You Can’t Stop The Bumrush
Naturally, in the interim between the original and its sequel, developer Monolith has been working on more than just expanding the story and the characters within. Accompanying the even more adult and hard-boiled tone is a radically done-over combat system which really seeks to make the violence up-front and in-your-face.
Just as in the original Condemned
, the majority of the game is spent in melee combat, oddly played from the first-person perspective. Ethan can use firearms and will get access to some rather powerful shotguns and rifles throughout the game but, by and large, Ethan’s character is that of a brawler. Guns are the rarity, not the norm.
In fact, one of the more controversial elements of the game that has been carried over into the second game is that guns cannot be reloaded or stored. Players are always restricted to just the one weapon, so once there’s no more bullets left in the barrel you’d be best advised to find something heavier to swing.
Again, the environment forms an important part of the melee experience and players can rip weapons out of their surroundings if needed – pipes, rebar and planks are de rigueur
for Ethan. Unlike in the first game though, Ethan can now fall back to his fists if nothing comes to hand. The stun gun will also form a constant part of Ethan’s arsenal, proving useful for temporarily reducing the number of threats in a crowd or for ensuring you can get a free punch in.
Click to enlarge
The main enhancement to the combat system though comes in the form of combos and chain attacks, as well as a more complex blocking system. In the first game, blocking was something Ethan would only do for a split-second and a key part of the game was learning how to time your blocks for maximum effect and not falling for the clever feints performed by enemies. Now though, Ethan can hold his defences up indefinitely. The important difference though is that whereas before a block would negate all damage, now it will only reduce it.
Instead, if Ethan wants to negate the damage completely then he’ll have to time the block exactly right and perform a parry, knocking his opponent off guard and opening up a chance for a parry-combo. Combos are performed by linking certain attacks and weapons together or using certain moves in combination with an attack. Using the new sprinting function while attacking will unleash a freight train’s worth of elbow attacks for example, devastating anything in Ethan’s path.
The attack system isn’t the only thing to have had an overhaul though – the forensic investigation side of things, which was woefully lacking in the original and drastically reduced from the initial plans, has been returned to the intended glory.
Just as before, Ethan has a variety of tools at his disposal and is in constant contact with his lab partner, Rosa, who analyses his collected evidence back at HQ. Rather than just guiding Ethan through the motions though, Rosa now needs the evidence to be actively sought out and narrowed down through a multiple choice system.
We got to have a look at an early example of how crime scenes are being dealt with now and, though it may sound intrusive and rudimentary, it really does work in-game and helps the entire experience feel more dynamic than a high-powered, buzzword-filled board meeting.
Click to enlarge
In the scenario we got to see, Ethan had found a body on the floor. Rosa asks Ethan to identify the body, cause of death and anything else suspicious. A dialog box pops out of the HUD, Ethan lifts up his camera and players start having a root around. Rosa asks for a description and players have a choice – is this a man or a woman, young or old. We quickly narrow it down and let Rosa know the corpse is a middle-aged policeman.
His badge number is partially obscured, so we hazard a guess and sure enough this turns out to be Officer 47, John Smith; reported missing two days ago.
From here, the investigation gets much more subtle and it takes us a minute to find the small holes in his back. Was this man shot or stabbed we wonder, and a camera close-up lets us know he was shot. It’s a small hole, so probably a low calibre pistol. We let Rosa know and she asks us to keep looking. Now that we’ve gathered the essentials, we’re free to leave the crime scene but if we gather all the evidence correctly then we can get a better detective rating at the end of the level. A higher rating lets Ethan unlock new combos and upgrades like brass knuckles, so we keep looking.
A missing shoe on the corpse is our first clue that something is going on and, sure enough, whipping out our UV lamps, we find a trail of blood leading down a nearby corridor. The body has been moved and following the trail leads us to a meth lab that we can destroy for yet higher ratings at the end of the level.