Condemned 2: Bloodshot Reader Review
Bloodshot is a sadistic and gruesome concoction. Hurling the player into realms of madness, the game captures this schizophrenic and confused nature through bouts of gritty realism and fantastical dreamy elements. This first person action title refines certain mechanical elements from the previous Condemned, but with some convoluted design decisions elsewhere in the game, they begin to hinder the franchise’s maturity as a whole.
Like the original, Ethan explores the gruesome underworld in a first person view, at times feeling slow and clunky to manoeuvre, but this almost adds to the unnerving and claustrophobic nature of the game. Your movement is limited to walking or running, no jumping or climbing through the environment here, unless a button prompt asks you too first. Although common in many action games, this sort of thing can feel disconcerting at times when you return to a room that seemingly hinders your progression, before realising that you can now press a button to do something as simple as jump over a table which you couldn’t do five minutes ago. The player is also left generally unguided, but the predominately linear level design means progression is never hindered too much. There is also a GPS system at your disposal, though the representation of the map on it makes it practically useless.
The spaces within Bloodshot, while consisting of grimy and disgusting materials, certainly do not look ugly on screen. Monolith has revamped their engine to look horrifically great for the majority of the game. Harsh, moody lighting is present too, effectively used to really bring out the shadows from people and objects, adding to the overall eerie atmosphere. Some of Bloodshot’s most unnerving moments involve getting a glimpse of a subtle shadow scuffling across a corridor wall, and then asking yourself if it was simply an object falling off a shelf, or whether there’s something more sinister at work.
One of the most diverse components of Bloodshot is the hand-to-hand combat. With the expansion of environmental objects at your disposal to scout out and fight with, from rusty metal pipes to bowling balls, the game now lets you pummel somebody with your bare fists. With each fist mapped to its respected trigger; and having both trigger pressed to raise you arms to a blocking motion, taking on enemies actually feels quite natural this way, even if its slow and clumsy at times. It can have a bit of a steep learning curve earlier on, but once you get used to knowing when to block and how to distance yourself, it becomes surprisingly satisfying to deliver a simple one-two punch combo to knock out brainwashed meth addict. There is also the inclusion of environmental attacks; grabbing a weakened enemy and throwing their head through the nearest television set or whatever other visible hazard that is present, and combos; gruesome manuvers and finishers that occur after consecutive blows have been given without getting hit yourself.
The game soon steps up on the number of enemies after your head and the amount punches it takes to wipe them out, which is where some of the frustrations begin. Too often guys jump you from behind, and trying to keep your composure once they’ve swarmed you without helplessly mashing on the triggers like a scared little girl can prove difficult at times. Until you learn to step back more often, your foes will often get the first hit in, whether that’s from the fact their lurking in cover around the next corner as predictably becomes the case, or that the game has simply spawned some enemies directly behind you after you’ve completed a level objective. This in itself is made worse by the fact some of the enemy animations can be very odd and misleading, making the distance between you and the enemy very hard to judge, which at times encourages you to watch their movements more carefully, but more often than not it simply breaks the immersion with an otherwise organic combat system.
Along with pounding people with your fists, another new combat addition is the use fire arms, which surprisingly performed better than I thought they would, despite Monolith’s respectable track-record for first person shooters. However, the use of guns is always short lived, with weapons and ammunition scarce, it gives the player a brief moment of superiority over their unarmed foes, in this way the game presents gun play like that of a survival horror; savouring your ammo and choosing you shots wisely. This all but counts for only a portion of the game, as later on the enemies are almost always well armed and guns can always be looted from these left-over corpses. You will still find yourself dropping weapons and returning back to melee combat, as the slow and clunky movement doesn’t bode well for some of these situations, where been up close and personal with a toilet seat you ripped out of the nearest bathroom seat to use as a weapon is a great deal more satisfying.
Forensic investigation is also back, and provides a welcome breather from the frantic and stressful nature of all that brawling. Equipment such as cameras and UV lights are available to use, buts what’s most impressive is the broad range of answers you can supply when analysing a crime scene. These kinds of answers include things like the standard analysing of a corpse, where you can identify gender, clothes, possible occupation and other information that might be useful to draw an identity from. With Ethan often being the only man on the crime scene, narratively speaking one would think it is important that the information you supply should be as accurate as possible, and to accommodate this Monolith have included the welcoming addition of a rating system to give feedback to findings in the crime scenes. These are often represented as comments given back to you if you analysed a scene perfectly, or alternatively if you supplied completely false information to what you were looking at, you’ll again receive feedback questioning your findings. These also try to ensure that the playing is listening and paying attention to the events of the game and the evidence they are provided with. But unfortunately, these ratings never have any real effect on how events unfold in the story, the player never gets punished for analysing a crime scene poorly and is free to select the evidence as they see fit.
Sometimes the forensic events require you to do something as simple as looking at direct evidence in the environment and saying what it is, for example the name of a place on a sign post. After exposing you to how it works, this system begins to get used a little more inventively; where they start to fragment the evidence for you to piece together yourself, used purely as a puzzle solving mechanic. One such example presented early on is finding out the hotel room number on the outside of a door; with two numbers missing off the door sign, you have to then find the remaining single digits on the floor and look at nearby doors to decide what the number for this room is. The forensic system is also used for more mundane tasks, like repairing an elevator switch, one of the only occasions where the game requires you to get a perfect rating, otherwise the elevator simply doesn’t move.
Throughout all this, the game’s plot has its fair amount of twists and turns, though unfortunately none are ever that compelling. As the story begins to delve into more paranormal elements, it begins to rely on the supernatural to fill holes in the story, and ultimately this leaves you less and less interested in your unlikable protagonist and what he’s there to do.
Bloodshot has dropped some of its atmospheric exploratory game elements in favour of a more robust combat system, which certainly takes prevalence throughout the game. This trade off for a more action-orientated experience takes away part of what gave the first Condemned a cult following. The sequel presents itself in a confused nature with bouts of gritty realism, and fantastical narrative elements to try and explain your actions. At times satisfying and compelling, but often senseless and unsophisticated, Bloodshot is a diverse encounter.