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Old 07-20-2007, 07:30 PM
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Default Condemned 2: Bloodshot Impressions

"You're a total badass at this point," explains Marty Caplan, Associate Producer for brutal bum brawler, Condemned 2: Bloodshot. We can't really argue the point, as we watch him pummel vagrants with his fists, grab them by the collar and hurl them into broken television sets and sparking circuit boxes. Condemned's first-person melee combat has been dramatically expanded in the sequel, with grappling, fisticuffs, multiple strengths of attack and the ability to throw weapons lending each encounter more fluidity and excitement than the "one-trick pony" ridden in the first game. "Now there are many tricks to the pony," says Caplan. Even the finishing moves performed on dazed enemies have been made more elaborate, the humble neck snap now joined by rather unpleasant deaths facilitated by environmental hazards. Honestly, we have trouble reconciling adorable ponies with this sort of depravity.

Improving upon 2005's Criminal Origins, the reactionary animation is just as incredible to behold as it is to inflict. Watching a snarling zombie hobo (zombo?) reel backwards and struggle to remain on its feet after you've struck a blow injects some reality into the fights, somehow convincing you that the pipe you're wielding is very heavy indeed. The rest of the visuals have also clearly been enhanced, with high-dynamic range lighting and depth of field blurring being the technical tricks responsible for the grimy and starkly lit alleys in the demo's opening moments. The textures also seem to belong to a more colorful, earthy palette than we recall seeing in the previous crime horror.

His "badass" status aside, Ethan Thomas isn't above a little bit of detective work -- "little" being the key word when it came to the interactive forensics offered in Criminal Origins. Here, your involvement extends beyond taking the occasional picture and waving an ultra-violet light over a crime scene, and has you participating in a connect-the-dots minigame of sorts. Upon investigating a corpse, a transparent menu appears on screen and prompts you to pick options out of a list based on your observations. Firstly, you identify the victim in view as an "adult male" -- a correct selection leads you onto the next link in your chain of evidence and yields points to perform weapon upgrades. You then spot a police badge and conclude that the subject is a "police officer," one who appears to have a nasty "exit wound" on his back. It's CSI for Dummies, certainly, and merely fleshes out the plot without directly altering it, but as an atmospheric and pacing device it works quite well.

Providing better pacing in Condemned 2 is one of developer Monolith's prime concerns according to Caplan, who nods in response to our suggestion that the first game ran one level too long. "The birds are out," he says, highlighting the decision to do away with hidden object hunts which slowed the first game down. Instead, strange sonic emitters will draw you to hidden goodies by messing with your senses as soon as you're within range. Barely functional televisions strewn throughout the environments also provide you with bonus information, though you'll have to fiddle with their bent antennas before you can make out any images.

Though its integral plot is still obscured by static and snow, Condemned 2: Bloodshot looks to noticeably expand upon the elements that made the original game such an outstanding Xbox 360 launch title. It returns to Microsoft's console in Spring 2008, joined by a PlayStation 3 version and a nebulous multiplayer mode. Regarding that, Marty Caplan refuses to provide anything but a vague prediction: "It'll be Condemned-style." Hobo Fight Club it is then.
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