Retrospective – Condemned 2


Retrospective – Condemned 2
Guns are for pansies.

Shall I tell you what’s ruining the First Person Shooter? Or would you like to guess? Clue: It’s not regenerative health, online multiplayer or linear campaigns.

Given up? No? That’s a shame, because I do... It’s Shooting.

I’m probably going somewhere with this.

Guns can be wildly destructive, comparatively easy to use, and despite how cover shooters mislead us on the protective qualities of plywood tables and thatched baskets, almost impossible to defend against. Guns are for cheaters. For sissies.

Condemned 2 is decidedly not.

Undisputed king in the admittedly exclusive world of First Person PUNCHERS (Sorry Skyrim), Condemned 2 dials back the scale of its missiles, detonations and ballistics in favour of a much more intimate, affecting experience.

As alcoholic nine fingered f*ck-up Ethan Thomas, you’re basically charged with kicking the snot out of droves of crazy hobos. It’s alright though, they’re totally asking for it.
That, or spare change.

Don’t fret unduly, these bums rush with fists flailing, coming at you like spider monkeys, armed with bricks, rebar and the occasional toilet seat (if they can spare it.)

Condemned 2 distils its pugilism into a blissfully uncomplicated dance of evade, guard and counter. Sure there are hooks, crosses and uppercuts, chained strikes and brutal finishers, cheeky tasers, hurled detritus and the business end of a nine iron with which to negotiate their eventual surrender. But fundamentally, this game mimics the brutal simplicity of the brawl.
Hit them. Don’t let them repay the favour.

POW! Right in the Kisser!
POW! Right in the Kisser!Enlarge Enlarge

Daze your psychotic challengers and enjoy the myriad ways you can do them in: Grab them, neckwise, push them through a faulty arcade machine. Close a glass door vigorously on their face. Let loose with the old One-Two-Uniflu. Convince their knee and elbow joints to pop or simply dump them on the cold ground and introduce them to the business end of your 14th century mace.

I called mine Spikey. Because of the spikes.

About to spend the night with sweet lady Dumpster
About to spend the night with sweet lady DumpsterEnlarge Enlarge

Admittedly there are pistols, shotties and automatic rifles with which to suppress these vagrant armies. And truly, the thrill of a firearm momentarily distracts from the manic vigour of The Maul. But before even these too-small magazines empty, you’ll forgo the gunpowder and invite Jack Johnson and Tom O Leary back to the party.

And yes, that was my second Will Ferrell reference. I am sorry.

I said I was sorry!
I said I was sorry!Enlarge Enlarge

As a narrative, Condemned 2 is as mad as a bag of cats force fed crazy pills by The Joker. Thomas quits an elite special crimes unit before being re-hired by an elite special crimes unit to investigate special crimes that involve an omnipresent cult who psychically induce mass paranoia and psychosis by sticking rods of jagged metal into their gobs. Also, there’s a booze demon thrown in for good measure.

But to its credit, the story is told with that brand of barmy conviction that makes it oddly compelling by proximity. You even get to do some mandatory sleuthing, shining a black-light over crime-scenes, investigating blood splatter and noticing subtle clues like the distinct lack of a victim’s head.

FOUND IT!Enlarge Enlarge

There are tighter, tenser tales of investigative policeworkmanshipwork (just look at the original. And play it. It’s a game.) but again, refined composed accounts of dogged detecting almost never result in this...

Given Condemned 2 devolves into global conspiracy, prophecy and serial killers who survive GSWs to the brain-pan by putting the feet up and nomming on dry crackers for a spell, it should come as no surprise that the latter act is spent shouting at people until their brains explode.

But such silliness was never Condemned’s draw. Yes, the twisted aesthetic, dark locales and perverse creature design makes for some genre leading survival horror (and the plot seems genuinely pedestrian compared to the What-The-F*ck-A-Thon of Resident Evil 6.) But gamers picked up their pads to swing long metal bits into soft squishy bits.

There's been a murrrderrr...
There's been a murrrderrr...Enlarge Enlarge

Veteran game-maker-people Monolith (F.E.A.R., Gotham City Imposters) showed an admirable amount of self awareness in this regard, evidenced by the fact a mid-way mission is spent in the confines of an abandoned ‘Medieval Weaponry’ museum exhibition. Or time spent in a warped Amusement Park, bristling with inventive, disgusting, and disgustingly inventive environmental traps. Props, Monolith, we fans feel well and truly serviced!

Daft closing act notwithstanding, Condemned 2 swung its way to critical acclaim, putting the squeeze on an 82% Metacritic score. Financially, however, it fared little better than these poor sods...

Condemned 2 is crammed with exciting sequences and expansive levels. Sedate investigations, haunting environs and grizzled acting sell a tale of personal demons and magic voice monsters surprising well. And vitally, addictive central punch /gun/golf-club/crowbar/ sword -play provides hours of wanton bludgeonry.

To those of you still reading, I set a challenge:

Play Condemned 2.
Feel the bloodlust as fists bounce from your guard.
Swing an iron bar into an unsuspecting jawbone.
Bounce some grey matter off a toilet bowl.
Wield a revolver without actually knowing how many rounds remain in the chamber.
Confront a room of seething madmen armed only with your wits, a one-shot tazer and a four fingered left cross.

Do this and then tell me, TELL ME there’s nothing wrong with the modern FPS!
Because Condemned 2 got it right. And no-one noticed...

Retrospective – Condemned 2 on
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