Scary games are hard to review, even if you’re a massive fan of them as we all are at bit-tech.net. The problem is that, try as we might to tell you how scary a game is we’re somewhat limited by vocabularly, the colourful, happy look of the site and the fact that you weren’t there, man. You didn’t see how scary it was and all you have to go on is our descriptions, which will never quite live up to the feeling.
In other words, saying that a game like Condemned 2: Bloodshot is ‘pant-cackingly scary’ just isn’t going to cut it. As reviewers we’re forced into breaking one of the cardinal rules of horror writing – naming the fear. Once the fear has a face, the effect is greatly reduced and that fact mars our ability to let you know just how truly gripping Condemned 2 is.
So, let’s deviate a little from the basic review structure. Instead of reciting backstory and verbose descriptions right off the bat, let me tell you a story so you’ll know how truly scary Condemned 2 is. Ready?
Click to enlarge
It’s one of the early levels of the game and I’m hunched, shoulders burning in front of my new screen. I say ‘my’ screen, but it isn’t really mine – that screen belongs to Joe Martin of bit-tech and I’m not him. Right now I’m Ethan Thomas, alcoholic ex-special agent – broken and burned out, but bought back to police life by a mysterious phone call and a missing old man.
I’m in a destroyed, derelict hotel in the part of town where even the rats won’t leave the house at night without a gun or three. In the distance I can hear riots shaking the city to pieces and the walls of the hotel are rattling with the hidden movements of the homeless junkies who dominate this world. All I have to defend myself with is a length of pipe and the hope that maybe - just maybe - I can find a way out.
Suddenly, it’s quiet. I turn a corner into a long hallway and freeze stiff with dread. At the far end of the doorless, empty corridor is something which actually has me whimpering. It’s a mannequin and, if you ever played the original Condemned then you’ll already understand my fear. In my previous adventures I had to fight through an abandoned department store full of these things and it was never clear which ones were just mannequins and which ones were psychopaths, as broken on the inside as were on the out.
I check every corner. I look behind me. I backtrack. I realise there is no other way forward – and really, I’m not exaggerating when I say I was petrified at the prospect of walking down this corridor. Eventually I start creeping forward, slowly and cautiously. I keep an eye on the dummy, but scan every crevice I move past and constantly watch my own back. This is an obvious trap.
How do you like your gore in the morning?
But, when I get to the mannequin in question nothing happens. Up close I can see it really just is a dummy, a fake person. I pull out my shotgun and put my second to last round into it to make sure – then the lights flicker.
I spin round on the spot, dread pressing down like corpses on my shoulders, and see that the once-empty corridor is somehow now full of identical dummies all staring blankly at me with calm, murderous eyes. I panic horribly and fire off a shot before I know what I’m doing when the wall on my right explodes and a huge, chain-covered colossus slams into me, roaring. I don’t even notice that the dolls are suddenly gone and instead struggle to bring my shotgun to bear on the beast, except the lights are flickering and it’s suddenly darker than a carful of arseholes.
Click, I’m all out of ammo. I throw the gun at the gargantuan, but it’s no use – my leg is hurting to much to aim.
And then it dawns on me why my leg is hurting. I’ve fallen off my chair. My headphones are skew-iff. My knuckles are white. From the other side of the screen, Richard is laughing at me – me, not Ethan Thomas. I realise that the whole scenario took less than minute at the most and that for that minute I was completely and utterly held within the games world – but more than that, I was a puppet that the game was playing with. A doll.
So, yeah, Condemned 2: Bloodshot is scary – but that’s only the start of it.