"It's fun watching them burn," says Frank Rooke, lead designer on Condemned 2: Bloodshot. He's talking about tramps.
Tramps are an integral part of the sequel to Monolith's 360 launch title, and they're particularly important to the new Fight Club mode. First rule of the new Fight Club mode: you do talk about it. Especially about setting fire to tramps.
Rooke explains that Fight Club was initially developed to help Monolith test the game's combat system. It was a key concern when they came to make Condemned 2. "We wanted to take the fighting mechanism much further than before," he says. "In the first game it was mainly just one-handed. Now we want a system with depth, options and AI operating in all different ways."
So, guess what's better than punching with one hand? It's punching with two. You can also kick, grab and throw enemies and perform combos, choosing from medium or heavy attacks. Or have a go at slamming their heads into televisions or stamping on their necks. All this is presented in glorious technicolour gore-o-vision and accompanied with lots of pained yelps, crunching noises and swearing.
And of course there are weapons. Just as in the first game, you get guns but you can also make use of objects like bricks, pipes and sledgehammers. Combining weapons produces interesting effects. For example, you can smash a bottle of alcohol over an enemy and then use your Taser to set them on fire. Hours of tramp-burning fun for all the family.
Well, not all the family, as Condemned 2 will end up with an 18 rating. That's assuming it isn't banned outright following the Manhunt 2 debacle, but Rooke says he's not concerned. "Our job is to make this game as fun as possible. As far as self-editing goes, so far all we've done is try to accomplish in the game what we feel it should be.
"But, on the flipside, we're planning on working with the ratings system prior to submitting. So if there are any red flags we'll take care of those well in advance."
Could be they'll have a hard time justifying the gratuitous violence of Fight Club mode though. Rooke says it's not the main multiplayer component of the game, just a fun add-on with various modes and connected leaderboards (and a handy way of demoing combat).
You can choose whether you want to fight tramps or thieves. You can fight them off with firearms or go for melee combat, and you can decide whether the tramps you're about to burn are hocked up on alcohol, drugs or petrol. The bottom line is: you can fight them, again and again, in an intensely violent fashion. And burn them.
Fight Club mode will surely offer a useful way to practice your combat skills for Condemned 2's single-player game. Here, once again, you are Ethan Thomas, ex-FBI agent and stranger to anger management. And, once again, you'll find yourself wandering round a series of seedy, dimly lit environments battering things over the head and being frightened.
Rooke doesn't seem too happy about having to demo the game on a shiny plasma screen under the glaring lights of the Leipzig Convention Centre. "You know, Condemned is meant to be played in the dark."
Still, it's easy to see the kind of atmosphere they're going for as he explores an abandoned building. Bare lightbulbs swing from the ceilings and inexplicably pop, rottweilers bark furiously through locked doors, strange shapes scuttle around in the darkness and things go "oooeoeeeeAARGH" in the night.
There are also a lot of tellies lying around blaring out white noise. Rooke shows how you can grab their aerials to tune them in and pick up different bits of the story. You can't hang around too long though, or you'll get decked by another one of those funny men with blood coming out of their eyes.
Friends and foes
Not everyone you meet will try to beat you up. Rooke explains that NPCs play a much bigger role in Bloodshot than in the first Condemned, and aren't all necessarily enemies; sometimes they will become part of your storyline.
In addition, you'll sometimes meet characters who invite an emotional response. You can respond by pressing the right button. "If you do so, you'll see yourself perform some sort of physical action and you'll say something. So it's a way for the player to express themselves." Of course you could just ignore the whole thing and set fire to another tramp.
It's not the only optional element of the game that's there to add depth rather than mandatory toil. Forensic sections - a lowlight of the first Condemned - are back, and apparently this time they're neither compulsory nor rubbish.
"I want to stress that 80 per cent of the forensic moments are optional," says Rooke. "So if you're the kind of player that just wants to take a pipe and beat people up, and not get caught up in the thinking part of the game, you can bypass them."
There is a price to pay. If you do complete forensic moments you'll earn extra mission points which can be exchanged for upgrades. Skip them and you'll lose out. "But it was important to us to provide an optional element to the game," Rooke explains. "We understand a lot of gamers just want to do the action."
He shows us an example of a forensic moment, reiterating that this is all work in progress and that what we're seeing today won't necessarily appear in the finished game. So, er, fingers crossed.
Initially there's a dead man lying in a pool of blood. Your objective is to identify the body. Using your amazing detective skills, you may deduce the man is a policeman by looking at his police uniform, and answer a multiple choice question accordingly.
But which policeman? HQ needs to know the number on his badge, so you look at it, and it says 46. The multiple choice options are confounding. Does the badge say number 45? Or number 48? Or number 49? Or number... 46?
Your next task is to take a picture of the man's face for identification purposes. But if it's out of focus, so you have to do it again. To determine the cause of death, you must use the power of your eyes to look at his wound and decide if he's been stabbed, shot or burned. Now you use your UV light to discover hidden blood traces and establish that the man crawled to the spot where he died. And then you wonder who bothered to come along afterwards and clear up the blood trail behind him so you could only see it with a UV light.
It's not exactly challenging detective work. Horatio Caine could probably do the whole job without taking his sunglasses off once. Okay, so as Rooke says, this scene might not even be in the finished game. Still, they've chosen it to demonstrate how they've supposedly improved Condemned's forensics moments, and that's a bit worrying.
But no one bought the first game because they fancied a bit of high-tech forensic investigation. Condemned: Criminal Origins' appeal lay in being scared and beating people up. The team working on Condemned 2: Bloodshot is clearly aware of this and they're not about to go putting in a Green Hill Zone and a Diplomacy mode. As the game's not out till Q1 next year, there's still hope for the forensic bits. Just not for the tramps.