I’ve decided to ditch the numbers of my VGJs because I ditched them a long time ago, anyway, after I started doing Video Game Journal Omnibuses. Now, I’ll try to give my VGJs titles instead.
Condemned 2: Bloodshot
System: Xbox 360
Released: March 11th, 2008
I had my parents buy this game at Movie Gallery.
But you know what? That’s not their fault.
I hadn’t bought this game before then because there were other games I wanted more at the time.
What I want out of Bloodshot is another intriguing adventure like that of Condemned.
Backstory: Condemned: Criminal Origins was an Xbox 360 launch title by Monolith that also came out on PCs. Between that and F.E.A.R., 2005 was a pretty good year for them.
C: CO was a first-person horror adventure about Ethan Thomas (voiced by TV’s Greg Grunberg), a gifted forensics analyst that worked for Metro City’s Serial Crimes Unit. While out investigating one night, the deeply disturbed Serial Killer X ambushed Ethan and killed two cops with his gun. With the help of his loyal friend and assistant Rosa, Ethan went on the run to crack the SKX case and clear his name.
What he found was that SKX was the nephew of Malcolm Vanhorn, a dignified gentleman and friend of Ethan’s father who helped Ethan track his wayward nephew down. At the end of the game, an attempt is made to tie in both the main story and a variety of strange, supernatural plot threads involving birds, the spike in violence in the city (especially among the homeless), and a mysterious entity with a metallic jaw. This results in an ending that hinted at a bleak future for our hero.
What he got was this sequel instead. Decide for yourself what is worse.
While C: CO was a well-received cult hit and a spooky, atmospheric, and innovative thriller, C2: BS takes a slightly different approach. The story takes place a year after C: CO with Ethan out of a job and lurking around the city as a pissed-off, homeless drunk. When Malcolm is found murdered, SKX is suspected to be the perpetrator and Ethan is called in to investigate. Once again, Ethan is lured into a strange, conspiratorial plot that perhaps reaches too far beyond even the first game’s more grounded roots.
(By the way, I hate hate hate that trope where an established character’s death is what kicks off the plot of a sequel. I do believe that what this game did to Malcolm counts as him “getting stuffed in the fridge”, named for a plot twist in the mid-’90s Green Lantern comics when hero Kyle Rayner found his girlfriend… stuffed in the fridge by a supervillain.)
As for the gameplay, C2: BS tries to put more focus on the action elements. Specifically, the melee fighting. While there are plenty of weapons with different attributes (such as reach, damage, and condition level) and the odd firearm, they don’t last long and aren’t always easy to access, which means that ol’ Ethan has to rely on his taped-up fists. The melee system is at least a little deep with a variety of upgradable combos. Also, you can grab dazed enemies and try for an environmental kill.
There are still forensic elements, of course. Ethan gets such equipment as a camera to help him submit photo evidence remotely to Rosa, and an ultraviolet light. There is also a multiple-choice dialog system when submitting evidence or talking with Rosa or other characters. You get graded on your choices, which helps affect your grade at the end of the level. Better grades help you unlock new equipment, moves, and features. You still get new goodies even if you just get a Bronze.
All sounds good, right? Well, in practice, C2: BS is kind of a mess. It tries to do too much without sticking to one thing long enough to really settle into the flow of the game. As for the story, well, there’s some nerd rage there. All in all, this is just one weird game; there is something to be said for a sequel that tries to shake things up, but it’s another thing entirely to drift so far from the spirit of your forefather. Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, let’s just say that there are reasons why this game took me so long to beat. It also didn’t help that I started this game smack-dab in the middle of my 2009 Achievement-fueled gaming depression.
Journal Started: 6/13/2009
JUNE 13TH, 2009: The game’s intro has Malcolm Vanhorn trying to get to someone to warn Ethan Thomas, the forensic analyst that helped him deal with his nephew, Leland, AKA, Serial Killer X.
In this game, Malcolm’s voice actor, like all of the other returning characters, was recast. Malcolm’s new VA was Paul Eiding, the English voice for Roy Campbell in Metal Gear Solid. That just makes Malcolm’s premature exit even more of a shame.
He is also on the run…
The intro ties into the game’s cover.
The first mission: Rock Bottom.
This mission starts with Rosa, Ethan’s assistant, delivering Malcolm’s recorded message to an up-and-up in the SCU. They’ve decided that they need Ethan’s expertise…
…unfortunately, he’s bust bloodying up his hands on some punk that looked at him the wrong way at a local dive.
This Metro City has rats the size of cats!
Ethan follows a bum to partake in his stash. But a pale freak beat them to it. His voice does not sound normal. He says to Ethan, “We should have killed you a long time ago.” Then, he sics other homeless on Ethan.
Once Ethan dealt with them all, the unusually pale bum asks if he’s ready to have some “fun”.
Then, he hits him with a brick.
It appears to be winter. Ethan is SO not dressed for the weather.
After he was bricked, Ethan woke up in a different realm. A creepy guy on a TV told him that he needs to find Vanhorn. “He’s all you got.”
Then Ethan was startled by Vanhorn standing behind him. He had black stuff leaking from his eyes and mouth. He spat some of this stuff into Ethan’s face.
I unlocked The Final Word. And first!
The streets seem to be suffering from… tar.
I like the high frame rate. Most games still don’t have that.
Metro is infested with sonic emitters. These make birds’ brains explode. “Do yourself, and the city, a favor by destroying them,” said the TV guy.
I was disappointed that Greg Grunberg didn’t reprise his role as the voice of Ethan. But his replacement sounds a lot like him.
Ehh… He ultimately reminds me more of Stephen Dorff than Grunberg. Whenever Ethan talked later on, that’s all I could think of.
Ethan looks kind of hot in this game. Which is weird, because he also looks younger. They said Sam Fisher seemed to get younger in Splinter Cell games. I guess Condemned wants to do the same.
It’s especially odd since alcohol, when abused, makes you look more pinched, wrinkly, and ragged.
I find scores for our missions an odd addiction.
Rosa looks way prettier in this game. Just like Ethan!
But I liked the older, dumpier Rosa. 😦
Condemned has a distinctive look. It’s good when a series has that.
I unlocked Self Medicated. In more ways than one…
We eventually found Vanhorn, but then the pale man jumped on us again. And then…
…we were taken back to just before the pale man bricked us. Ethan throws him off… and Rosa and Agent Dorland chase him away.
Ethan identifies Vanhorn’s voice for them. Now, he’s to report to SCU within the hour.
I unlocked Beat Cop.
Mission Two: Preston Hotel
Agents Dorland (resist the urge to call him Dorkland) and LaRue and Ethan infiltrate the hotel from the rooftop. Rosa says we’re possibly looking for two bodies. Does that mean they think Vanhorn’s dead?
An optional objective for this mission: destroy four meth labs! Games like this make me glad that I don’t live in the city.
I was surprised that there was going to be a sequel to Condemned.
The first game had great Achievements. They encouraged replay value.
I hate the skinny guys covered in black ooze. At least they go down with one hit.
When they grab you from their ceiling sacks, they sound like… Rayman’s Raving Rabbids. O.O
I like games with manly squads of manly men.
Condemned‘s ending was very vague. But in that way, it was also cool. It put Ethan’s well-being into doubt.
This series has two distinctive aspects: The crimes of reality… and possibly of a different reality. Or perhaps that is just a result of mundane acts presented in such a bizarre way that they seem paranormal. The thought could be comforting to Ethan.
Another (unexplored) subplot of the first game was the SCU investigating Ethan’s physiology. They were interested in learning whether or not his expertise was natural, or… not. I didn’t really understand.