Platforms: PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360 - PS3 version reviewed.
When I first saw Condemned, just a few months before the Xbox 360 launched, I had it down as the hidden gem of Microsoft's launch line-up. Where so many other early next-generation games seemed to be doing the same old stuff but with shiny new HD graphics, Condemned promised an interesting mix of gritty, story-driven FPS with survival horror and the trappings of a CSI-style police procedural. Unfortunately, the finished product didn't quite live up to my hopes. While Condemned had sections where the tangibly creepy atmosphere and the forensic investigations all came together with a bang, it transformed all too soon into a constant grind of what you might call tramp battering, with crazed vagrant after crazed vagrant wandering towards you to be battered with your waiting 2x4 (nails optional). Even surrounded by a fine plot and some great shock moments, actually playing the game was a bit of a chore.
Perhaps that's why I didn't have such high hopes for Condemned 2: Bloodshot, particularly the more I heard about how the team had put a lot of work into a new, more elaborate melee combat system. Sure enough, Condemned 2 is even heavier on the tramp battering than its predecessor, though at least this time the tramps have been replaced by deranged, leather-clad gang members, emaciated junkies and assorted hoodies. One up for the homeless community, one down for the ASBO wielding youth. What's more, the actual bashing business is a bit more interesting, with a decent system of jabs, blocks and combos put together through combinations of the shoulder/trigger buttons. It's one of the best implementations of first-person close combat since Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, though that's not actually saying all that much.
In fact, my hopes rose as it emerged that Condemned 2 wasn't just the dumb batter-em-up I'd feared. It helps, of course, that the visuals are still a strong suit. Condemned 2 does a great line in David Fincher-esque urban decay. You want filthy, cracked tiles, rotting woodwork, plentiful filth, scrawled, mouldy concrete and the sort of atmosphere you can practically smell? Well, you don't need to watch Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares - Condemned 2 does them all as well. Character modelling is generally excellent, and the lighting is absolutely top notch. In fact, if Konami ever wants to put Silent Hill in a first-person format, then Monolith has given them a pretty good template to follow.