Review by MooseMatt

"An enjoyable but short-lived experience."

CONDEMNED : Criminal Origins

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Condemned is one of the few games on the Xbox 360 at the moment that is not either a sequel, port or movie tie-in and it is in its originality where condemned truly shines. Developed by Monolith Productions, Condemned blends a captivating story with realistic visuals and furious hand-to-hand combat. It casts you as FBI Agent Ethan Thomas on the hunt for a serial killer plaguing the city with disturbing murders. But within minutes of playing you are framed for the murder of two police officers and left with nothing but your investigatory equipment and a 2x4 you ripped of the wall.

GRAPHICS
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The first thing you will notice about the graphics in Condemned is that it is very dark. If you are planning to play this horror game with the lights on you will be disappointed when you are blinded by the glare. Otherwise the graphics are crisp and highly detailed, the environment although often repetitive are highly realistic and the lighting throughout is the most realistic I have seen in a game yet. However there are two downfalls in the visuals. The foremost being the lack of locations, you will inevitably find yourself running down a lot of similar hallways and into hobo infested rooms. Secondly are the repetitive character models. Since your fighting a large amount of hobos/addicts and really getting into their face you tend to realise when you've finished the game only to see roughly 8 different enemies. Each one is painstakingly detailed from the tattered rags they wear to the slits across their wrists but there is just not enough variation. This game is a very graphically violent game as well and deserves its R18+ rating in America. Overall the graphics are astounding and definitely best viewed in high-definition but a lot of the textures and models seem to have been reused throughout the game.

SOUND
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Sound in condemned would definitely be the highlight throughout, the euphoria of hearing a skull crack beneath your crowbar is indescribable. Everything sounds as it would in real life, grass crackles beneath your feet, wood snaps as floorboards give way and teeth shatter as metal pipes connect. There is no background music yet it is definitely not missed. How else would you hear the vital gunshot or scream alert you to the threat in the parallel room. Children's laughter in abandoned schools creates chilling atmosphere and really immerses you in the world. Voice overs are all done exceedingly well which is a welcome change from most survival-horror games.

STORY
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The story works well early on in the game to involve the player, each cut-scene works to advance the story with is more intriguing then most films today. The climax is excruciatingly frightening yet it really fails to fill in all the gaps of the story. You will most likely finish and feel as if there are still questions that need answering. The characters are all believable but somewhat stereotypical. There are constant twists and weird, unexpected events all pushing you to just keep on going. It succeeds in that respect and even though the story is never quite finished it is open to all sorts of interpretations.

GAMEPLAY
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This game involves pistols, shotguns, sub-machine guns and rifles but is in no means a first person shooter. You will find yourself mostly using a wide range of melee weapons found throughout the levels from axes to paper-cutters there is never a threat of not being unarmed. The combat system is simple and easy to get into yet strangely difficult to master. It comprises of attack, block, kick and taser yet you will be constantly finding new strategies of taking out a clump of addicts. Each weapon you pick up will have a reach, damage, speed and block all having an impact on how you go about combat. You also find yourself searching rooms for clues with your equipment. You will see fingerprints, blood splatters, body parts but all investigations are completely linear in how you go about solving them. All of which is sent to Rosa your forensic analyst. The investigation sequences end up being pointless except as a break between the combat.

REPLAY
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Playing through condemned on normal difficulty will take you roughly 8-10 hours but you will most likely have a craving to go back and do missions over. In each level there are 3 metal pieces to collect and 6 dead birds (makes sense in the story) to collect. Also going towards your achievements, if you are gamerscore inclined. There is also an alternate ending but isn't really that alternate. Without multiplayer the only reason to come back to this game would be if you had forgot the storyline which is the main drive of the game.

OVERALL
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Final Verdict : Condemned is no doubt a disturbed and often sickening game but is strangely addictive and beautiful in its presentation.

Pros : Unbelievable graphics, immersive and atmospheric sounds, intriguing story, an intuitive combat system and recently released on PC.

Cons : Repetitive locations, disappointing ending and no reason to play again.

Score : 8.3


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/17/06


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