he original Condemned — Criminal Origins — was on the whole an experiment gone terrifically right. Unconventional combat, plot, and interface all found near-perfect harmony in the seedy underworld of the city at night. A dark and sinister environment immediately engaged the player's every sense, drawing them down into the frightening and confusing urban world gone mad.
Dozens of eerie locales and settings were featured, all teaming with unsavory characters lurking in the shadows, whilst the only source of guidance and comfort came from the weak beam of your personal flashlight. The tension was electric until the very last. Such a visceral and positive experience made me eager for the next installment and while I was not disappointed, I was slightly disenchanted to find that while Monolith Productions stayed true to the formula that worked so well in the past, their efforts to add another layer of complexity to the mechanism succeed mainly in gumming up the works.
Welcome to the very worst of
the worst part of town.Basic elements of the original game all came together to give Bloodshot a very solid foundation. The storyline, following ex-Agent Ethan Thomas' fall from grace and subsequent struggle against despair, works very well with a dark and decaying environment to give the player a strong sense of suffocation and entanglement. With visibility restricted to the luminous beam of a single flashlight, players are forced to key up their awareness levels in an effort to survive. Listening carefully for footsteps or breathing was the only way in many cases to avoid taking an unexpected pipe to the head. This realistic and restricted viewpoint is shown the proper respect by the omission of any trace of a conventional HUD system. Pressing a single button allows your character to quickly evaluate his situation, while the rest of the game is unsullied by visual overlays, leaving the full attention of the player on his immediate surroundings.
The style of combat in Condemned also leans on the gritty and realistic side. From the first, it's always been geared towards close-quarters, hand-to-hand fighting. The ability to search your environment for weapons is a fun perk as well. I personally found great pleasure in cracking skulls with a toilet seat. In fact, I made it a point to play through the entire first game without drawing a firearm at all.
Bloodshot made that goal neigh on impossible. Monolith decided to build upon their formerly simple system of blocking and jabbing by designing a series of combination moves with the intent of inflicting greater levels of damage. There exists no problem with these moves in theory. However, the poorly designed controls and complicated timing needed to execute moves made all but the most basic attacks nearly impossible to perform. To add insult to injury, many of the enemies in the later levels required successful combos to put them down. If you hit them, but did not manage to put together a full combination of hits, they suffered no damage at all. Indeed, they often recovered and counter-attacked with much more force than they were struck with. This made even a single mistake against a lone enemy devastating, and combat with multiple assailants extremely difficult. Halfway through the game I deployed harsh, defensive language and abandoned my quest for melee purity by picking up a rifle. This was a personal defeat. I died a little inside.
Condemned's forensic aspect
remains intact.The forensic aspect of the game remains intact. As new crime scenes are discovered, tools and pure logic must be employed to get to the heart of the issue and glean as much information as possible from each encounter. These situations are used to great effect in fleshing out and advancing the plot. Tools have been streamlined and are easy to use. The flow of each is such that the investigation melds seamlessly into level exploration. It was as smooth as reading a book. Unfortunately, and decidedly unlike a book, one cannot take a break from the game whenever desired. Monolith went with the checkpoint-style save system, and like many games using that system, it contrives hugely frustrating situations — forcing the player to slog through dozens of difficult situations before earning a new milestone and a chance for respite. There was also a certain instance where the game automatically saved itself right after I'd committed a grave error, effectively sealing me in to a no-win situation. Less than ideal, to say the least.
Condemned: Bloodshot delivers a satisfying experience. The story and development are smooth and exciting, with a level of immersion that certainly holds its own in the suspense genre. The few problems I found could be mitigated by gating back the difficulty a bit, allowing one to enjoy the ride with less of the frustration. With a few control tweaks and a new save-feature, it would be a solid winner on all counts. That earns a nod to Monolith for a good second round in a unique gaming experience.