Good news, gore fans. There are two things that Condemned sequel Bloodshot properly nails and it's this: tension and entrails. It's nothing less than you'd expect from coders Monolith, of course, as we take another foray onto the mean streets of Metro City for a second round of tramp baiting.
Our first mission? Following former Special Crimes Unit Investigator-turned-hobo Ethan Thomas as he accompanies an FBI SWAT team into the depths of a ruined tenement in search of an elusive contact from the original game, Vanhorn. As our lapsed hero makes his way down a ladder into a squalid lift shaft, the rungs SUDDENLY SNAP and Thomas hurtles towards terra painful. Then, as if the situation couldn't get any worse, you're forced to hit your D-pad sharpish as a lift suddenly careers down the shaft on a collision course with Ethan's face.
A perfectly choreographed example of Monolith's flair for first-person theatricals, it's incredibly cinematic, utterly immersive and bloody terrifying.
Turns out that our close-encounter of the steel kind is only the very beginning of the horror show, and the creepy sounds of wheezy breathing give us just enough time to duck out of the way as a demented down-and-out assails Thomas from behind.
Beating the living brown stuff out of this freakazoid provides the perfect opportunity to test out Bloodshot's pumped-up melée combat engine, and despite being able to now thwack away with both fists (proper meaty sound effects help the whole thing), kick, execute some arm-snappingly satisfying holds (there are upwards of forty 'execution' moves) and enter a rage mode where Thomas really loses it, we must confess that we came away feeling underwhelmed.
And yet... while, for our money, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay still pwns in the first-person scrapping department - possessing just that bit more guile than this slap-fest - there's something truly satisfying about wrenching a pipe from the wall before laying some serious smack down with it - or, even better, clobbering some poor mug across the bonce with a brick.
Anyway, one downed tramp later, we busted out of the claustro-phobic flats only for the sound of shouting and gunfire to set our already shredded nerves further a-jangle. Turns out we've stumbled straight into the midst of a local gang ruckus, and failing to lay our hands on a pistol hidden in a nearby dumpster results in us getting our bearded faces blown clean off in double quick time.
One reload later and we're back in the thick of it, taking names and busting kneecaps with a shottie. One caveat though: being able to fire away with a side arm in Condemned 2 is a rarity indeed; Monolith are well aware it's the focus on brutal, confusing close-quarters combat that lends Bloodshot a truly menacing air.
So, while the combat's perhaps not quite as perfect as Riddick's, Condemned 2 is neverthless a sharp and visceral scare sim. The foreboding lightning, the pitch black shadows, the dingy enviro-nments, the lurking horrors - if you likes your scares thick and fast and your plasma thick and gloopy you won't go wrong.
After the Manhunt 2 furore, we'd get prepared for the Bloodshot shatstorm. Whisper it, though: this is shaping up to be one of the scariest games of '08 and a great sequel to an underrated gem.