Review by MarkusIII

"A good game, but still, could have been better."

Condemned was the only game (alongside ”Oblivion”) that was a game I wanted at the release of the XBOX 360. Introduced as a first-person horror/action-game where you shall trail and try to catch a serial killer. This sounded cool and original to me, as the idea of a horror game in FP is a pretty unusual thing. What I believed after hearing this was that one had to always watch one's back more carefully (and believe me, you must always watch your back in this game) and that the game would deliver more of just the creepy horror-feeling. Though, this game is not even near as creepy as for example the “Fatal Frame”-series, but sometimes, you can really jump out of your chair when suddenly a enemy comes from nowhere in front of you, when you're not prepared at all. And in overall, the creators have made a thrilling game, but it's not a real “horror”-game that will send shivers down your spine, but there is a really tensioned atmosphere in the whole game that makes it somewhat creepy. The coolest and most creepy is the main character's “psychosis-attacks”. When these attacks occurs to him, the colours of the screen fades a little into black/white and he sees shadows and obscure things that does not exist and other weird stuff going on. These kind of moments can for sure be creepy. Like one level, where there are living mannequins, in one part they are like ten of such, that kind of takes control over the situation and the player's mind and surrounds you. So when you go one way, they will appear there, and then try the other way, they appear there. At least I draw similarities with games like Perfect Dark. “Condemned” is like a more creepy version of PD.

STORY

In the game you play as murder-investigator Ethan Thomas, and it all begins with that you see Agent Thomas being called to the place of a murder, almost directly the played gets control of him and you are going to follow a fellow police to where the murdered are. You follow him through a dark and abandoned building and after a while you reach to the room where the murderer woman lies. And you'll start using some tools called “forensic tools” - which I very soon will explain about -, and after you've done this the hell begins for Agent Thomas and the search of the killer has begun. At first, when playing, the story does not seem that very deep and interesting “there's this killer, hunt him down”, and the weird enemies, you don't get any clue about what has happened to them, more and more as the game develops some questions and mysteries are answered. But toward the end though, you will get most clues you've wondered about answered, and the story will get a twist to the greater in mostly the two last chapters.

GAME PLAY

Condemned is a typical “level-based” game, which means that you follow a level from the start to end. The game contains 10 levels, on these you search for clues about the killer you are hunting, collect dead birds (6 on each levels) and metal pieces (3 o. e. l.), kill enemies and finding weapons. That's about it, and when the level is completed you will see stats on how many birds and metal pieces you've found, favorite weapon, hitting rate etc. etc.

Now, i'm going to tell you about these “forensic tools” I already mentioned. These are introduced already in the very begin of the game, and are a very important stuff for Agent Thomas, since without them, he could possibly not solve all the clues and stuff that he find during his investigation. This is a quite funny and original input that will appear in certain ares in the game. In areas where Agent Thomas is noticing that it's something suspicious and some clues can be found, these “forensic tools” will automatically appear in the lower right corner, so you don't have to guess what tool that should be used. It can be anything, taking pictures of footprints/fingerprints and analyze these, for example. When you've made that Agent Thomas will send these to a girl that fixes the information and helps to solve the clues of who the killer might be, and so on and then she contacts Thomas through a kind of cellar phone (a similar communication system like for example “Splinter Cell”-series. As I said, a funny thing in the game. I would have liked it better in another way though. That the player him/herself would have been able to decide and discover these kind of areas and what tool should be used by yourself, instead of having an automatic way of it. On the other hand, that way it might have gotten too hard. But as it is in the game, makes it pretty easy and a fast way to just run through, should have been done with some more finesse. But still, it's a funny and cool input.

In other parts of the game (90-95% of it), you run in a lot of labyrinth-like levels, in the levels dwells all the weird “monsters” that seems like they once were humans, there are “normal” humans too, or whatever they are/has happened to them.And to kill them you do of course need a weapon, if you want to do some more serious damage, that is. There are many different and some stupid, yet funny weapons. The most stupid weapon is probably “the sign”, a normal sign that are used everywhere, in shops etc. One also gets different types of guns. Revolver, shotgun, and so on. Sadly, these do have a minimum sum of ammo. In most guns there are 2-5 bullets in , which is enough for maybe 2-3 enemies. However, by that the excitement level gets higher, since you are then to use one of the little weaker (but still effective and quite powerful) weapons like a sledgehammer, or fire axe. In some cases though, when facing harder enemies, it would be nice with more bullets to the guns.

CONTROLS

One of the best thing with the game is the controls, they are very comfortable and really easy to use. Never clumsy, never slow. When in combat you have three things to do, the attack button, block button and one button where you use your “shock taser”. A quite easy way to beat your enemies is first to shock them with the Taser and then punch them or shot them with your weapon (some can get killed by only the Taser too). Also, the block-alternative is probably a great thing, for those who uses it. Me myself, never made any good with it, so was not very useful. But if you learn a good block technique, it may be easier to beat enemies. Sometimes, enemies attack in a group, this can be hard since all are so angry and furious and hits you like total maniacs (which they of course are), but I can say that the great controls did a few times save me from dying in battle and I have absolutely nothing to complain about in the controls-section.

GRAPHICS

The graphics of the game are absolutely good, but could probably been even better done. These kind of graphics can be seen in many games on the Play Station 2, and since Xbox 360 should lie a further step forward, this game could have had better graphics. Also, as I have mentioned the look on the levels tend to be very un variated, much looks all the same and it feels like at least some chapter could have been made somewhere outside, instead of running through monotonous building through the whole game. The last chapter do contain some running out in vast fields though, but that's about the only environment change.

SOUND

Huh, what ? Sounds ? Do such things exist in “Condemned” ? Well yes, hidden in the background maybe. He he, seriously, in most part of the game one hear the sound of hollow emptiness and of course, the sound of enemies and your own footsteps. In some parts, it actually appears some cool sound effects that actually sound kinda creepy, and that's nice, why did that cut down on that so much ? All other sounds are totally great sounding, and sounds like in real life. Like the sounding of the guns, when you take off pipes from the walls and so on.

BUY OR SKIP ?

“Condemned” is absolutely not a game that should be skipped. It's a cool game that includes some originality. However it does “only” reach a 7 out of 10 from me, this is mostly because there's lack of variation in the game, and that the levels are so labyrinth-ish and feels like they are almost made for making you lost. Still, it does feel that when one is not playing, you just want to go there again and play it. The urge-feeling to know how it will go for Agent Thomas in his investigation and to know and see just what happens behind the next corner, followed me through the whole game. It's a really short game too, which can be finished in just some hours. So I would not really pay a full price for the game, but surely worth to buy for a lower/mid price and have some exciting investigation-hours. Also, the game has a pretty weird, but awesome ending. And cool also is that the player will be able to choose what to do in a ending scene. (Won't go in deeply on this, since it will spoil the fun). “Condemned” is a good game, but could definitely have been improved and been better done on certain parts.

+ With the game:

* Controls
* Great atmosphere
* The urge of wanting to play, always want to see what's behind the next corner and chapter
* The ending

- With the game:

* The levels are boring designed, and are really easy to get lost in
* Can feel a bit monotonous and tedious here and there
* A little bit more variation in terms of things to do would have been great


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/27/06


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