Review by afghanbray

"First Person Slugger"

This game is one of the only must play games on the 360 out at the moment. I'll get to the other games in other reviews, but if you have a 360, you MUST rent or purchase this game.

Now, you may ask why if this game is a game that has to be played, why is it only given a score of eight. Well, I'm judging on a scale where 1 is the worst game ever, and 10 is the best game ever while 5 is the average game. This isn't high school where an 8 out of 10 is a B. This is where a 5 out of 10 is a C, thus making an 8 right around the neighborhood of A-.

With that out of the way, onwards to the review. First and foremost, I'd like to compliment this game on it's story. It's not overly confusing like the Silent Hill series (if you don't know what I'm talking about, go check out their faqs.) yet it's not something so simple you'll be able to predict the outcome. The story in this game is like a tootsie pop. You actually want to get to the end not just so you can be done with it but to get there and see what happens, and when you do. Yum. It's rare these days for a game to compel the player to finish so that they can experience the whole story. Sure, there are good games that you want to play to the end, but usually it's because it's fun to play, not to figure out what happens to the main character. Which leads us to *drumroll*

Gameplay. This game plays fantabulously.

First, it does something that all games strive for flawlessly. It immerses you in itself and doesn't let go till you pause to take a breather. You feel like you're there, and you feel like you're the one fighting for your life in the dark rooms and dirty locations. I appreciate that Monolith has done the right thing and actually modeled the player in the game even while in the first person view. It breaks immersion greatly when you look down and you don't see your own body (Perfect Dark Zero). Instead, you move over walls and under chains while keeping you in the first person view properly. You see what you would see if you were to really duck under a chain instead of just lowering the camera down, then raising it back up on the other side. Little things like this go a long way into making you believe you're actually there. And it's when you're actually there that you feel the immense amounts of tension and fear build up as you turn corners and fight crazies.

The melee combat in Condemned has no equal as far as First Person games go. It has a brutal feel to it that not even Breakdown can compete with. When you connect with that gas pipe you just wrenched off the wall, it reverberates down to your bones and you feel the crunch. The encounters in this game are as visceral as you can get without the game being packaged with a lead pipe that you can have a friend hit you with to simulate the blows you receive. The first time you experience someone running up behind you and slugging you in the back of the head with a crowbar, you'll panic as if you'd actually been hit in the skull. The second time it happens, you'll probably be able to cope with it a little better, or at least as well as someone who has gotten used to being smacked in the back of the head would be. In any case, you turn and there's some drug ridden freak trying to kill you, and then the fight is on.

The controls though simple, lead up to some complex fighting. You can swing, you can block. But you can aim your swing high for the more difficult hits to the head, or you can swing mid for the easier but less damaging body blows. During all this time though, it's not all peaches and cream because as much as you want to kill the guy you're swinging at, he wants to kill you even more. I feel like right before this game started, the main character must have gone on some kind of wild mom killing spree and all these guys want revenge. Everyone with the exception of some cops and a couple people whom I won't reveal want you dead. Hell, after they kill you, if the game didn't freeze, they'd probobly keep hitting you like some teenager beating a grandma in GTA. After that, I'm not entirely sure, but I bet they eat your heart to gain your spirit force so they may kill even harder the next guy that comes into their abandoned subway with a flashlight.

Getting back to the combat, all the weapons you can tear off the walls and the furniture and. . . well, everything you can hit people with have a couple ratings atatched to it. Power, speed, reach and block. Power and speed should be pretty obvious, it's how strong your hits are and how fast you swing. Reach plays a big role in your fights because if you see the attacker wielding some kind of short pipe, and you've got a sledge hammer, you can keep out of his range while still being able to land blows to crazy man's noggin. Though, in most situations, it's so wild and hairy that you may not be able to think it through and plan accordingly. Hell, half the fights I was in, I pretty much played it by instinct. Which is good. And lastly, blocking. Not to be underrated. When you block, you get a free hit, and there are few things in life as pleasant as a free hit. MMMmmmm~

There's something that needs to be pointed out here, though I rated it 8, I believe it would drop to a 7 easy if you're not playing the game with the right setup. I played on a 58 inch HDTV with 5.1 surround sound in a dark room with no interruptions. I'd knock off a half point, if you don't have an HD capable TV, and another half point if you don't have 5.1 sound. This is because both the graphics and sound play a VERY significant role in making you feel like you're there and that's the big sell in this game.

The sound is brilliant. You're creeping around looking for evidence at some wicked dirty location and you hear a noise behind you. . . You put away your detective tools and pick up your fire axe and turn towards the noise and wait. . . You sit there waiting weapon at the ready anxiously. . . All that from a single noise. Brilliant. Once this game gets a hold of you, you'll be listening just as hard as you're looking for any giveaway that some wakko with a pipe isn't trying to sneak up behind you for his free slug. The sounds of bones breaking, faces smashing and the whispered "Jesus" before you go in for the killing blow is perfect. Play it loud for the full experience. If you can't, get some decent headphones. Oh yea, and the voice acting is top quality.

Now the visuals. Go look at some screen shots and movies at any game website. A picture is worth a thousand words and it should be apparent that this game is no slouch in the visual department. Though it's not nearly all that's possible with the 360, it's something that wouldn't have been able to have been done on the Xbox. I would imagine that it would suffer if played at less than at least 720p so once again, if your TV doesn't support HD, go ahead and knock off a half point. Then, try to start saving your pennies for a tv that'll really let your system shine.

Though the bulk of it is great, I couldn't give the game a higher score because there are enough little things to keep it from getting there. For one, the enemies vary, but they do repeat frequently. It's hard to expect a game to have everyone you fight look different, but with the level that the rest of the game is at, it's something I would have wished to have seen. It's not nearly as bad as the same dude being in every location like in KOToR, but it's noticeable and it's a small thing that keeps reminding you that this is in fact a video game.

Another small thing worth mentioning is the ragdoll effects. Most times people die, and they crumple realistically but sometimes, it's as if their body has gone completely limp and thrown in the direction of your last swing. It just looks unnatural and it only stands out because everything else animates so smoothly. It's funny because it fails because it succeeds so well. If you get what I mean.

There is still some clipping issues. When weapons and limbs just meld into solid surroundings, once again, it breaks immersion and I'm only mentioning it because I'm explaining why the game is an 8 instead of a 9 or 10.

There's a huge choice to make at the end, but the ending is the same regardless of what you do. This is by far the greatest injustice this game has to offer. The story is still great, and I loved it the whole way through the first time, but when I beat it again and took a different path, I was disapointed that it had no impact on how the game ended.

This game is great and so far stands alone in it's exclusive goodness on the 360. It's an experience only to be had on this system and that could only be delivered on this console. Of course, this is assuming that you enjoy a good scare, and can handle the mental exhaustion of creeping around fearing for your life for hours on end. Also, if you hate fps games, obviously this isn't for you, but hell, give it a shot. Maybe this'll be what sways you. Great game, go play it. That's it, now get out of here.

Steve


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/28/05


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