E3 07: Condemned 2: Bloodshot Preview

As Sega senior producer Constantine Hantzopoulos begins his presentation of Monolith's brutal PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 first person shooter Condemned 2: Bloodshot, he breathlessly runs through a list of all the fancy graphical effects the sequel sports, including high dynamic range, bloom lighting, depth of field, and pixel shaders. He's obviously excited about something, but it definitely isn't what bloom lighting brings to the game.

A few minutes later, as Hantzopoulos demonstrates the new fisticuffs combat system, which gives players Punch-Out!-esque control over both fists, by assaulting an overly aggressive hoodlum, the grin on his face gets a little bigger. While he's showcasing the grisly variety of environmental finishes, which range from running an enemy's head into a television set to throwing his corpse in a dumpster, the grin becomes a smile. Later on, when he counters a punch with a well-timed button press and dislocates an opponent's shoulder in retaliation before chucking a television directly at another's head, Hantzopoulos, who has been playing through these same few segments all day, chuckles.

The follow-up to Monolith's 2005 Xbox 360 launch title Condemned: Criminal Origins, which later appeared on PC, Condemned 2 retains much of what made the first so distinctive and expands upon it. As in the original, players can grab almost anything, be it an electrical conduit or a 2x4 with a nail sticking out, and use it to beat opponents senseless. However, combat is now expanded to provide a much larger variety of approaches, as demonstrated by the close-quarters brawling, counter moves, and environmental interaction.

The murder investigation segments of the original return as well. However, instead of a simple linear puzzle, the revised CSI-esque bits require players to poke around a crime scene and answer a number of questions about the victim and the way he or she died. After discovering the body of a young cop and sending a picture of his face to HQ for identification, the game asks several questions about the way he died, where the wound was located, whether the body had been moved, and even if the visible wound was the entrance or exit point for the fatal bullet.

Only by poking around the scene with a number of available tools, such as using the black light to discover a wiped trail of blood, can players come up with the right answers. The better a player performs in these sections, the more points they earn towards obtaining one of the game's 33 upgrades, ranging from spiked boots to a charged-up taser. In a nice touch, those who don't want to be bothered by such puzzles in a first person shooter won't have to bother, as these portions are entirely optional.

Also completely optional are the story-building static-filled TVs that populate each level. If players so choose, they can stop and fiddle with the TVs' antennae to further their understanding of the game's overall narrative.

Before moving on to his final section of the demo, Hantzopoulos quickly runs through one of the game's interactive cutscenes. Standing on a ledge above an alley, the producer tilts the camera down to discover two angry looking rottweilers are waiting for him. Jumping down, he knocks one out by landing on top of it and the other lunges for his arm. As Hantzopoulos taps the buttons indicated on-screen, his character lets his natural grappling techniques take over and fend the dog off, eventually grabbing ahold of its jaws and ripping its head apart.

The last feature Hantzopoulos demonstrates is what he half-jokingly refers to as "Hobo Fight Club." Similar to survival mode in a fighting game, this portion allows players to fight against an endless stream of any enemies they have run across in the single player game, as well as choose the objects that populate the arena. Opting for a 2-on-1 drunken brawl in an alleyway filled with bottles of booze, the producer soon faces two stumbling hobos, one of whom throws a prosthetic arm at him. He intercepts the object and sends it shooting back with a well-timed button press, knocking his opponent to the ground. As for the other hobo, Hantzopoulos grabs a nearby bottle of booze and throws it at the fellow, soaking him in flammable liquid, before pulling out a taser and setting him ablaze.

When I ask about a possible PC version, the producer says that Monolith is currently focusing on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 editions. He also reveals that the PlayStation 3 version will use the system's motion-sensitive Sixaxis controller for certain actions, presumably throwing objects. As far as multiplayer goes, he refuses to say much, explaining that fighting from a distance with guns is "lame" and asking me to imagine the brutality of the close-quarters combat he demonstrated in a multiplayer environment.

Monolith's Condemned 2: Bloodshot is set for a 2008 release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.