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Condemned: Criminal Origins (Windows)

81
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Kadath Bird (706)
Written on  :  Nov 16, 2009
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars4.43 Stars

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Summary

Condemned is Monolith's best game since NOLF 2, and is a unique gem of a game.

The Good

Next to ID software, Monolith is one of my favourite shooter game developers. From the brilliantly twisted Blood to the hilarious yet smart spy game No one Lives Forever 2 almost everything they have put out has been a hit in my eyes. Condemned is yet another smart game from the folks at Monolith with a unique style and gameplay.

What makes Condemned unique is that it is not a "shooter" in the traditional sense; you are rarely given ammo, and you only have access to one clip and you have to check your clip to know how much is left instead of having the leisure of a HUD for this. However, the environment is your weapon. Various objects around the world are weapons, and each of them have different stats that adds a layer of strategy. They all feel powerful and fun to use, combat is brutal and downright sick. Bash someone with a two by four and you'll see teeth flying out and them spitting blood before head butting you. You feel the intensity, but you aren't superman, so you are still vulnerable. You have to block and use combos as well in order to survive, and you have to always take into account the stats of your weapon.

The games plot is fascinating, compelling, smart, scary, and cool. There's a killer on the loose known as the Matchmaker, who sets up dates for women and men and lures them into a trap where they are murdered and then posed along with their "Date," a mannequin which is always missing a finger. The games box cover depicts one such murder, in which the victim was posed and bound in chains. Its a creepy scene and sends chills up your spine. You play as Ethan Thomas, an FBI agent who is hunting down the Matchmaker, but here in lies the rub: He ran in to a violent man who took his gun and shot another FBI agent in Ethan's premise, and the killer was wearing gloves.. That means the only fingerprints on the gun are Ethan's, so the FBI turns against him and Ethan has to run from the FBI and psychotic drug addicts as he attempts to get to the bottom of the matchmaker mystery, but the secrets and twists revealed are so much darker, twisted, and intelligent. Ethan is a great character, and the story will please fans of murder mysteries.

The lighting effects are moody, ambient, and very well done. They keep the game looking dark and spooky, and shadows will haunt you every step of the way.

The game is scary, really scary. The atmosphere will keep you on your toes, and the drug addicts you face are disturbing and surreal, all looking ill, diseased, which invokes a feeling of disgust and fear making them threatening. The AI is smart too, and you will have to use your basic survival skills to survive. The game gets under your skin with great mindf**k scenes, incredible atmosphere, and jump scares, but it balances all 3 brilliantly. The mindf**k scenes come at the least expected times and are unpredictable, the atmosphere keeps you on your toes and in the game at all times, and the jump scares aren't overused, in fact, there are very few scripted jump scares; leave that up to the AI, so the jump scares don't get repetitive or predictable, and can give you a vicious shock. This is one scary game, and considering that most American horror is stupid, that makes Condemned one of the few truly excellent American horror games. Horror fans looking for thrills, chills, and twisted insanity will be satiated. Even the fans of gore will.

The voice acting is excellent, and so are the sounds. Spooky sounds and gruesome screams are sure to add to the fear. Sounds are one of the most important things in a horror game, and if a horror game sounds scary, it can make up for many flaws.

The second to last level in the game is awesome, having you follow clever clues and REALLY thrusting you into an atmosphere of being alone in a house with a mass murderer is disturbing and awesome.

The Bad

The graphics are flawed. For the most part, they look great with great shadowing, special effects such as gore, depth of field, motion blur, and more but some environments are muddy and uninspired, as well as repetitious. Also, while I give an exception to the bad guys as I feel they were meant to be sub-human, most key characters barely look human and seem lumpy and plastic like which is quite poor.

For the most part, the story is awesome, but it has some big flaws particularly during and after the climax. Most of the game takes place in reality and you will never run into many supernatural elements save for the twisted looking enemies and the mindf**k moments, but towards the end you run into this weird monster that has all these pistons, gauges, and metal body implants that raise too many questions and make you wonder what the hell it is, and it suddenly appears out of nowhere with no warning and brings with it a stupid plot twist that unravels the otherwise extremely tight storyline. There are also many mysteries that NEED to be solved, like the strange birds constantly falling to their deaths in strange sequences. One might argue that these are supernatural, but newspapers in the game argue the opposite and suggest people have experienced the dying birds as well. The ending is a slap to the face, and is totally irrelevant and lacking any closure.

The game is relatively short, and can get a little repetitive when taken in large doses.

The forensics system is disappointing. Save for a couple moments such as the aforementioned house before the final level the game will tell you where to go and what to do removing almost all challenge in it and this is disappointing, because the forensics element could really make for a great puzzle solving element that could have improved the immersion.

The replay value is low, although you will find yourself replaying it from time to time, its not a game that one would want to instantly replay. Much like a movie, coming back to it too often and too soon can leave a nasty taste and make you dislike it.

The Bottom Line

Condemned is not like any other game you've played, and is a great combo of first person action with survival horror. It is scary and brutal, and has a great story, regardless of the stupid ending. I highly recommend it to horror fans and people who love brutal melee or murder mysteries. Take a bow, Monolith.