Review by BoyLover X

"A decent effort for a launch title, but fails to live up to it's potential"

Condemned: Criminal Origins was an Xbox 360 launch title that attempted to appeal to the very mature gamers; the kind that liked gritty, bloody violence and disturbing imagery in the vain of Silent Hill. It was developed by Monolith, who had also developed F.E.A.R., another first person action-horror game, and one that I enjoyed very much. When I saw Condemned in a bargain bin at GameStop for $19.99, I picked it up on an impulse buy. I had heard mixed reviews, so I decided to check it out for myself, and this is what I thought about it.

Story: 7/10

You play as an FBI detective who tracks a vicious serial killer. You have also been set up as a murderer, and must clear your name by catching the serial killer who framed you. There is a small bit of substance to the story, as your character seems to have premonitions about certain things, and there are some plot twists like trying to find out what is causing the citizens of the city to be driven insane with rage. I became interested in the story, but was disappointed about the lack of resolution about parts of it. There are plot elements that don't get explained.

Graphics: 6/10

Okay for a 360 launch title, but the 360 is capable of so much more. Much of the time, you'll see the same textures being repeated. Lots of darkness, lots of broken glass, and lots of wooden boards and doors. The lighting is fairly good, but character models needed some work, as they are a bit jagged and have low-res textures.

Audio: 5/10

The voice acting sounds very unemotional, like the actors didn't care about the story (hey, I didn't either!). Random screams and cries of your enemies are okay, but very repetitive.

Sound effects are good, but music is non-existent besides the occasional rhythm during a cutscene, so there's not much to say about that.

Gameplay: 6/10

In order to track the serial killer, you must fight your way through lots of run-down buildings. You will be attacked by psychotic, violent people who try to smash your face in with blunt objects. Fortunately, you can smash back. Pipes and wooden boards of various sizes, as well as fire axes and sledgehammers serve as your main weapons. You can attack or block, and your enemies do the same. Block an attack to stun your enemy, and then move in for the kill. This is exciting for the first few encounters, but quickly becomes repetitive.

There are some guns as well, but have extremely limited ammo. Melee weapons are used for pretty much the whole game. This game isn't exactly a first-person shooter. It's more a first-person brawler. Don't expect a lot of shooting, although it does become more action-oriented towards the end.

When not in combat, there are some parts where you have to use FBI tools to collect evidence. These seem cool, but you can only collect evidence in parts where the game lets you. Instead of giving you access to the tools at any time and letting the player choose when to use them, the game flashes on screen messages to let you know to do some investigating. Then you whip out a camera, DNA sampler, or whatever the game wants you to use and then point in the direction that on-screen arrows show you to point. In other words, you're basically just following some linear little mini-game that requires no skill. This game mechanic only got used well in the last level.

I guess my biggest problem with the game is the lack of variety in level design. You're just running around, with no real difference in the enemies. Sure, they look different, but all act the same. It's just waves of psychos who pop-out at you from around corners cheaply and madly attack. Your goals are just "investigate aimlessly" and "find a way to open that door" or "turn the valve / lever". Yawn. There are also doors that can only be opened with certain weapons, so you have to run around areas to get the weapon you need, and then backtrack to the door you can now open. Backtracking in this game is bad. A good example of backtracking would be a game like Metroid Prime, where you go back to somewhere by taking a different path. This game just makes you go back through exactly the same hallways you already went through.

Play Time & Replay Value: 2/10

This game is about 8 to 10 hours long at the most, features no multiplayer modes, and isn't exciting enough to warrant playing multiple times.

The tacked-on "replay value" is collecting secret items throughout the game's chapters, which unlocks Achievements and concept art. In my opinion, that's totally lame, but if collecting dead birds is your idea of a good time then go for it.

Final Score: 6/10

This game had some neat ideas but bad execution. The melee combat had a small amount of strategy, but level design was boring and the evidence collection elements were badly implemented except for right near the end of the game.

If you MUST play this game, just give it a rent, since you should be able to finish it pretty quickly and won't find any reason to go back to it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 07/10/07

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