Psychological thrillers are, unfortunately, a rare commodity in the gaming world. Monolith, however, is trying to rectify that, one game at a time. Condemned 2 is their latest addition to the genre and the sequel (obviously) to Condemned: Criminal Origin; which was an Xbox 360 launch title.
Hopefully, later this year Monolith will also be releasing Project Origin; which is their sequel to the highly acclaimed game F.E.A.R. Both F.E.A.R and Condemned are original IPs, so it is great to see them getting sequels and creating new franchises/game worlds for us to lose ourselves in. It is especially exciting when the quality is as high as it is in Condemned 2.
You play as Ethan Thomas, who is the same player character from the first game. Ethan has seen better days. Due to what he experienced in the first game he’s become exactly what you spend a lot of the game fighting; an angry, homeless, violent drunk.
Alcohol plays a big part in things here. Firstly you have trouble aiming a gun accurately unless you’ve had a drink recently to calm your nerves. Your drinking problem is also represented sub-consciously by a man wearing the same clothes as Ethan but with a rubbery, almost clown-like mask. He is your inner demon who taunts you throughout the game.
You only realise this later on though, at first I can honestly say I had absolutely no clue who he was or what he represented besides a hallucination.
This is a fairly common problem for Condemned 2. You’re never truly sure who the bad guys are, or what’s going on until closer to the end. Now, yes, I realise that’s the point of most psychological thrillers, but it can be just a bit too much here. Also you’re never really given all the answers. Quite a lot are clear by the end, but at the same time, it’s mostly clear because you had to put it together yourself and you’re kind of just assuming you’ve gotten it right.
The reason for so much confusion is really just poor editing and directing. It’s great how games are becoming an effective story telling medium almost able to rival the movies. However, it is because of this that developers need to start looking at how they are directing and editing their games more.
It’s not good if you end a level somewhere and then start another level somewhere else or doing something without any knowledge of how or why you went from A to B. This causes the game and story to feel disjointed. Luckily that seems to mostly be an issue in the earlier levels and gets better as the game goes on and gets deeper into the story. Hopefully next time Monolith will extend either their cutscenes or end of levels so the story flows more cohesively.
It is a good story though. Some parts original, some parts not, but definitely enjoyable none the less. You will play further to find out what exactly is going on. There is quite a strong supernatural tone to the story, which shows up fairly early as part of Ethan’s hallucinations. These can be very disturbing as you face off against some fairly creepy looking creatures. From the first level you immediately realise Monolith know how to make a scary game.
Let me make this perfectly clear… Condemned 2 is scary! And I don’t just mean "Britney Spears breeding" scary, I mean "bring an extra pair of pants with you" scary. Actually, scrap that; bring a diaper; that way you don’t have to stop playing, you can just play through the “accident”. There are some parts in particular that are simultaneously terrifying, yet exciting. (A level in a wooden cabin in particular comes to mind.)
The first level of the game does a great job of introducing you to the world of Condemned. This game has thick (and I mean thick) atmosphere. Almost every level oozes with evil, tension and fear.