Review by KasketDarkfyre

"The darkness surrounds you..."

Occasionally, you run into a game that really takes a minute to look at before you can approach it and if you approach it based on what you think it represents, it bites you in the end. Condemned brings to life several different aspects that make it not only fun to play, but also something that you have to think and pay attention to. If you're able to run to this title and say that it is just like Half-Life or that it is just like Doom, you'd be right and wrong on certain levels. There is plenty to see and plenty to kill, but the way that you have to use your surroundings keeps this from being just another Doom clone.

The story behind Condemned is something that you would find in a good book and something that keeps you wondering where the next twist in the story is going to come from. As Agent Ethan Thomas, you have been framed for the murder of a pair of police officers after starting an investigation upon a list of serial killers. The homeless are becoming more and more hostile, resulting in murderous states and violence throughout the streets. With your focus on clearing your name you must use your sharp instincts and forensic tools to check the crime scenes and collect evidence to help clear your name.

Alone in the dark…

The first few minutes of the game is an attempt to get used to playing with the numerous controls in different situations that you might come across. Once you've gotten accustom to the various commands, you start your trek through the dark and shadow-filled underworld in a quest to find the true killer. The difficulty that you come across scales and you have to use better judgment in most cases or you'll end up on the wrong side of an incoming attack which will stop you cold in your quest. Combat takes a little getting used to and you'll find that most of your weapons and items come from the surroundings as you explore them.

When you actually get into the combat, you can only carry one weapon at a time which is something of a shock considering that most of the game is spent either wandering through dark spaces or defending yourself against crazed killers. Most weapons that you get your hands on will be from the environment, but on occasion you can rip a weapon from your attacker's hands and use it against them, which is a neat concept. Each of the melee weapons has a value and these must be taken into consideration as well so you don't end up with a horrid weapon at a bad time. As you get the hang of how the weapons and defending yourself works, it's rather fluid in both its concept and execution.

Other aspects of the game come from the discovery and use of clues at any of the crime scenes and also from the world around you. You'll have a myriad of tools that you can use to collect the evidence, much like an actual crime lab would have when going out to the scene of a crime. From time to time, you'll get a little icon that tells you that you are close to a spot to use your forensic kit to collect items and evidence that will lead you onto the next portion of your quest and is a neat diversion. The tests and evidence is sent to another character and the results can either be brought up instantly or it will take a bit of time depending on what it was that you sent out in the first place.

Moving around in this dark world isn't anything new and most of the controls where that is concerned is fairly simple to undertake. You have a button for just about everything that you do in the game and they all have a useful function in one capacity or another. It's nice to have a more slow paced game that utilizes the entire controller instead of just a couple of buttons and then the pair of thumb-sticks. Fighting and other various actions that you would take in the game are old hat and stick to the formula of grab a weapon, use a weapon, throw a damaged weapon and the forensic kit really doesn't have any special button presses or stick movements.

What's that in the shadows?

Condemned is one of the darkest games that I've played in a long time, and not in the way of the story being exceptionally ruthless or the character being a hell bent hero. In fact, the game is dark in the way that it uses the shadows and when you go walking into a room that only has a single light gleaming off in the distance; you'll see what I'm saying. The enemies that you come up against are very well detailed and if you are able to see them up close and personal, then you've just gotten ambushed and need to pay more attention to where you're walking. Most of the environment that you're walking through is trashed and it shows in the shadows and the way that the walls are run down which shows an excellent use of the minimal lighting.

I hear you breathing…

Most of the time that I played through, I didn't notice much in the way of background music but rather in the way that the ambience was set up. Being in the dark and place in a location that is exceptionally unfriendly, you take a moment to notice the way that your feet connect with the concrete and how the doors creak open. Occasionally you'll run into an enemy who grunts or screams at you while you're beating him down, but most of what you hear is the static of televisions or the sound of your own breath as you move around. Other than that and some decent voice acting at certain parts and you'll find that the game continues with the less is more attitudes.

Out of the blue and into the black…

Condemned is a great game if you're looking to get away from the Halo and Gears of War stereotype which is what the first person games are considered these days. The game itself is more of a first-person adventure rather than a typical run and gun style that most people are accustomed to. When the dark world that you play in, it's tough to really enjoy all of the visual detail that this title has to offer, but the ambient sounds of that world around you really puts you in the mood and gives you the atmosphere. Aside from a couple of issues that I had with the control {mainly the camera when getting attacked}, there isn't much about this game that's wrong. However, once you've been through it there isn't a real reason to go back and play through again unless you're going for the Achievements which makes this title essentially a rental for the hardcore gamers


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/13/06


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