Condemned 2 Bloodshot – “Condemned We Are”
Like its predecessor, “Condemned 2” is (supposedly) a first-person survival horror game, with hand to hand combat sequences and “C.S.I.” inspired puzzles. The original “Condemned” was a moody ambiance piece; its only redeeming factor was its capacity for building up suspense, thanks to its deliberately slow pacing, and its dark, decrepit portrayal of American urban centers, in Fincher’s neo-noir style (also present in games like “Max Payne” or even “Silent Hill 2”). Not that the game really took advantage of that aesthetic – the second half of the game brimmed with visual excesses and over the top action and narrative. In other words, it was a mess that ended up ruining the carefully concocted ambiance and pacing of the first half.
The sequel is pretty much the same, but going even more overboard than the second half of the original. The brawn has been ramped up, with a clear abuse on repetitive, boring action sequences, with a heavier focus on fire-arms (almost completely absent in the prequel). The plot is the silliest piece of Hollywood wanna-be action drivel I’ve encountered in a long while – it’s a dumb application of the mono-myth, filled with angst and foul language on part of the hero, i.e. more silly “dark and mature” adolescent fantasies written by inept writers. The aesthetic does manage to keep the influences of the original, which allows the game to sometimes shine. However, it quickly becomes repetitive, with the art designers lacking subtlety, and abusing dark color palettes and graphic detail. Not to mention that there are some ridiculous references to “Saw’s” torture porn, and “Bioshock’s” art deco (which makes as much sense in “Condemned” as a renaissance painting in a modern art exhibit). There is one mild improvement over its predecessor in the “C.S.I.” puzzles, which are now, well, actual puzzles which you must solve. What is a shame though, is that they bog down to visually flattering forms of questionnaires, which don’t really conceal that much substance. You’ll never deduce anything or really be forced to think like a detective, so you’ll never feel like one, despite tremendous effort from the designers on that regard.
“Condemned 2” is a derivative game in every sense of the word. It tries really hard to capture what made so many games great in the past, by borrowing many bits and pieces, but in the end, it simply lacks the creative nexus to make everything blend together. A great example of this flawed exercise is in the use of a subjective point of view. “Condemned’s” creators tried to use the same consistent first person view of “Breakdown” or “Mirror’s Edge”, a technique that allows greater identification with physical actions and dramatic effect on part of the player. But instead of realizing the potential of such an approach on a survival horror game, they ruin the idea by using out of body cut-scenes (poorly shot and with some horrible animations) and employing a noisy HUD with combo meters and score tally’s. They spent all that money in making interesting first person animations, only to pull you out of character in no time, with some poor, easy to fix, design choices. And everything in the game works out in that same way, as every interesting solution they come up with, only being used for the most immediate, functional, infantile form of entertainment. But if we pull back, and take a good look around, we can’t be unjust to the point of saying that “Condemned 2” is much worse than its contemporary peers, because it isn’t. And that is the only frightening reality the game can really condemn us to feel.