Review by Galactus21

"Dive into the criminal underworld."

Slowly and ever so carefully you walk down a narrow and dark path. Your heart is pounding at an excruciating pace knowing that each beat could be your last. As you slowly walk towards the crime scene, the stench from the unsanitary conditions starts to sink into your very soul. Once at the crime scene, you notice a body that is horribly mutilated. As you search from room to room, corridor to corridor for any suspects or suspicious items that can be used for evidence, your fright slowly consumes you. But you know you have a job to perform, and you hide your fear with the best of your abilities. All of a sudden, you hear a can rattling with such a tingling and nerve racking sound that it sends shivers down your spine. You look down with fright to only be reassured that it was only your own feet that kicked it. Then all of a sudden a box on a shelf falls over. Could it simply be a strayed cat running from the sight of a human being or could it be the very reason that is making you shiver? As you walk towards the fallen box, you take each step as a last, and right when you turn that corner, a crack addict who barely looks human lunges at you. Frozen by the moment, you watch in fear, as this crazed and derange maniac rushes towards you. You take a moment, only a short moment, to gather your senses and begin to shoot at him. This is Condemned, where each step is an experience in itself and an atmosphere that is nerve racking and filled with tension. You want scares? You want an uneasy and nerve racking transition into the mind of a serial killer? Backed with the latest forensic tools, you dive into the criminal world, where the fainted heart dares not go. This grueling and disgusting world is now accessible to you, so open your eyes and be prepared to be rattled. Are you afraid? Are you!?!?!?

Me – I'm not afraid.
Ethan Thomas – Oh you will be. You will be.


You play the role of an FBI agent named Ethan Thomas. You're called onto a murder scene to investigate. With a quick glance, you notice a familiar mark. It's obvious; the murder was committed by a deranged maniac that is known as the matchmaker. Pulling together years of experience, Ethan Thomas must call on his wit and determination to hunt this serial killer down. But before he can, he is hit with a severe set back. The serial killer was able to kill the two officers that accompanied you in the investigation. Not only that, but the matchmaker used your gun and was able to pin the murders on you. Now, not only do you have to capture the serial killer and bring him to justice, but you have to prove your innocence also. Along the way, there will also be a few twists here and there to keep you on the toes. For a survival horror game, Condemned: Criminal Origins certainly has an interesting plot, with a few good plot twists along the way. More importantly the story is entertaining, and with such an intense atmosphere, the game was able to portray a dark and dangerous world with great precision. Not to mention, the first person perspective was able to magnify the situation and made it that much more nerve racking and that much more scary.

The first impression that you will get is the dark and eerie atmosphere. While many survival horror games rely on this type of atmosphere to draw out your inner fear, Condemned is able to put an emphasis on it due its topnotch sound and graphical capabilities. When the player is walking down a trash infested corridor, the player will notice that frequently cans and bottles will rattle, and from the shrill sounding rattle, an uneasy feeling quickly surfaces. Along with the excellent background noise is the game's excellent voiceovers. The voice acting was able to reiterate the troubled atmosphere. The game is able to match the excellent voiceovers with a soundtrack that is befitting of the situation. More importantly, the lighting effect is able to put the dark and eerie feeling into perspective. The shadows will frequently spook the player into believing that someone is behind him, only to notice that it is the Ethan's shadow. But while the game has some gorgeous lighting effects, the game's character models leave plenty to be desired. Enemies from a distant look rather stale and lack the attention to details that you would expect from an Xbox360 game. But despite that, the game still has some remarkable animation. Especially when you take a led pipe and bash it over a crack addict's head and you see all the blood gushing out. Not to mention, when the enemy gets hit, the way their body falters is in direct correspondence to the type of hit it is.

The game for the most part feels a bit simple, but due to the game's immense fear factor and topnotch presentation, the game is able to get away with simple gameplay mechanics. For the most part, the user will have to rely on melee weapons rather than a projectile weapon. And while the game's melee combat feels solid, one can't help but notice how awkward the controls feel at first. Not to mention, the game's combat is rather simple and lacks any combos. With an exception of a few situations, enemies throughout the game can be defeated with a timed block and a counter blow. Once you get the timing of the block down, the game feels extremely easy. But despite its simplistic nature, the game's combat is still quite fun. I guess it's the sense of moral justice when the player can bash the head of a criminal in. One thing is certain though and that is Condemned is bristling with tense and uneasy moments. And everything is magnify due to its first person perspective.

Despite the game's somewhat simplistic controls, the game still hits you with plenty of surprises. The level designs were brilliant and felt cohesive. Each step was an experience, and each turn of a corner was burning with anxiety and met with concern for your own safety. The game made me feel like a coward and at times, I was ready to give into my inner fear and stop, but despite such horrific scares, the game lures you in with its amazing atmosphere and gratifying story. And don't expect to let go until justice is served. More importantly, the game just felt exceptionally polished, especially considering all the nuances like the rattling of cans or boxes falling from shelves.

The Life of An FBI Agent

Condemned puts you into the role of an investigator, and in order to bring this role to life, the game allows plenty of forensic tools to aid you in finding the criminals. Each tool seems befitting of the crime and while its usage was simple, it still had plenty of crime solving techniques. Upon the crime scene, a hint will tell you to pull out your forensic tools and depending on the situation, the tool will be automatically chosen for you. At times the player will be required to search a whole room in order to find the evidence needed. There was also a situation when I was following a trail in a nonchalant attitude with one of my forensic tools and I was met with a surprise when a crack addict jump in front of me. Simply put, it scared the heck out of me. Condemned simply has so much to offer that each step is literally an experience in itself.

Due to the achievement points, the game has plenty of secrets and unlockables for the gamers who feel the need to get everything. There is certainly plenty to do and plenty of secrets to find, but the main path of the game is rather short. It should take no more than 10 hours to beat, but of course, the game can be extended due to its unlockables. And the game's length might also be skewed due to the fear factor because the game is just so downright scary and nerve racking that it is hard to just sit down and play this game completely through. But of course that is just coming from me since I am sure there are plenty of people out there with nerves of steel.

The Horror Awaits You

Do you dare step into the world of the insane and deranged? This is Condemned: Criminal Origins, where each step could be your last. It certainly isn't for the fainted heart. Albeit a short length, Condemned is packed with many surprises and plenty of nerve racking moments. The level designs felt cohesive and offered a tense situation with its many rooms and corners. Even with the simple melee combat, it didn't drastically hinder the game's experience. Sure the game could have used some added depth in the combat, but the combat still felt solid. The game also sports an amazing soundtrack and topnotch voiceovers. Add that with a first rate presentation and Condemned is an absolute horror fest that is waiting for fans of the genre to play. While the game may have some issues that could have been fine tuned (mainly the combat), what is left is still a great experience in itself. So if you own an Xbox360, then by all means pick this game up, but if you're contemplating on getting a 360 solely for Condemned, then it should be noted that it isn't quite worth it. But anybody else would be criminally insane not to play this game.

Pros
The game has plenty of tense and nerve racking moments that is synonymous with the survival horror genre. The game has a topnotch presentation, along with brilliant level designs. More importantly, the game is downright scary and that is what ultimately overshadows some of its flaws. The game also features some slick animation and excellent voice acting


Cons
The game's melee combat is simple, and most enemies can be disposed of with a combination of a well timed block and a return blow. The game is also a bit short.


Final Score: 8


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/10/06


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