Review by Critic_all

"Horror gaming is FAR from CONDEMNED"

Condemned (or Condemned criminal origins as it's also known)

FIRST LOOK
Condemned was created by game developers Monolith and was released in 05 for the 360 console. The game creators took full advantage of the next-gen console (not so next-gen anymore) and it's features to create a high-def very detailed look; not only that but the game has 5.1 Dolby surround sound making it perfectly scary with the volume up a little. The game itself is about FBI agent Ethan Thomas who you will be playing as through extremely creepy environments as you try to unravel clues and attempt to track down a serial killer.

GAME PLAY/ DELIVERY

It appears to be a first person shooter but in all truth it's a completely melee focused game, sure you get the odd gun here and there but even then the average amount of bullets is 2-6 and most of the time you'll find yourself wasting all of it on just two enemies. Realistic AI will pick up any weapons they find however, including guns you decide aren't worth picking up so keep that in mind when you come across a powerful shotgun. Although this is where it gets ridiculous, you'll run into an insane addict blasting away with his shotgun at you, run back a bit thinking he's only got a few bullets left only to return and see him blasting away as he was before. This is extremely frustrating because it's basically Monolith supporting the AI by giving them a truckload of ammo and you just a few shells. Most of the time even after killing such a trigger happy lunatic the player will become annoyed by picking the gun up and it been either empty, or have 3 shots left resulting in total confusion. So we've established it's a melee based game but even there the game has lots of problems, the block system is tricky to master even by the second play through you'll find yourself struggling to make good blocks and most of the time the AI hit you faster then you can hit them regardless of the weapon you're using. This is just another example of Monolith gifting the AI to make life incredibly hard for the player. Walking around with Ethan sometimes feels like you're controlling a drug addict as the bad physics start to show in the characters movement. All these problems frustrate me because they make the game much harder then it should be, on your first play through on easy you'll notice even then; just the first three chapters alone seem a tad too challenging. As you can probably guess this makes the game more frustrating to play then it is fun. A good point however is how hard Monolith worked to scare the player. The game is scary; no wait very scary, no even that's not good enough this game freaked me out. The incredible sound effects, dark environments (the whole game you'll require a flashlight) and worryingly clever AI make this a must have for anyone who likes horror in fact it's scarier then most scary movies I've seen. It has jumps, screams, creepy characters and nothings scarier then walking through blood soaked showers whilst hearing the faint sound of children screaming. Well done on that part Monolith. Unfortunately another bad note on the game play is the incredible lack of freedom when it comes to using the CSI-like forensic gear to find clues. The game will tell you when you need something and even get the right equipment out for you and even then you have to do what they tell you e.g. take the picture from the perfect distance etc. Stuff like that wont make you feel like an FBI agent in fact it's very demeaning to the player and makes you feel as though you're been told what to do when you play.

STORY

The horror genre isn't exactly known for epic plots and stories in fact most of the time they are pretty poor and predictable. Not condemned, the story does well with slow development as you progress and keeps the players curious of what will happen next. As you unravel clues left by the killer the plot starts to thicken up and has a surprise in store for you. However even by the end of the game you'll be left with a bag of questions in your head and left wondering about certain aspects of the plot and characters, in short it has too much holes and not everything is explained. In addition, it's too much like a horror movie in the way the game will find cheap excuses for the player to be left alone or be separated from other characters.

VISUALS/ AUDIO

This is where the game shines most next to it's scares, the sound and graphics are superb for it's year and even now (reviewing six years later) it doesn't cease to impress me. One of the first games to take proper advantage of High- definition graphics the realism in the player's faces was very detailed and even though at times they look a bit dodgy overall the effort put in to the visuals was high. The way the visuals blend with the sound effects is another great note on this game; walking through an extremely dark warehouse and hearing floorboards creaking on top of you to accidentally knocking over a mop and bucket making you jump in your room is genius. A particular level this was used well on was the abandoned mall where you can hear the heavy fast breathing of mannequins walking around trying to find you.

PLAYABILITY

I've already gone over the control issues and the problems with the physics but haven't really talked much about the game length. On average the game can be beaten from 9 to as little as 6 hours (with experience) so it's not exactly a long game. Some of the chapters are incredibly short too and ironically don't do anything to help the story progress at all, in my opinion it was a cheap way for Monolith to throw in something extra to add a bit of length. Additionally it doesn't have much afterlife there's no Live play and no bonus missions meaning the only time you'll probably be going through it again is if you really enjoyed it or for the collectibles/achievements. The achievements are also something the game can be proud about it's a good blend of secret, collectible and story related achievements that if anything give excuse to play through multiple times depending how you approach the game. The game is very scary and you'll find even with your friends in the room with you that you feel uneasy and tense which just shows how good of a job they done with it. The game should be played in a dark room with the sound up to enjoy it properly and get the full experience.

FINAL SCORE

Condemned is an essential game to any gamers' collection whether you're a horror fan or not it provides such a unique gaming experience and will scare you more then most movies you can think of. Seeing as this was reviewed 6 years after its release I'd recommend buying it as you can get it extremely cheap now and its good value for money. The sequel has been out for two years or so and that will be my next stop in the series...can't wait! It's a MUST PLAY from me simply because of how unique it is, go buy this game!
Percent score: 85%


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/22/11

Game Release: Condemned (EU, 12/02/05)


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