Those of you who played the original Condemned: Criminal Origins from a couple of years back will have no doubt been following the production of the sequel with a sense of anticipation, whist carefully stockpiling your rage in case any trifling detail caused it to be watered down in any way. Well, fear not, we've seen an advanced copy of the game in action, and it's every bit as violent as the first, if not more so.
Once again, you assume the role of Ethan Thomas, an SCU agent trawling the condemned buildings in "Metro City" on the hunt for a serial killer, whilst dodging the effects of a mysterious mind-altering phenomenon that seeks to turn vagrants into psychotic killers. As in the first, this sequel plays scant appreciation to firearms - yes, they exist, and it's not a problem getting them - ammunition however is another story.
Due to this embargo on the basic necessities of any shooter, you're encouraged to use the environment to your advantage. For example, you may not have been aware, but a large length of solid timber with several rusty nails affixed makes an excellent face-shredder, and once you've beaten a hyped-up junkie to within an inch of his life, you can dispatch him by smashing his head through a television set.
There are also various mini-puzzles, almost none of which require you to help Harry Potter design a new poster for Hogwarts book club. Let me be as clear as possible; do not, under any circumstances, let your children play this game.
The original plot saw Ethan framed for the murder of two cops, after being pushed out a window and left for dead. In Condemned 2, Ethan has become a wreck of a man, forced to relive the suffering he experienced at the hands of the real killers, and the psychological damage he has taken during the process of killing a couple of hundred people. He's hit the bottle hard, and in the preview we've seen, he appears to have hallucinations brought about by his alcohol dependency, causing motion problems and heightening the suspense.
In one scene, we learn more about the mysterious psychological problems plaguing the poor of "Metro City" - after Ethan grabs a TV antenna and tweaks it to improve the reception, an intriguing "big brother" character appears and attempts to talk Ethan into submission. It seems however that Ethan is too far gone to be much affected by anything, so happily shortly after that we can return to killing with reckless abandon.
As you walk, trip and fall though various derelict buildings, not only do you have the overwhelming feeling that somewhere, someone is watching you, and quite likely to try to kill you at any moment, you also spend the majority of the time simply gawking at just how revolting the environment is. It's hard to imagine just how mentally disturbed you'd have to be to exist in a bathroom caked in what I can only assume is chocolate sauce, and walking through corridors strewn with broken building materials and water pipes ably demonstrates the enormous effort Monolith have contributed to getting it "just right". Or very, very wrong, depending on the strength of your stomach.
Not a lot has been mentioned about the forensic nature of the game, other than a) it exists, and b) it's not compulsory. Following are some new screenshots released today by Monolith that seem to show more of the forensic interface, so those of you who want to pretend you're engrossed in a thrilling CSI episode to hide your enjoyment at wailing on drug addicts with a pipe wrench will feel right at home.
Meanwhile, we're gearing up for the release, which should be this month at some stage. By "gearing up", we absolutely do not mean "hiding under the desk & refusing to answer the door to the courier", and anyone who implies that is a damn liar.