiant attempt that ironically makes the sequel fall far short of the original.
Three big things changed with Condemned 2: Bloodshot, two of which actually hinder the game. The first change is a refined melee-combat system, one that gives much more control over hand-to-hand attacks and actually enables environment-based kills. The blocking mechanics and ability to string together combos result in the best first-person melee system we’ve played. It’s a shame, then, that players never really find much need for it, because Condemned 2 includes so many guns.
Part of what made the first Condemned so compelling was the tension both in the environments themselves and in the frequent debates of “do I waste a precious bullet here, or do I take the bum out with my electrical conduit?” With all the weapons in Condemned 2, though, even if players run out of ammunition in one gun, there will always be another gun just around the corner. This results in a less-compelling and less-tense gameplay experience, and it absolutely wastes the great melee system that Monolith developed.
The gunplay also makes Condemned 2 feel much more action-oriented than the first, putting it in many respects in the same category as traditional first-person shooters such as Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3. Again, this is a shame, because the original Condemned had a much more, well, “original” vibe, whereas the sequel feels more like it’s mashing together different elements just for the sake of appealing to a wider audience. In many respects, it’s appropriate that the main character in Condemned 2 is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis, because frankly, so is the game itself. Is it a shooter? A survival-horror game? An adventure game? An investigative game? It’s kind of all four, but because it mashes together so many different elements so frequently in each level, it never provides a cohesive experience.
This identity crisis carries over to the second big addition to Condemned 2: online multiplayer. When Sega first announced Condemned 2 would have multiplayer, we were absolutely thrilled at the chance to take out authorities in the “Bum Rush” mode. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch were both there, sure, but Bum Rush had us excited. Then we actually played it.
Let’s just say that if the main game feels action-packed and schizophrenic at times, the multiplayer components are downright twitchy. Honestly, the Bum Rush mode is so twitchy that players can die upwards of 15 times in a three-minute match. In this mode, the goal is to beat down the one or two cops (also played by humans) through the mind-numbing process of spawn, get a couple of punches in at the authorities, die, respawn and repeat the whole pattern over again. Theoretically the fourth mode, Crime Scene, provides a bit more strategy, as one team is charged with protecting a case while the other must locate and scan the evidence within. But playing through even this mode feels more like Quake than, say, Splinter Cell, whose multiplayer treatment would seem more logical for a game like Condemned 2.
The third major addition to Condemned 2, more complex investigation techniques, is definitely an improvement over the first game and provides a bit of light in the gameplay tunnel. In the first Condemned, players were pretty much limited to “investigating” by shining a CSI-like scanner over each crime scene. In Condemned 2, though, this tool is just one of several that players can employ, and it plays a significant role in the “granddaddy” of the investigation upgrades: the ability to actually poke around crime scenes and deduce what happened, then insert your opinions in an RPG-like dialogue tree. Some of the investigating scenarios are pretty basic, but others actually require players to look at other areas of the room, walk around a corpse several times and seriously treat the environment as though it’s filled with clues. This is a phenomenal update for Condemned, and it’s one that we think could be spun off into its own CSI-licensed game, perhaps.
Because the original Condemned looked so good graphically, it’s actually hard to notice many upgrades in the sequel. The audio, though, actually seems to have taken a step backward, as Condemned 2 relies much more on “gotcha” sounds and scripted events than the original, which could scare players simply with a subtle creak of a floorboard or bird flapping its wings. Again, the action-like audio is probably just a matter of Sega and Monolith wanting to increase the pace and draw in more players, but as a fan of the first Condemned, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t a bit disappointed.
Which essentially sums up how Condemned 2 feels: a bit disappointing, though not bad by any means. Had we not played and enjoyed the first Condemned, we wouldn’t necessarily notice the increased pace of the gameplay or the plethora of guns. We wouldn’t notice the seeming lack of graphical upgrades or the over-reliance on “gotcha” moments. But since we did play the original, we’re sad to see Condemned 2 lose some of the originality and flair that made the first one so good. Condemned 2 may reach a few more gamers with this strategy, but I dare say it won’t win as many sincere fans.
- Score: 7.7
- Condemned 2 is a decent game that suffers from a gameplay identity crisis and strays too far from the originalâ€™s successful but under-rated formula.
— Jonas Allen