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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Condemned 2 (Xbox 360)

Final Word:
The first half of the game is great, it follows on from Condemned and should have taken us down a much darker path...yet...it falls down for the last half and gives you superhuman abilities...that somehow take away from the stark terror.
Condemned was a pretty scary game, ok, it was in fact a really scary game for a lot of people. It packed in the right amount of tense urban environments and steadily piled on the pressure in a way that BioShock doesn’t quite manage due to the fact that, in BioShock you have superhuman powers and you’re not a regular joe FBI agent who might just be losing his mind. Ethan Tomas is that kind of guy who may well possess psychic powers, but the way Condemned handled it as it plunged you further and further into a nightmare world of pure unbridled terror was in a word: slick.

So it’s the turn of Condemned 2 and for the first half of the game it plays out a lot like Condemned. I’m not going to spoil the game by explaining some of the plot turns and twists, or the way the game starts with the first level being a bit more of a tutorial than anything else as you move from linear part to linear part. There is a noticeable oomph in graphics and style from the first game that really helps to beef it up, the hand to hand combat system, discussed in a short while has been ramped up and there’s a whole load of guns now.

There were guns in Condemned but they were few and far between, they were a real choice as well because you only had a very limited amount of ammunition and you had to pick between choosing a gun with 3 bullets or the trusty lead pipe that you’d been using to cave in hobo skulls for the last ten minutes or so. I don’t think I quite agree with the step towards FPS style action this new Condemned has taken, because now there are more guns and they’re more powerful than they were before, sure, you’re not as accurate since between Condemned and its visceral sequel, Ethan, has become a raging alcoholic and must drink to steady his aim.

So let’s forget about guns and talk about the upgrades to Condemned 2, what makes the game so different from the first one? Well, the story isn’t the same as the first, you’re going to find a lot of answers and you might, if you’re like me, find some of them a little hard to swallow. So story aside, which is great for 50% of the game and then spirals into cliché-ville for the last 50% and involves things that I’m not going to say, no matter how much I want to bitch about it. Ok, just one thing, superpowers, Monolith? This isn’t the Darkness meets Condemned!

Hand to hand is new, the weapons can now break and there are tonnes of new moves to learn. There are combinations, parry moves that allow you to string together chain attacks, upgraded chain attacks and special moves that allow you to unleash slow motion quick-time ultra violence on your opponents for a quick finisher or at least a brutal amount of damage to help the battle along. Ethan can also be upgraded by performing special tasks throughout each of the levels, get everything right in a level, find all the things you need and nail every investigation at %100 and you’ll unlock the gold reward, do fair, get silver, rubbish and get bronze.

Each reward gives you a new toy or item per level. Gold for the first level is a shiny punch dagger that helps in hand to hand combat, bullet proof flak armour is your reward for the second level and so on.

Investigations, which should have been the core feature of the first game, are now definitely beefed up for the second. You will need to know a fair amount of things to solve these puzzles, especially when you’re asked to look at bullet holes or wounds and describe if the wound is an exit, entry, impact or so on. These are definitely excellent pieces and they add so much to the game it would be criminal to detail them and spoil it for you.

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