Condemned 2: Bloodshot (PS3) Review
ps3 Condemned 2 Review
The game begins with the protagonist of the first game, Ethan Thomas, lost at the bottom of a bottle due to the events of Condemned 1, and he is no longer a member of the police force. When a cryptic message is received by the police from one of Ethan's old informants, he is dragged back in to help with the investigation. In the midst of this the city has erupted in unexplained mass violence and rioting.
Gameplay is split between 3 main focuses: 60% of time you will be doing some navigation, simple puzzle solving (throwing levers and pushing buttons), and melee combat; 20% of the time you will be engaged in gunplay; and the final 20% will be spent conducting various forensic investigations.
SMASH 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM
The melee system is fairly robust, but due to the forensic tools and other functions taking up most of the face buttons some of the controls are rather convoluted. Getting used to parry and strike system takes a few levels, or you can practice in the fight club arena from the main menu.
L1 and R1 are quick left or right jabs.
Clicking in L3 (the left stick) and then pressing L1 or R1 does a left or right hook attack which is slower, does more damage, and is more likely to stagger enemies.
Clicking in R3 (the right stick) does a kick which is quick, has longer range than punches, is light on damage, but knocks the enemy away from you.
R2 chucks whatever weapon you are holding
L2 allows you to sprint for several seconds.
Pressing L1 + R1 at the moment an enemy strikes will parry the blow and knock them off balance, but just holding the two buttons without proper timing will simply block the damage and cause deterioration on whatever weapon you are holding.
Doubling tapping L1 or R1 unleashes a QTE combo attack if the gauge in the upper right hand corner is full.
Mixing the various attacks lets you do combos with a damage multiplier, the end melee attack in the combo has its damage boosted by that combo's multiplier. The more elaborate the combo, the higher the end multiplier. Unfortunately since throwing hooks is so awkward I could never make much use of the longer combos. Kick combos are unlocked later in the game and I could never get those to work (I would have loved to see the Nut Cracker in action). You also have a limited amount of time to throw the final punch in the combo (a red timer counts down in the upper portion of the screen), if you take damage or let too much time pass, you forfeit the extra damage of the final attack. The enemy can counter-attack pretty quick which caused me to lose quite a few end combo bonuses.
One could use only fisticuffs but progress will be made much faster by using the ample supply of improvised weapons available. The levels are full of objects that can be picked up. The range of weapons is quite broad: toilet seats, bricks, bottles, rebar, bowling balls, wrenches, axes, propellers, etc. Each weapon is scored by its range, damage, swing speed, and condition (damage it can inflict / take before it breaks). If you are looking at another object to pick up the game will score each of the four categories with a green + if it performs better in that category or a red minus if it performs worse.
There are great enough variety of weapons that you can find one to fit your playstyle: rapid swinging weak weapons, heavy hitting slow weapons, weapons with decent damage and long range but weak condition, etc. You can perform combos or block attacks with weapons in your hands, but blocking damage will degrade the weapon.
Clicking R3 for kicks wasn't too bad, but clicking L3 and then R1 or L1 to throw a punch in the midst of a combo is far too cumbersome. Holding Down L1/R1 to charge up a hook or double tapping L1/R1 to throw a hook would have been more more natural and intuitive. The chain QTE attack could have been activated with L3 then R1/L1 as that attack is done much more infrequently.
The gunplay is less polished than the melee system but happens more infrequently., Though in 3 of the levels it is not really optional as commandos with guns are the primary adversaries. One can also only choose to carry either a gun or melee weapon until later in the game when an upgrade is provided in the form of a holster. R1 fires the gun and L1 brings up the iron sights for better accuracy. Though the developers throw in an added wrinkle, the alcoholic main character is suffering from withdrawal. Without the buzz from a quick shot of alcohol (measured by a slowly emptying bottle on the right side of the HUD) your hands will shake, greatly decreasing accuracy.
In addition to hunting for your next liquor fix, you will also have to keep an eye out for supply lockers that have health packs an ammo. Guns only hold as much ammo as is in one clip (5 shells for shotguns, 6-8 for pistols, 10 for hunting rifles, 30 for assault rifles, etc.) and you cannot carry any extra ammo on your person. If there are weapons on ground which use the same ammunition, you can hold X to take the ammo out of it and add it to your weapon. The lack of stockpiling ammo introduces a bit of a survival horror aspect to the game as I would often holster a pistol and try not to use it until I really needed it. If the gun you are holding is out of ammunition it will be used as a melee weapon.
Whether by design or just sloppiness the gunplay never felt that smooth. It wasn't so bad when you were fighting against crazy homeless people and gang members who only have melee weapons but became a bit tiring in the levels where you only faced the commandos with assault rifles.
ICSI: Insane Crime Scene Investigator
The forensics scenes are a nice diversion from the melee combat and occasional gunplay, but a side effect is it deprives the game of a few buttons that may have been better utilized by the melee system. Gun and melee functions are controlled with the sticks, L/R buttons and the D-pad and the face buttons are used for other functions.
Triangle shows your HUD which is hidden otherwise (except when in combat).
Circle toggles the flashlight on and off, but because the game is so dark you will have it on all the time as there is no battery-like mechanic to limit its use.
X is your general action button (throw levers, open doors, pick up things, etc.)
Holding the square button allows you to pick 1 of 4 forensic tools with the L stick, just pressing square brings up the last tool that was used.
Occasionally an icon will pop up at the bottom of the screen asking you to "Study Evidence" this will connect you to a forensic tech named Rosa via radio and your tablet in which you will study the scene and relay details to Rosa for analysis. For instance, you might find a body and Rosa will ask your information to help with identification. Then you can examine parts of the body more closely by using the L1 button. Zoom in on the face and it may give you four options (young male, adult male, adult female, elderly male) and you have to select the correct one or look for identifying marks on uniforms. Once you have collected the requested number of pieces of evidence, you will submit them to Rosa and then you are scored for accuracy.
It's not just murders you will be solving as a few times you have to put your forensic tools to other uses such as disarming an elaborate bomb. There are also a few optional micro-investigations which usually involve finding and photographing similar objects (3 statues, 3 torture devices, etc) The game will let you know you have found the object with the same "Study Evidence" icon.
In the course of your investigation you will need to use your other tools such as a camera to upload pictures of evidence, a UV light which reveals hidden traces of blood and track indentations in the floor, a spectrometer which can detect traces of compounds and sound waves, or a tablet which is used for video chat with Rosa and also has GPS. These tools can also be used outside of investigations (the spectrometer can lead you to sound emitters which need to be destroyed and supply cabinets are marked on your GPS).
The game is very dark in mood and in setting. The main character's eyes are bloodshot and his skin is gray almost giving him the appearance of a zombie at times. Sometimes Ethan will slip into insanity as he is taunted by the personification of his demons, himself with a tiger-like face and white eyes. This is often accompanied by the vision of black ooze from which tar covered creatures spring forth and attack. The black on black can make it difficult to see them even with the flashlight.
The graphics of the game are functional, I wouldn't call them ugly, just pretty basic. It looks like what it is, a mid 2000's PC shooter ported to the PS3. The framerate is steady, only slowing down when intended in insanity sequences. The character models in the cutscenes are pretty rough, particularly the supporting characters, but a bit more care is put into the enemy models. The voice acting is mostly adequate though the line reading by the newswoman on the radio and television sounds pretty stilted, like it was being spoken by a non-actor.
The mythology of the game is somewhat weird. A certain power is used by a malevolent organization which instills feelings of paranoia, aggression, and insanity in certain members of the city and all hell breaks lose; riots, violence, torture, murder, mutilation, etc. What the organization worships and why you are important to them is really bizarre, Rather than use the mythology they did, I think the franchise would have been a great one to pair with something like the Cthulhu mythology as it tackles many of the same themes.
One aspect I was quite impressed by is environmental variety, it was constantly shifting. Whether its a trek through a decrepit hotel, an old toy factory, a mountain top lodge, a museum, bowling alley, etc. The weapons you find also make sense in the context of the area. There are toilet seats in the bathrooms, bowling balls in the bowling alley, pipes to rip off the wall in the hotel, and glass display cases full of Medieval weaponry to use in the museum. This ensures that the player doesn't get too bored with the levels or the available weapons. Several levels also have boss type characters that you encounter and must defeat at the end of the level or you encounter them at various points throughout the level (like Nemesis from RE3).
When not in combat or investigating crime scenes, the rest of the time the player is exploring the various levels. Early levels are larger with more branching paths, but by the final 1/3rd of the game the levels will become pretty linear. There are a few simple puzzles such as activating a crane to move a crate so you can progress or rewiring an elevator in a burning warehouse to make it to the roof. Nothing too taxing, but more importantly they made sense in context. Nothing like weird statue moving puzzles from early Resident Evil titles.
Spread throughout the levels are two types of collectables, sonic emitters and radio/TV broadcasts. The emitters are hidden on the walls in out of the way places, can be tracked with your spectrometer, and need to be destroyed. Also present are handheld radios and small televisions with antennas (listen for static noise to find them). Press R1 to grip the antenna and then move the R stick in a circle until you lock in on the broadcast. These broadcasts give little bits of lore and information about the city and the current, deteriorating situation. Collectibles do not auto-save, if you die before reaching the next checkpoint you will have to destroy or tune them in again. For the TV/Radio, it counts as collected as soon as the transmission starts, you don't have to listen to the whole message over again.
How accurate you are in your investigations, whether you meet the optional objectives, and how many collectibles you acquire determines your rating: bronze, silver, or gold (100% complete). The rating determines the quality of the new upgrade you get at the end of each level. For instance, when the upgrade is acquiring the stun gun, scoring a bronze gives you a gun with only 1 charge, silver 3 charges, and gold 5 charges. Each upgrade is usually useful, a brass knuckle to increase damage and staggering on one hand, body armor, steel toed boots for kick combos, HP upgrades, etc.
Though he progression of the upgrade system is slightly bizarre at times. For instance, It gives you an upgrade to guns, damage, and accuracy with 2 levels to go. One of those levels the only gun you have access to is a couple of 1 shot crossbows. All of the heavy gun use levels like the Black Lodge are already done before you get that upgrade. You also get an upgrade to your GPS that allows you to place waypoints, but by that point all of the non-linear levels are done and all that are left are mostly linear ones in which waypoints are not needed.
At a time there was a multiplayer mode, but it no longer functions due to Gamespy closing down.
The graphics have not aged that well and the gunplay is not particularly enjoyable, but the melee system is still compelling if slightly flawed due to L3 being important for longer combos. Some may not enjoy the investigation aspect but I liked that you weren't just going through the motions using tools, you have to interpret what information you have learned and then draw a conclusion. There is an oppressive unease and creepiness early on, though unfortunately that begins to subside later on as the levels become more linear and the game relies more on gunplay.
I played on normal difficulty and got 3 gold ratings and the rest silver without following a guide or trying that hard. Checkpoints are available pretty frequently and your HP is refilled to max after each death so you don't have to worry about being caught in a death loop from which you cannot escape. It probably took me about 8 or 9 hours to finish. The game is also old enough that it never received a patch to add trophies, though there are in-game unlockables in the form of concept art.
A mostly enjoyable melee system coupled with creepy, varied environments; crime scene investigation; and a unique mythology.
Due to the extreme age of the title it has a few severe bugs. At some point a PS3 system firmware update broke the in-game patching function of the game. So if you launch the game for the first time and try to update it that way, the game will freeze and eventually reset the system. To avoid this bug, update the game by highlighting the disc on the XMB (without the game running), pressing triangle, and then checking for updates. This will let you update the game without the freeze.
Also, likely due to the Gamespy server closure, whenever you try to quit the game while connected to the internet, the game will freeze and then the system will do a 3 beep, hard reset. To avoid this bug, go into network settings on the PS3 and disable the connection to the internet before booting up the game.
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