Review by PickHut

Reviewed: 04/17/06

Who Goes There?

Poor Ethan Thomas, he got screwed over big time. Upon investigating a crime scene in a rusty, broken-down building, he and two police officers discover that the killer is still in the place. Sounds like a simple job, right? I mean, it's three armed men against one, they'll have the dude pinned down by the end of the first chapter. Well, a couple of dead hobos later, he witnesses the two police men get shot by the serial killer with his own gun. Sucks, right? It gets worse. Ethan gets framed for their deaths, and now he must run from the police, hunt down this serial killer, and clear his name! How does he go about doing this? Well, by killing more hobos, of course.

There's a reason why all these hobos are attacking everything in sight, including you. But who cares! Monolith gave you the wonderful opportunity of wandering around subway stations, sewers, and department stores, beating the crap out of these crazed hobos that pop out from the dark. Aside from using your incredible right foot (that thing just shoots up into the air) and stun gun, there are a variety of weapons you can pick up throughout each chapter in this first-person shooter (actually, in this case, it's more fitting to call it first-person melee). Wanna make quick hits? Then rip off a small pipe from the wall and start beating a hobo upside the head. If you want more powerful hits, though, you may want to have an ax or sledgehammer in your nervous, little hands (they don't swing as fast, however). There are firearms in Condemned, but don't rely on them too much. They're few and far between, and there's no ammo laying around anywhere, so you have to make good use of what's in the gun.

Even with all these weapons of ass-kickery laying around, you'll still be on edge for the majority of the game. Creeping around in these dark environments isn't a pleasant thing: lights will flicker or go out as you enter a room, small objects will roll around the floor, and you'll hear odd noises in the distance. The music just adds to the creepiness, becoming very tense at times, suddenly stopping..... and then starting up again. Although, after three or four chapters, you get used to the atmosphere, get a better feel for the combat system, and can almost predict what's gonna happen next. Halfway through Condemned, you'll start wishing it would end soon. It's almost like Monolith knew this, because around this time, they really start screwing with your mind. I honestly don't want to spoil any of these moments for you, but lets just say they're the main reason you'll keep playing.

Oh yeah, you may have heard about the whole "investigating" gimmick that's been implemented into this survival-horror title. If this is the main reason you want to get the game, then you're gonna be sorely disappointed. The feature is very limited, and the game holds your hand through the process every time you come across an area that you're gonna "investigate". Press the x button a couple of times, search a small area (or follow a path that you were going in anyways), take a picture, and bam, you're done. It's too bad it's not more varied, but at the same time, you're glad it doesn't have an open feeling to it. It would get in the way of the other (and much better) aspects of the game.

Monolith did a pretty good job creating an unsettling and immersed atmosphere in Condemned: Criminal Origins. The whole time your eyes will be glued to the screen, because you don't want to miss what happens next or have something jump out at you unexpectedly. But, as good as a title Condemned is, there are times that you feel they could've done a bit better. However, despite faltering a bit, the game as a whole, in a sense, gives you a glimpse of how far developers can push the survival-horror genre on the Xbox 360. It makes you wonder just how freaky these titles can get from this point on....... if the developers try, that is.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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