While Manhunt 2 is constantly in the news thanks to its violent content, Condemned 2 seems to silently sneak onto store shelves. Strange as this game tries to do three things well: shock, scare and fill your screen with as gruesome and bloody scenes as possible. Kids, moms and people with a faint heart know what they’re in for: games rarely get any more grimm, brutal or dark.
Compared to its predecessor Condemned 2 is a less coherent part. The story, the setting, the characters, … they’re all a bit less mature than you would expect and hope for. Probably a disappointing result of the attention the devs paid on stuff like bigger shock effects, a more extensive combat system and a many unforgettable locations as possible. So, you do get something in return for the less subtle storyline, atmosphere and gameplay!
Subtle is something you won’t easily associate with this game. Main character Ethan Thomas has completely hit rock bottom, or better said: the gutter. With only alcohol as friend he suddenly gets asked to help with investigating a new uprising in criminal facts. What you’ll discover is a story with the necessary twists but most of all a lot of mystery, paranormal influences and somewhat vague incidents (Condemned 3 is no doubt in development). As said more than previously you’ll feel the story has adapted itself to the gameplay but don’t let that spoil the fun. The atmosphere Monolith manages to create with the music, graphics and surroundings is still unequalled.
The locations from Metro City breathe fear and you’ll never play this game to relax. The darkness and constant threat eat you up and only the beam of your flashlight will calm you down a bit. If you’ve got a 5.1 system then you’ll have even more the urge to open your curtains. The music, and especially the sound effects, are of very high quality. Squeeking wood and doors, nails on metal and more of that will scare you even more than the deafening silence that sometimes comes out of nowhere. The best words to describe the atmosphere are “masterfully diabolic”!
Of course your role is not less devilish. Where you used to get going with sticks, a drain pipe or an iron bar, you now got more weapons at your disposal; medieval axes, doors, baseball bats… nothing is too crazy to crash an opponent’s skull with. The melee-combat is still the king of the gameplay, and you’ll know it for sure. Not only is the killing of enemies very realistic in both sound and visuals, you can now also apply more variation in the way you take someone’s life. You can block with your fists, punch with the triggers (left and right) and do real combos and painful finishing moves. Although I’m not completely convinced such combo-shit suits this game it will not hold you back from making a painful grin with your mouth when hitting a hammer in the back of someone’s head.
The improved A.I. also deserves a word of praise. The opposition reacts naturally, will retreat of attack when you least expect it, and won’t be afraid to go look for better weapons to use. Brainless button bashing is not an option and you’re rewarded for being conscience of your surroundings. If you succeed in getting your enemy on his knees then sometimes skulls will appear on objects that you can use to finish your unfortunate victim. TV’s, washing machines, a sea of fire, sharp pieces of metal, … you can imagine yourself what the fatal consequences will be, eventhough what the game will show is probably even more brutal than what you had in mind.
A second important part of the game are of course the pieces where you have to conduct an investigation in true CSI-style. And this time your brains do come in handy. Where the first Condemned was all about following the clues of the on-screen text you’ll now have to decide yourself how and what you check out. Also the conclusions have to be made yourself, something that is quite fun with certain murder scenes. To show the increased importance of this part, good answers will get rewarded with better medals, achievements and upgrades.
A lot less spectacular are the fire arms and the accompanying parts. As variation they’re quite alright, but the this gameplay clearly suffers from the fact that the environment and controls aren’t made for shootouts. Luckily (strange to say this) the ammo is limited, just like the levels that focus on shooting. Only the crossbow could appeal to us, just like the gimmick that you need to drink alcohol to shake less with your hands.
Completely obsolete is the multiplayer of which most modes immediately result in pure chaos. Only the mode where one group has to hide evidence and the other needs to find this is fun.
In the end it’s too bad that in their search for improvements the devs a bit lost track of the big picture. Some parts and levels aren’t fun (especially the ones with gunfights) or feel strange, the storyline disappoints as successor of the original, the multiplayer can be completely disregarded and also the overal quality could be polished up a bit. In exchange you do get a game that manages to put down a great and terrifying atmosphere, with beautiful graphics and sound, and has a basic gameplay that leaves little to comment on. Giving a final score isn’t an easy thing: not a true work of art, but Condemned 2 is cearly a must have for any horror fan. We’re already looking forward to part 3!