Condemned is one of the better new horror franchises that we’ve seen this console generation, and the cliffhanger ending Bloodshot left us drooling at pretty much confirmed a third installment in the series was at least in the planning stages. There’s a good chance we might even see the game soon since Monolith, the developer behind the original F.E.A.R. as well as Project Origin won’t be the creative minds behind the recently announced F.3.A.R. This means they have plenty of time to work on the third installment in my favorite bum-infested franchise.
Criminal Origins set the stage for a brutal world filled with an abundance of terrifying homeless people and Bloodshot took that, improved a lot of things, added multiplayer, and violently shook the story like a nanny with a baby until it resembled a contorted jumble of government conspiracies and bizarre supernatural cults with vocal superpowers. I’m willing to forgive them for that last misstep since the investigation sections, combat, and ambiance all saw a major overhaul, and because I think, if done correctly, Condemned 3 could be rather fantastic. Other than a job listing that popped up a few months back that may or may not have something to do with the game (it was for a Senior Artist/Animator position that required experience with first person action titles and a familiarity of martial arts) there hasn’t been any news regarding this game for quite some time. Either Monolith is doing a damn good job of keeping the game’s development under wraps or it’s been put on the backburner while they work on some other unannounced title (maybe Blood 3?). I’m hoping it’s the former even though there’s a big part of me that likes the thought of a third Blood game, because I’m jonesing for some brutal fist to face action that only Condemned can offer.
A possibility I can see happening with this game is the addition of motion controls, and the chance of this only increases the further off its release date is. I’m basing this off the idea that as motion controls are adopted into more homes, more games will need to use this technology to give them an edge, similar to the recent jump in popularity of 3D films as a way to get audiences to watch movies they might’ve otherwise looked over. Other than a long-anticipated Lightsaber game (which I’m still waiting for) and the slew of rail shooters that make good use of limb-flailing motion controls, fighting games are the obvious choice to implement this tech.
There’s already a boxing game announced for the PlayStation Move (called Motion Fighter), so assuming it doesn’t suck, why not transfer that awesome right hook, left jab, uppercut action to one of gaming’s favorite new horror franchises? Imagine holding a controller in each trembling hand, nervously walking the empty streets of a city crumbling into chaos until, suddenly, a crazed hobo leaps out of a darkened alleyway and starts getting all up in your stuff. Did he want to borrow some gum? Teach you the virtues of vegetarianism? You don’t care; you’re of the kick ass first and ask questions later philosophy so you quickly knock that smelly motherfucker out. Now read this paragraph again and feel free to stand up, close your eyes, and act it out. Condemned 3 wouldn’t just be able to make proper use of motion controls; it would easily make this tech its bitch. And I mean that in a good way.
I also want to go it alone but have the option of fighting alongside a friend. Should this game see the light of day another of the features we’re most likely to see implemented is some sort of co-op. I like this, this could be good. If some sort of cooperative play was to show itself the best choice for the second playable character (let’s take a leap and assume the first is Ethan Thomas) is SCU agent Pierce LeRue. But wait, what if there’s three-player co-op, you ask? Honestly, I don’t see this kind of thing happening but since I’m a kind and charitable soul, I’ll humor you. If we get to play through Condemned 3’s campaign with two friends the third character definitely needs to be Angel Rosa (your guide during the previous games and Ethan’s ex-partner back when he was with SCU).
I could praise this series all I want but that’s not to say the games don’t have their faults. Some of these faults are actually quite serious, like, if a doctor was examining Condemned, mulling over it’s flaws and injuries, he would most likely declare it in stable condition, but he’d probably want it to stay in the hospital overnight for observation. If you’re looking for a point of reference, games in critical condition would include the most recent Alone in the Dark, Vampire Rain, and nearly every licensed game ever created. Oh, and really anything developed by Rebellion. I’m sorry, but it had to be said. But fear not, as these injuries can be taken care of, and the most serious one, the story, might not be so bad.
The first Condemned had a great story, full of intrigue, good pacing, and a few twists thrown in to keep us engaged. Bloodshot took that and ran with it, right into a wall. As soon as I could explode heads with my mouth, I decided the game had lost me. To mend this I’m thinking we take the approach Valve has taken with their Left 4 Dead games and throw the story into the back seat. Then I’m thinking we buckle the story’s seatbelt, tell it we’re leaving for a second to get it some ice cream, and push the car into the lake. While we’re at it, let’s rid ourselves of the head-popping vocal cord attack as well. Sure, we’ll feel a bit guilty, maybe even a little sad, but just like your conscience, all you have to do is ignore it until it goes away.
I know what you’re thinking, how could I say such terrible things? To which I’ll reply: do you not remember the final thirty minutes of Bloodshot? Here’s a summary: Ethan discovers he is “the Remedy”, a long-prophesied being possessing “perfectly evolved” vocal cords gifted with the remarkable talent of generating the Oro’s power without the metal implants the Oro use. The Remedy is ordained to be “the voice opposing that of the Oro.” As a result, Agent Dorland and the Oro want him dead. Farrell, a member of a splinter faction of Oro that wants to recruit Ethan, sacrifices his life to unlock Ethan’s sonic powers. The Oro also just happen to have a rather large ‘secret’ base where they monitor and control the entire city. Oh, and there’s also that ridulous sonic duel between Ethan and Dorland, and the chance that the president is also a member of the Oro cult. How about we lasso that crazy beast of a plot and pull it back a little bit? Bring the series back to its roots in gritty reality and leave the crazy shit safely tucked away inside Ethan’s head.
The nonsensical plot wasn’t the only thing Bloodshot had wrong with it, oh no sir, there was also that section in the strangely empty SCU HQ with all the blue/green and grain filters. I don’t know about you but I get a little frustrated when I’m supposed to do something and the game keeps fucking with my screen so I feel “scared”. Crazy blurring and static don’t scare me unless they’re pinned to the suit of an oncoming clown, so let’s not see these again. And since you’ll have some extra time on your hands that you might’ve originally set aside for a crazy video effect level, how about we spend that time adding the ability to crouch, jump, and run for longer periods of time (if I can outrun the supposedly fit person I’m playing as than we have a problem).
The last serious issue I had with the second game (I found few things wrong with the first that Bloodshot didn’t fix) was its multiplayer, because it was unbalanced, somewhat uninspired, and just felt tacked on. I love the Crime Scene Investigation mode, that always equals a good time, but if every bum is killed the game should automatically end. We really shouldn’t have to wait until the apparently blind players on the SCU team to find both of the cases. The Deathmatch modes are a must-have for really any multiplayer game and I don’t have any real issues with them, so that leaves the Bum Rush mode. In this mode a handful of bums take on what I can only guess are super soldier cops. Bum Rush is so excruciatingly unbalanced: The bums die in one hit; the SCU guys have infinite ammo, and they can take a couple dozen hits.
Hopefully, the third game will have more variety in its online offering and give us some new modes unique to the world of Condemned. It’s difficult for single-player centric horror games to add online support, just look at BioShock 2, which tried multiplayer and (in my opinion) didn’t exactly succeed. I’m all for adding multiplayer modes to games, even those that don’t necessarily require them, but if a developer decides to take this route it’s vital for them to keep the online offering unique to the game’s world. BioShock 2 had a variant of Capture the Flag that was unique to the game because they substituted the flags with Little Sisters. Throwing in the random Big Daddy suit added an element of strategy and unpredictability to the games, but other than that BioShock 2’s multiplayer wasn’t terribly different from any other game’s, and certainly wasn’t superior. Condemned 3 will have to do something original, or in the very least take what other great online games have done and add a twist to it. Playing as a team of SCU agents who are trying to survive against progressively difficult waves of those creepy ass thin creatures covered in ink that come out of the walls and ceilings could be quite a bit of fun and manages to take the familiar ‘Survive against waves of enemies with friends’ concept Gears of War 2 started and give it a small yet satisfying twist.
Even if Condemned 3’s multiplayer ends up being a vast improvement over Bloodshot’s, it won’t matter if a year after the game’s release no one is still playing it. You can fix this by building up a community. At any given time there’s never more than 10-15 people playing Bloodshot’s multiplayer, and while most of that can be blamed on the quality of said online offering, a hefty portion of the blame can also be assigned to the lack of an online community. Look at Halo, for example. Bungie has done an excellent job at creating a massive fanbase for its flagship series by keeping the game fresh with handpicked player created maps, pictures, and videos. You have a camera in Bloodshot, so why can’t we use the camera to take the most gruesome pictures possible and submit them for Monolith securitization? You could even let players create their own crime scenes and submit them for other players to investigate. How fun would that be? The answer is ‘very’, in case you were stumped.
The only other feature new to Bloodshot was the Fight Club, which ended up being more of a training room, or an easy way to get some achievements, than anything else. Let’s improve the Fight Club mode, because it’s a great concept, it just wasn’t executed as well as I would’ve hoped. Give us a chance to customize where we fight, what weapons we can fight with, who we’re fighting, and toss in some really detailed leaderboards so we can show off our mad skills to our friend(s). A cooperative fight club could be fun too, but if you do this you might as well make this Condemned’s answer to Horde/Survival/Firefight Mode and give us waves of increasingly difficult enemies.
Since you’ve made it this far I’m going to reward you by halting by incessant complaining, from here on its all sunshine and rainbows. Condemned is all about its visceral, in your face combat, so to take this to the next level we need weapons that score a little higher in the Ass-Kicking Category. I’m talking about things like chainsaws, drills, and jackhammers. We spend a good amount of time in forests and under construction buildings, so these weapons shouldn’t be all that difficult to find. As for the guns, I don’t think much needs to be changed, if anything I would get rid of the automatic weapons. I just can’t feel scared or even a little bit threatened when I have a submachine gun or assault rifle in my hands, and when I’m using these weapons Condemned feels an awful lot like F.E.A.R.
Keeping with the combat theme, the executions could use some work too; mainly because there just aren’t enough ways to execute your foes. Bloodshot introduced some very satisfying executions and the third should expand on that with some that are exclusive to your melee weapons and guns. I’m not saying we should take the series into the realm of Manhunt, but I think there’s some room to add a little extra brutality. The last thing I would want changed about the combat are the chain combo kills; on many occasions I would accidentally start one of those annoying combo attacks when all I wanted was to finish the guy off with a crowbar to the face. Then, after I had missed one of the button prompts, I would unintentionally start the combo attack all over again. These I can do without.
Without a doubt one of the most terrifying chapters in Bloodshot was the Mountain Lodge, so give me another chase scene similar to the bear chase in the beginning of that chapter. I nearly wet myself more than once during that area of the game and the buildup of tension was just perfect as you slowly realized what you were about to go up against. I don’t even care what’s chasing me so long as I’m being chased. It can be a horny clown, maybe even the same clown I mentioned earlier, who wants me to sit on his lap and honk his red nose, Condemned 3 needs a chase scene. And another thing the game needs is an Autopsy investigation. Bloodshot gave us some in-depth, gory, and actually very tasking investigation sections, so I’m thinking an Autopsy would really take it to the next level.
Right up there with the combat and the investigations, another of Condemned’s strong suits is the variety in its levels. Every chapter brings something new to the game by locking us in a frightening new area, with new enemies, and different objectives. Fucking scary doll factory? Check. Rundown heroine addict-infested hotel? Check. Ruined pants-inducing mountain lodge with mutant bears? Check and double check. The only thing that would’ve made these environments more fun to explore would’ve been the ability to access locked areas with specific weapons, like in Criminal Origins. Strangely, Bloodshot removed this feature and I think it should come back, even if the locked doors aren’t critical to the success of the mission but instead just hiding collectibles. It adds an extra level of strategy to the game: Should I keep the axe or crowbar in case I come across one of these doors, or should I take the chainsaw instead?
This is one of the few franchises that can still scare the living hell out of me. Whether I’m being chased by a bear, about to be blown up by a creepy noodly-armed doll, or worrying whether or not that mannequin is actually a mannequin, this series has managed to scare me more times than I’d like to admit. And while we’re on the subject, Condemned 3 needs more mannequins. This series has managed to propel my irrational phobia of mannequins to new heights and I expect the third game to do the same. Sure, a lot of these are “cheap scares”, but I don’t mind. If a game manages to make me scream like a little girl it’s a keeper, and yes, that is the scale in which I measure a game’s greatness: and that’s how high my voice goes when I scream. If I wake up the neighbors that usually means I’ve found my pick for Game of the Year, but the last game to manage that was LittleBigPlanet when I discovered I could dress my Sackboy to look like Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight.
The first Condemned was fun and all, but my motivation to play through the game were limited, so please give me a reason to play through the game again. Bloodshot did an excellent job of this by tossing in an FPS Mode and ton of things to find, collect, destroy or investigate in order to obtain the Gold Badge so you can get the superior upgrade. I loved taking my time and enjoying the game my first time through, then going through it again to collect all the items and get perfect investigation scores so I could reap the benefits the Gold Badges provide. I’d also like to see a less linear storyline, because the last two games were about as linear as a game can be. And that leads me to my final idea, the one I saved for last because, despite how awesome it is, I just don’t see it happening.
Monolith, if you really wanted to change things up, Deadly Premonition is a game to look at. It took the unique approach of letting you begin the investigative scenes on your own time, allowing you the chance to do what you wanted between missions. What if Condemned 3 was more of a sandbox game? That would be a welcome change from the linear gameplay in the first two games. When you’re not solving crimes that progress the story you could fill your time exploring the city solving the plethora of crimes that are undoubtedly going on as the city falls apart. Of course, giving us a city to explore is a big undertaking that may require a larger budget or more time than Monolith has at their disposal, but this could be solved with simple well-placed barricades (the city is in anarchy after all) that close off sections of the game until a certain point in the story.
Whether or not Monolith borrows any of the gems of wisdom written above, I’m almost certain Condemned 3 is going to be good. The first was amazing, especially for a launch title, and the second improved on almost every front. Even if #3 does nothing but improve on some of Bloodshot’s features, it’ll still be great. But I’m not kidding about that autopsy scene; I’ve always wanted to stick my hand in a corpse, pull out something vital and declare with confidence something intelligent that solves the case. I would probably follow that clever declaration with an equally clever witticism that would make everyone in the room laugh, despite the mutilated corpse lying on the metal table. I’m going to leave the accomplishment of this dream in the capable hands of Monolith, who I know are reading this, jotting down notes, desperately searching for a way to contact me so they can thank me for bestowing upon them my dreams, some good ideas, and at least two clown references.