“Condemned 2: Bloodshot” will strike some players as a pulse-pounding, mind-challenging delight; for others, it will be a nausea-inducing nightmare. Investigator Ethan Thomas’ sophomore outing unevenly combines innovative CSI-style forensics with a bloody barrage of alcohol-induced, unsettlingly visceral violence. Ultimately, the game can’t seem to decide whether it’s a gritty cop story or a cult supernatural horror-fest; as a result, it won’t fully appeal to fans of either genre.
As the story begins, Thomas is still plagued by paranormal visions when his former Special Crimes Unit colleagues pluck him from a rooftop shantytown to investigate the bizarre disappearance of his former mentor.
Though there’s a good amount of brain-challenging investigation, players spend much of their time subduing the city’s violent and drug-addled masses, often via brutally improvised brawling. The player has an impressive array of blunt objects at his or her disposal, including electric conduits torn from the walls, bedposts, beaker stands, toilet seats and prosthetic legs. Once a weapon breaks, though, it’s back to one-two punching, with the gruesome pop and crunch of bandaged fists meeting bloody faces. Though the gore stops short of truly offensive excess, the weak-stomached need not apply.
There’s no pretense of playing good cop here; it’s kill or be killed. To keep his gun hand steady, Ethan must continue swilling alcohol salvaged from dirty alleyways and abandoned buildings. Insidious sonic devices placed around the city incite the aggressions of Skid Row madmen and, as Ethan pursues the trail of his mentor’s fate, a more insidious and ultimately semi-supernatural story is revealed.
Despite the stomach-churning grotesquery, the horror atmosphere is well-crafted and at times even admirably subtle. However, at certain points the game labors under a chaotic collision of story elements. It would have done well to cleave closer to the investigative side, as those mechanics are outright exciting and sure to thrill CSI geeks who will enjoy photographing bodies and analyzing blood spatter under ultraviolet light.
Wiggling TV and radio antennas to watch optional broadcasts that flesh out events is a nice touch, but the plot is often inscrutable when it isn’t predictable. And Ethan’s supernatural delusions, sudden personality changes and alter-ego hallucinations owe a little too much to heavy-metal music videos.
For players who would prefer to mash in faces, they can get right to it with the game’s Instant Action mode. Though not a standout, the multiplayer is surprisingly fleshy for this genre. Those who lean in the other direction can play in the easy mode, in which heavy combat scenes take a back seat.