"I’m the type of person who easily forgives flaws. So long as a game has one incredible, striking element I can ignore shoddy camera angles, loose controls or bad graphics. It’s a requirement that shifts depending on which genre I’m playing. For survival horror, it simply has to do one thing: terrify me. Do that, and I’m willing to dismiss any mechanical issues you may have. "
I’m the type of person who easily forgives flaws. So long as a game has one incredible, striking element I can ignore shoddy camera angles, loose controls or bad graphics. It’s a requirement that shifts depending on which genre I’m playing. For survival horror, it simply has to do one thing: terrify me. Do that, and I’m willing to dismiss any mechanical issues you may have.
Problem is, Condemned 2: Bloodshot is almost the exact opposite. It doesn’t suffer from unresponsive controls or delayed view. Though it starts out somewhat slow and methodical—with main character Ethan Thomas outside an abandoned warehouse in search of his old mentor Vanhom in response to a rather cryptic message he received in which Vanhom simply stated He needs to know it’s not over, I was hooked. Posing more questions than answers—especially for someone who has not played the first part—is a concrete tactic to lock me in. I drudged through alleyways and empty lots bordered by chain link fences, almost methodically. Without warning, while searching for an exit, a hysterical junkie burst through the gate, murderous intent echoing in his eyes. I panicked and yet it was here I first caught glimpse of how intense and quick Bloodshot could be. I pulled back to gain some distance and Ethan reared without pause, almost as if he predicted that’s what I planned. After I threw a few check punches with the shoulder buttons to get used to the controls, I charged in, mixing right and left hooks that couldn’t have come any faster if I was throwing them myself. The onslaught went unanswered, and soon the thug was lying in a pool of his own blood. Behind him, the door I was so fervently searching for.
It wasn’t a bad start, and it was that systematic—albeit simple—structure that kept me playing. Bloodshot leads you where it wants you to go. Most levels are designed to be tight-knit with only corridors, hallways and tiny rooms with one exit. It doesn’t have you roaming around aimlessly in search of your destination in gigantic fields or huge cities with countless turns. It keeps you centered, focused…and in some weird way—trapped. When you travel to a new area, with no reason to ever venture back, it introduces a minor catastrophe like a bridge breaking or rubble breaking lose to block the path so that you don’t waste time searching somewhere that won’t provide answers.
Many a times that led to confusion. The way I came from is blocked, and the door in front of me won’t open. Nothing else is in the room and there is no chaotic, frantic criminal to break through. I was stuck. And then I remembered: Ethan is a cop, or at least he was at one time. If there isn’t a way out, I’ll find one. Bloodshot provided me with the tools to do so. Yes, this game mostly revolves around combat but in nearly every level it asks you to slow down and use your brain and one of the four tools provided—camera, spectrum analyzer, UV light and GPS—to work your way through. Sometimes you’ll have to collect evidence of a crime scene, other times analyze a blood spatter and discern cause of death. Find your answers and the path is revealed again, either by automatically opening a door or leading you down an area you may not have ever imagined trying.
Though it’s an interesting element and a welcome distraction, what truly makes Bloodshot entertaining is the combat. Most times it’s melee, and Ethan can punch, kick and strangle anyone foolish enough to tangle with him. It’s based on a simple three-button system, but within that is a wealth of combos. Hit someone with a left and follow up with a right will lead him into a timed segment where he must land another unanswered blow to complete the “one-two” combo. Doing so adds even more to your finisher meter, allowing you to perform deadly attacks that can’t be countered, and can break the arm or even neck of your opponent.
When fists won’t do the job, Ethan can also incorporate weapons into the same combat system. He can pluck a fire axe out of its glass case, rip a pipe away from the drainage system or dig through the rubble to hurl bricks. Every level is littered with countless objects, so there’s no lack of ammo or scrounging for items to use. Unlike other horror games, Bloodshot allows the player to choose whether they go with or without a weapon.
Sifting through the chaos in search of answers seemed easy and almost enjoyable…
But it’s there I became disappointed in Condemned 2 and—crazy as it may sound—sad for it. This game truly had every element required of a great horror franchise. The mysterious story, littered with confusion and cryptic hints. There are even moments where you’re visited by a strange man in a mask, soulless white eyes speaking what seems like gibberish in a haunting, monotone voice. After only the second encounter, I had to know who this person was.
At random moments Ethan will stop mid-stride only to clutch his head as the world around him spins and static blurs his eyes. Then, as if nothing happened, all is calm.
Each environment is dark and decayed, rendering brilliantly the only atmosphere that fits in a survival horror: desolation. One even takes place in an abandoned bowling alley while you hunt for SKX—Serial Killer X from the first game, the one who left Ethan a permanent reminder of their encounter in the form of a missing finger. In the background you hear him laughing, but you’re always one step behind. You fight your way to the final room—the actual alley—but he’s nowhere still, only taunts you by sending the head of the mayor your way via the ball return. It was brilliant.
Each and every aspect was considered and designed well. Even the random enemies had a factor about them that disturbed me, from living dolls that would crawl towards you then wave when they got close, only to blow themselves up to the rabid, four-legged animals that resembled skinned hyenas. They leapt out of nowhere, bit at your back, forcing you to turn to confront them while another took its place at your heels.
All of this is going on around you, while you’re desperately seeking answers to those seeds which were planted earlier: What’s not over…and what is this mystery about Ethan that makes him so dangerous?
It was an incredible build-up, and I prepared for an onslaught of answers and terror I imagined would level me. But it’s like riding a roller coaster, climbing up to its highest peak only to have it break down at the very top.
As creepy as SKX was—with his bright blue eyes and that sick smile caused by a lack of flesh around his mouth, so that only his teeth and gums were showing—rarely made an appearance after halfway through. Just faded away. The delusions became further and further apart until they stopped altogether. The clues became less and less graphic, from taking pictures of dead bodies to taking pictures of statues. And those two mind-numbing, anxiety-inducing elements: the masked man and the mysterious power within Ethan? Huge, utter, blazing disappointment. If you truly must know, highlight the text within the parenthesis. All others, read on. (The man? He’s a delusional manifestation of your alcohol addiction. And that mysterious power? Ethan can use his voice to make people’s heads explode. Lame). It was like Silent Hill without Dahlia. Resident Evil 3 without Nemesis, or Eternal Darkness without any sensory manipulation. It just doesn’t work.
And when I look back on it, it’s a shame…all because I’m not going to look back on it again. Condemned 2: Bloodshot had nearly every aspect needed to create something mesmerizing. It had the mechanics down, the structure was flawless and the environments incredible. It got so close to achieving the perfect score I so readily wanted to give it, but never truly delivered. Just teetered on the line, when it had the potential to blow right past it. It was scary. Scary, you can turn off or shut out. With games like these, I want to be terrified; I want to be haunted. I want to power down my system, yet still be forced to sit there in silence while I recall and try to make sense of what I just encountered. I want to look back on it years later and still get chills. Won’t happen. When it was off, it was over. Condemned 2: Bloodshot, yes, was great.
But in the end, it was just a game.
Community review by True (January 07, 2011)
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