I was just looking at the Condemned: Bloodshot artwork Nick Brutal posted earlier. Although it does seem to be full of homeless people (hence the title of this post), junkies and eyeless freaks, that's fine with me, cos I'm totally down with eyeless freaks. Despite there being no actual screens or vids or anything I'm still excited about this game. Monolith Studios (who also did the excellent yet very unnerving F.E.A.R. and are currently working on a second) must be doing something right because if I'm honest here, F.E.A.R. and the original Condemned: Criminal Origins are two of the only games that have made me literally scared for my life while I played them. I seriously checked over my shoulder constantly whilst playing Criminal Origins. It's one of the most immersive games I've played. I'll talk about that in a minute though. According to wikipedia, in Bloodshot you once again assume the role of Ethan Thomas, except this time the disturbing events of his past have left him a broken man (I'd imagine so, after mass-murdering about 200 people using mallets and bits of wood with nails stuck in them). So you'll fighting inner demons as well as hobos. Although I assume you won't be fighting Ethan's inner demons with an axe. There's also said to be a multiplayer death match mode which I imagine will be as fun as it is gory.
So yeah, there's not much more to go on, other than that I expect the second game to be very much like the first only more scary and more violent. Which is fine by me. Criminal Origins was one of the first games I played on my 360 and I loved it. True, it was short, but it was different and engrossing, and by engrossing I mean it would have you hammering your joypad, forcefully murmuring expletives as you beat a psychotic bum to death with the leg of a mannequin. The adrenaline you felt going into a dark room - knowing someone was in there as they shuffled about near by, screaming they were going to kill you - would be totally released as you bashed their brains right the fuck in. It was really the combat, environments and sheer terror that made this game what it is. The story (that of Ethan Thomas hunting a deadly serial killer in the fictional Metro City, whilst fending off the population who have somehow been turned into insane, violent psychotics) I could take it or leave it. The forensic stuff added little to the gameplay too. Sure, it was cool to look at, but that was about it. The forensic tools were only availble when you were told there was something to investigate (via Ethan's 'instincts'), and then you would basically just follow a trail of something or send it to your FBI buddy to analyse. Not really puzzle-solving in the typical sense if you're being told what to do and when. Still, it added to the creepy atmosphere and was an interesting compliment to the game if nothing else.
It was the combat and the setting that made this game fun/pants-wettingly scary to play. Firearms were present, but few and far between. Even if you did get your hands on a shotgun chances are you'd run out of ammo in six or seven shots; a departure from the usual FPS approach where you'll carry more ammunition than John Rambo. The use of melee weapons is the key here, and players can take these weapons from their environment, pulling pipes and electrical conduits from walls, or picking up shovels, axes and mallets from wherever they're found. These weapons are to be used as skillfully as they are brutally as you have to time your blocking just right if you want to come out of a fight unscathed. The weapons feel heavy too. The first time you swing a mallet into an enemies skull you can feel the weight and force behind it. You can't just run about swinging an axe to and fro. Ethan has to heft it up to use it and take a poweful swing to cause the kind of damage you really want to. It's this that draws you into the game. The kills are that much more visceral, and as a result you can feel the rush of relief as each swing makes contact. Ok, I'm starting to sound like a serial killer or something but it really does feel good :-/
The dimly-lit, dilapidated and dirty (ooh, alliteration!) environments add so much to the immersion of Criminal Origins too. This is one game you won't feel comfortable playing with the lights off. You have a flashlight, but that's little comfort when you're in some dark and dank (there we go again) abandoned department store, listening to the demented ravings of numerous psychos out there somewhere in the shadows ready to do a whole variety of nasty things to you. It's disconcerting, to say the least. There are plenty of decrepit buildings to explore, including a school, library and subway, each more creepy than the last. In the end you find yourself in a rather disturbing house before the game moves on to the final section, which has some really cool surprises, none of which I'll ruin here. Basically it's a really involving and atmospheric game, one that'll draw you in and keep you riveted to the end. It's just a pity it's not longer. Let's hope that Bloodshot rectifies this and supplies us with another gore-filled, roller-coaster ride of a game.
Also, as a side-note, apparently Greg Grunberg voiced Ethan Thomas in the first game. Greg Grunberg is the guy who played Matt Parkman in Heroes. Who'd have thunk it.