It's easy to draw Manhunt and Condemned comparisons -- disturbingly-violent scenes, sneaking around in the dark, environment kills -- but after spending time with both games recently, we think we've found the line that separates the two.

In Manhunt 2, when you see characters running around in skull and pig masks, it's kinky. In Condemned 2, it's Halloween. Video below:


We stopped by Sega's offices earlier this week to get a look at Condemned 2's third mission, which just so happens to take place during Halloween. And sure enough, in the mission players come across masked enemies fighting each other on train tracks in what Sega calls a "riot." We're not sure if that's the best word to use, since the screen isn't exactly filled with enemies, but it's an impressive scene that comes as close as we've seen in a game to a real fist fight.

When you come across these enemies attacking each other, they'll turn and start to pursue you, but at all times they remain aware of everyone in the room. So if an enemy takes a wide swing at you and there happens to be another enemy within breathing room of his elbow, that guy will get taken out as well. With the sound effects and enemy animations where they are at this point in development, even a simple scene like this looks great and adds a lot to the physical feel of being in this world.

The Combat
In the original Condemned, the combat system earned a lot of nice comments, but was essentially very simple -- players couldn't even fight with their fists or do much beyond grab a pipe and feel it in their ears when swinging it at an enemy. What the game did it did very well, but it really only got by without much criticism because the story was short enough that the combat didn't feel as repetitive as it outherwise would have.

So naturally -- given all the criticism that did show up for the first game's length (and the promised longer campaign in the sequel) -- the developers have added a lot to the combat system. Players will be able to fight with their fists at any time, as well as string together combos and build up a Rage meter that, when full, players can use to perform special disabling motions by double-tapping either the right or left trigger (to break an enemy's arm in a multipart maneuver, for example).

And then to make the game especially violent, you get to choose how you want to dispose of a body when you knock an enemy unconscious. Win the fight without killing the enemy, and he'll fall to his knees waiting for you to come grab him from behind. When you do, you'll notice skull icons around the environment, and you can drag the enemy to these locations to perform an environment kill. These can be anything from throwing the enemy over a ledge, to bashing his head into the back of a toilet.

It seems like a difficult design issue in any horror game to make the combat too powerful, because if the player feels like a god when fighting, they're not going to be scared about what's around the next corner, but at the same time they want to have fun with the combat. It's hard to say for sure at this point, but so far Condemned 2 looks to strike this balance as well as any game we've seen

Over the course of the game, you'll upgrade your combat abilities as well. Depending how you perform in each level, you'll earn points that you can spend on different upgrades while a preview video of the next mission plays in the background (if you choose to perform optional investigation missions you come across, for example, you'll upgrade quicker). These range from getting a general kick combat bonus to actual physical items like a holster that will allow you to carry two guns at once.

The Hobo Fight Club
While at Sega, we also checked out the game's Hobo Fight Club mode in more detail than before. Back at E3, Sega showed this as a simple arena where a player would pick which enemies to fight and weapons to use, then enter a room and start fighting, trying to see how long they could stay alive. As it turns out, there are actually a series of game types within this mode.

In addition to the staying-alive option, you'll be able to choose options such as seeing how many enemies you can take out in three minutes, seeing if you can survive waves of mannequins/blow-up dolls, etc. One game type doesn't even place you in the fighting pit but instead on a ledge up above it, where you play the 'coach' and throw weapons down to enemies fighting below. You're not actually giving a team orders or calling plays, but it's a clever way for the game to take advantage of already having an artificial intelligence system built for enemies to fight each other

The Leftovers
While Fight Club is a single-player mode, Condemned 2 will also feature multiplayer, though in what form we're not exactly sure. The only hint Sega has given about multiplayer is that it will have certain similarities to the Fight Club mode, with one example being that a player will be able to throw a bottle of alcohol at an enemy, and then watch as another player tases that enemy, lighting them on fire in the process

But the full multiplayer detailing will have to wait for another preview, which is fine since it seems like single-player is the game's focus anyway, and we need something to look forward to before the planned February release.

After this latest look at the game, we're still most excited about Condemned 2's investigation features (which we didn't get to see anything new on for this preview), as they have the potential to add a nice sense of peaks-and-valleys pacing that most horror games and beat-em-ups don't have, and they look to be entertaining as well.

But it's clear that the rest of the game has taken a nice step forward from the original Condemned, with a deeper combat system, improved visuals, and great enemy animations. It's not the kind of game that you look at for three seconds and know instantly how it's different from what came before it, but there's a lot in here that will hopefully make the overall experience much better this time around.

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