[17 April 2008]
If video games are still struggling to overcome the stereotype perpetuated by the general public as trashy, violent stuff targeted at teenage and twenty-something males, its because of games like Sega’s new Condemned 2: Bloodshot. While it’s entertaining enough, this action-horror game still feels like it’s written by two socially awkward 15-year-old boys who dress in black and listen to a little too much Slipknot.
In fact, I could see the conversation going a lot like this:
“I have this awesome idea for a game, dude. It’s about this badass, drunk cop who has to stop a serial killer from taking over the city with mind control devices.”
“The cop’s drunk?”
“Yeah. ‘Cuz like, the first time he tried to stop the serial killer he saw all this freaky crap. So it sort of messed him up and he quits the force and just gets trashed at bars so he’ll stop thinking about all the crazy stuff.”
“OK, but if he’s a bum now, how can he stop anybody?”
“Because he’s so tough and awesome. He’s got this beard and longer hair now and he’s just all pissed off. Flipping people off and telling them to get the hell away from him. He’s kinda like the Punisher.”
“So what’s up with this mind control device then?”
“Well, this serial killer dude wears a mask and has all these electronic mind control devices planted all around the city and so it’s starting to take over peoples’ brains and make them fight the cop guy.”
“How would that even work?”
“I dunno, lasers or something. Who cares? Anyway, it just means the cop will have lots of enemies to fight but not old ladies or moms or anything. It’ll be mostly homeless people because they’re ugly and smell and stuff anyway.”
“I guess the cop will be shooting first and asking questions later.”
“Nah, I’m tired of shooting games. He’ll get a gun once in awhile but he’ll mostly be using his fists, punching people out and maybe killing them by ramming their heads into doorways or TV sets.”
“It’d be cool to have other weapons laying around too. Like in Double Dragon.”
“Yeah, there could be all these steel pipes and bricks you could pick up to whack people in the face.”
“You know what would be cool is if there’s this level that takes place in a medical supply building. That way you could pick up crutches and prosthetic arms and use them as weapons.”
“Alright, well we need something else in there to make this a cool game.”
“I watched CSI with my mom the other night. What if we threw some of those high-tech crime fighting gadgets in there. The cop could use fingerprints and evidence to help his case.”
“Wait, a rogue cop is killing all these people to stop a mind control device, yet he’s stopping to dust for fingerprints?”
“Lots of blood and scary stuff. Everyone will cuss a lot. Evil dogs. Creepy monsters that pop out of the ceiling and grab your face. A nu-metal soundtrack. Oh, and you can find bottles of liquor and drink them to give you a power up.”
The ludicrousness of the story and premise aside, Condemned 2 is mostly enjoyable to play. The fighting system has enough parries and counters and combos that it feels a bit deeper than your average action game. For the record, though, I hate action games where the main character doesn’t have the ability to jump. There are jumps of sorts in Condemned 2, but they are automatically activated at certain points by hitting the “A” button. There are times when you can’t even step over a small cardboard box and have to smash it away with a melee attack. Little things like this get frustrating.
The forensic puzzles are also a great addition, even if they feel slightly disjointed from the rest of the game. In your first investigation, for instance, you use tools like a UV light and a camera to try to determine the identity of a corpse and a cause of death. What’s interesting is that you’ll find yourself actually using your flashlight and looking carefully at the body to try to make correct observations. Is that a gunshot or stab wound? And if it’s a gunshot, is that an entry wound or exit wound? The better your guesswork is, the better your mission will go, allowing you to receive bonuses like brass knuckles and body armor.
There’s also a multiplayer game for up to eight people online, but it feels like a throw-in. The deathmatch modes don’t really work. The only interesting mode is Crime Scene, which pits a team of crazy homeless people against SCU agents. The goal of the zombie-like baddies is to prevent the SCU from finding a box with a head in it, which they can do by moving the box at any time or putting down emitters to screw with the SCU’s equipment. It’s sort of like a bizarre version of Counterstrike combined with Hide and Go Seek.
Condemned 2 probably won’t be looked on as one of the best Xbox 360 games of the year, but if you’ve ever wanted to beat a gun-toting meth addict to death with a toilet seat while playing detective like Ice-T in Law and Order, this is your game.