It's easy to make gamers happy. A couple pretty explosions, a half-second nipple shot, a shiny new sword—that's generally all it takes to ensure a game will sell half a million copies.
Conversely, it's extremely difficult to genuinely upset a gamer. Bad games annoy them, but very few have the emotional impact to actually make someone uncomfortable or angry. Condemned 2 does just that—and while you might be unsettled or disgusted by some of the game's content (for instance, the bare-knuckle assassination of the homeless), the ability to influence a player's emotions is, nevertheless, a real accomplishment.
The game tells the story of Ethan Thomas, a tormented police officer forced to unravel a dark mystery through state-of-the-art police work and blunt force. Like its predecessor, the combat in Condemned 2 walks a fine line between visceral and sickening, and it trumps every other action game for pure brutality. Bloody violence in games is cliché, but Condemned's combination of bone crunches and arterial sprays—the results of your actions as you beat the game's denizens to death with your bare hands—elevates it to a level of violence usually reserved for snuff films. The violence is rarely glorified or without consequence, but it's still shocking, especially if you're new to the series.
Thankfully, the emotional impact of the game is complemented by solid gameplay. The finicky controls of the original have been greatly improved, the CSI-inspired forensic evidence gathering has been expanded, and the graphics have been overhauled. Some might take issue with the sequel's brighter climes, but for those who spent hours squinting into the darkness of the first Condemned, it's a welcome change.
Condemned 2 doesn't have a whole host of additional content to keep you coming back after you've completed the game's story, and it doesn't have a poignant moral lesson—but, like a classic horror film, it entertains and terrifies throughout its 15-hour runtime. If you've got a strong stomach, you'll dig it.