Review by wolverinefan

Reviewed: 10/10/06

A creepy adventure title but it does have some flaws.

Condemned: Criminal Origins is my third Xbox 360 review. It was one of the original titles that got me interested in the system. While I find this to be a pretty good game, it has many flaws about it and it also just doesn't come off as a next gen title. Is it worth the price tag though? Read on!

I'm sure the hero of this title has a name but I've been playing it non stop for the past 4 days and I honestly don't remember what it is. Anyway, our hero arrives at a crime scene. Bad stuff happens and now he's hunting for Killer X. A man who has been killing people for a while, posing their bodies and leaving mysterious clues. To make things worse birds are dying all over and crack heads are becoming even more violent. Is something causing unrest in the world and what is our killer’s motive? The plot does start off slow, almost like a bad episode of CSI but around the mid-point the game kicks in and the story gets much better. I just didn't like the path that the story ultimately takes and the twist, besides the first twist, is really predictable.

Graphic wise this is the weakest of the 3 360 titles that I've reviewed. Total let down. The graphics feel kind of generic. The lighting effects are good and while the character models may look nice, they are repeated over and over and are just dull by the third level or so. Level design is nice but everything starts to look the same, and they aren't even remotely the same locations. Every time I saw the investigation scenes I couldn't help but dwell on the fact that the graphics are rather mediocre for a next gen title.

Sound wise I found the game to be pretty average as well. The voice acting is border line bad and I'd say it leans more towards bad then it does good. The music, when it's there adds a bit of creepiness to the game and it may play the entire time but when I noticed it sounded more like ambient noise than anything else but it truly added to the overall experience. Sound effects are perhaps the only thing done perfectly in this game. Everything sounds good and the sound effects alone create a creepiness that I haven't experienced in a title since perhaps the original Clock Tower on the Playstation.

I like the 360's controller more so than the original Xbox's. No real reason but it just seems easier having those two extra shoulder buttons. Condemned uses a simple control scheme. The left analog moves your character. Right stick is attack, left stick is block. X uses your investigation tools. All you really need to worry about is attacking and blocking. Everything else has on screen prompts.

I was really excited about Condemned when I heard it plays sort of like a survival horror title meets the CSI games. The problem is the investigation bits. It's almost impossible to miss the investigation points because on screen prompts guide you along the way. This totally destroys the whole point. I wouldn't mind a general hint area, since the levels are huge but maybe if it was more open minded with the stuff to find, like in the CSI games where every clue isn't needed. It just feels like the investigation bits were tacked on at the last minute.

Rest of the game plays like a survival horror game almost. The game is broken up into 10 stages. Each is its own location. Ranging from a subway to a school. By the midway point I was tired of exploring these abandoned places. It just isn't exciting when everything looks and feels the same. Yes, places like the mall are creepier but it's almost tedious wandering through building after building.

As you wander these buildings you hunt for clues and the way to the end. The game is fairly linear but it also offers a whole lot to miss. There are 6 hidden birds in each stage and 3 metal plates. Finding them gives you achievements and unlocks more information on the plot.

The main idea behind the game though is to put the beat down on some crack addicts, and later on things get spiced up. What's cool about the game is the range of items. You can pull pipes off walls, boards from stuff, signs and many other things. You use them as weapons and they all have there pros and cons. You also get guns and stuff but I found myself using the melee weapons since it does something special in the game, besides making it slightly harder. But the catch to all of this is the fact that the enemies can do the same thing as you so you need to be careful. This game has the best AI I've seen in a long time. The enemies will block, they will run and hide. They also attack in groups but they will attack each other as well since they are all a bit crazy. I found that the enemies could deal a lot of damage but I didn't pick up on using the taser until around half way through the game. The taser is great for causing an enemy to drop their weapon and killing them with ease. It does have to charge up after each use but it doesn't take long. Oh and to heal you just need to find health kits which are placed fairly well.

Replay value is actually kind of high. The achievements are actually good for this game with hidden items and stuff to find. The game is about 8 or so hours long, Stages 1 and 6 are really short and I'd say the rest could take about an hour to get 100% in. It's not too hard of a game either and it does offer some good creeps and Halloween seems to be a good time to play this game.

So what are my complaints with the game besides sub par next gen graphics and weak add on up investigation. I do believe it's the glitches. I've heard people complain about the achievements glitching and the game not giving them to you. My problem was much worse. I found that starting around level 4 or so my game would randomly cause rooms and areas to become pure blackness. The flash light did nothing and you could see light sources and enemies but nothing else. This required either the loading of a save or restarting my 360. I had to do it a few different times and it only seemed to happen during the middle set of levels. This is a good enough reason to knock off a whole point from the score and it brings it down to a recommended rental and not a buy. I personally will buy the game when it's a bit cheaper and no sooner. It's a fun title though and offers some fun but be prepared for a game that doesn't deliver on the next gen level and a load of glitches to deal with.

Story - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Control - 9/10
Game Play - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10

Final Score - 7/10

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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