Written by  :  MasterMegid (902)
Written on  :  Oct 20, 2007
Platform  :  Xbox 360
Rating  :  4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars

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FBI Agent Ethan Thomas, Open Up!

The Good

Condemned: Criminal Origins, developed by Monolith, and published by Sega, is a unique horror adventure game. You won’t be fighting zombies or vampires here. But psychopaths with murderous intent as, you track and try to stop a serial killer. It is such and original idea for the genre yet a wonder why no one has thought of it till now. But does the game play as well as could?

You are thrust into the role of Ethan Thomas, an FBI agent with a talent for solving the unsolvable, and has stopped some of the most sadistic killers that Metro City has to offer. As of late it has been getting worse. Something is driving these men and women to kill, as violent crime is up in the city by 110% However Ethan’s day is about to get much worse, while investigating the latest killing by “The Matchmaker”, Ethan is attacked, the psycho then kills two cops, for which Thomas is blamed.

Now on the run, and attempting to clear his name, he must find the real killer, before the body count rises. Condemned is a visceral and very unsettling adventure into the heart of darkness, which reminds me of the recent, Call Of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of The Earth.

As you will have to traverse some of the worst areas of the city, and not only survive but gather clues and piece together the mystery. Along the journey there will be many plot twists, as Ethan struggles to retain his sanity.

While gathering clues you have many tools at your use, a camera and UV light among others. When you approach a potential clue, a box will appear on the screen guiding you through the process. Doing this Monolith really idiot proofed the game, as Thomas will only use the proper tool at the right time. This is both a good and a bad thing. The good is that it takes the guess work out of the process. More on the bad later.

Combat is really interesting in this game. There are guns, pistols, shotguns, rifles, etc. Which all have their strengths and weaknesses. For example a headshot with a pistol delivers a quick death, regardless of distance, while a chest full of buckshot is best at close range. But firearms are rare in the world of Condemned. And furthermore it is the melee weapons that steal the show.

Just about any blunt of bladed weapon can be used. From steel pipes, to fire axes, and even odd items, like a mannequin arm. Like with the firearms, each has strengths and weaknesses. The steel pipe is quick, but has low attack power and poor blocking. Whereas, the axe, is extremely powerful, has good blocking, but is slow. And the key to successful combat is learning how to use the block feature. If you block to early your foe will not follow through, do it right and they are left open.

The combat with the psychotic populace, is very visceral. When you are struck blood smears your vision. When you attack, your weapon becomes covered in the blood of your foes. Furthermore you often feel as if your life is in danger, not only in combat but while exploring the areas, as well. There is also a stun-gun at your disposal, which can be used to get a free hit on an enemy or escape, or steal the weapon they have. You can also deliver a quick kick. This has the chance of disarming a foe. There are also these “quick kills”, when you tire a foe they will fall to their knees, at which point you can execute them. These are cool at first, but, I have to agree with Von Katze on this one. After awhile it feels like Mortal Kombat.

Some weapons double as items. A crowbar can kill, or it can pry open a safe. Most of the time these are optional, however. There are also tons of Xbox achievements. Which add to replay.

What is and adventure game without exploration? And Condemned offers plenty. The game really excels in presenting a creepy atmosphere, make you feel in danger, this is where most games of the genre fail. You will often see something only to investigate and find nothing. Ethan also has strange visions. These often foreshadow things to come, or are merely intended to freak you out. That being said many of the enemies are very disturbing, and in one of the games creepiest missions, you are in an abandoned department store. And there are these really freaky mannequin looking enemies, the first time you see them, they will completely freak you out.

The graphics in Condemned are good, yet not as good as some Xbox 360 games. The environments look great and have excellent lighting effects. And the characters facial details are very realistic, yet there is something about the character models that looks off.

The sound and music are excellent. The music is eerie and off-putting. While the sound effects really draw you into the game. You will hear audible hallucinations, as Ethan loses it. And the noises that are made by the lunatics is often bone chilling. The voice acting is top notch as well.

The Bad

Back to the tools, Monolith made it WAY to easy. This detracts from the adventure part of the game as you cannot experiment with the different tools whenever you wish. Only when the game allows it. Furthermore being attacked while you are trying to collect evidence is annoying as hell.

Some missions are just not as well done as others. And I feel that you are forced to fight to often. I would have preferred less combat. To make the game more suspenseful, but at least the combat is well done unlike so many games.

Some of the plot twists are just plain stupid. I won’t spoil them, but I did not care for some of them.

The whole the FBI thinks Thomas killed the two cops plot point is completely moronic. The only have minimal evidence of this, his gun was the murder weapon. No provable cause. No motive. They just assume the worst of Ethan. Did it ever occur to them that his gun was stolen? What the fuck?

The Bottom Line

In the end, however Condemned: Criminal Origins, overcomes all of it’s problems, and is one of the best horror/adventure games out there. Especially for the Xbox 360, which has so few. A great game to play around Halloween.(For my American friends, out there.) Monolith and Sega have announced Condemned 2, for release early 2008, and this reviewer is looking forward to it, that I can assure you.