Condemned 2 isn't your average first person shooter game. For a start, you hardly ever use a gun. And the character you control isn't a square-jawed, all-American hero, but a down and out alcoholic vagrant called Ethan Thomas. Despite this, Condemned 2 is one of the most compelling, disturbing and atmospheric first person action games you're likely to play on PlayStation 3.
The story is straight out of a horror movie. A mysterious phenomenon is causing insane violence and mass psychosis amongst the city's transient population and massive riots are breaking out across Metro City. It is against this backdrop of chaos and violence that Ethan is recruited back into his old unit, the Serial Crime Unit, to investigate the violent and ritualistic murder of his old mentor, Malcolm Van Horn. What follows is a harrowing tale of violence, madness and retribution that is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Fists of fury
The action all takes place from a first-person perspective, but unlike most first person games, you won't be using a gun that often. Melee combat is the primary focus here, with your standard weapons being your fists - the R1 button controls your right hand, and the L1 button controls your left. Holding R1 and L1 together crosses your arms in front of you in a block, which can throw enemies off balance leaving them open for a counterattack. You can also string together combos for added damage, as well as grapple groggy enemies to finish them off with environmental kills such as throwing them off a balcony or introducing them to a wall, face-first.
In addition to this, the game features an incredible array of melee weapons for you to use, ranging from baseball bats and iron pipes to toilet seats, prosthetic arms, and foosball rods complete with miniature players. If it's lying around, chances are you can pick it up and whack someone over the head with it. You can get firearms throughout the game, but the ammo is extremely limited, restricted to the number of bullets the weapon's magazine can hold, and Ethan's alcoholism means that you need to keep your alcohol levels topped up or your aim will be unsteady and inaccurate.
CSI: Metro City
At certain points throughout the game you come across crime scenes that you are able to investigate using forensic science techniques. You are equipped with a GPS system and a camera for taking photographs of crime scenes, as well as an ultra violet light to scan for blood, and a spectrometer to detect unusual levels of noise or gas concentrations. When you begin a forensic investigation you are asked a series of questions to narrow down the possibilities in a case. For example, upon discovering a body you can be asked if it is a man or a woman, what you suspect the cause of death to be, if the body has been moved and so on. The more correct your answers are, the higher your detective rating is, and a higher detective rating means unlocking more equipment and extras to help you through the later portions of the game.
The presentation in Condemned 2 is excellent, really helping to draw you into the game's nightmarish world, which is everything you would expect from the horror genre. The graphics are amazing to look at - each run-down hotel, back alley and warehouse has been painstakingly created to be as grimy and foreboding as possible. The sound too, helps with the games immersive atmosphere as unsettling noises play tricks on your mind and create an air of real tension and trepidation as you play.
In addition to the engrossing story mode, players can also jump straight into the action with the Bloodshot Fight Club mode, which lets you take part in a series of combat based challenges such as protecting a group of cops from an advancing horde of rioters, or staying alive for as long as possible in a makeshift battle arena. There are also multiplayer modes for up to eight players based on these games, as well as a new game where a team of rioters must hide cases of evidence, which SCU team members must find and identify through forensics. Both are fun additions to an already robust single-player experience, and are sure to keep fans playing long after the story mode is finished.
Condemned 2 is a must for fans of horror games. Dripping with atmosphere and genuinely scary throughout, the compelling, cinematic story, unique combat and diverse gameplay all add up to a quality package through and through. Just don't try playing with the lights out...