Review by ayame95

"Gritty Action and Tension on the Dirty Streets"

Although Condemned sold reasonably well (most likely due to being an Xbox 360 launch title), the game has quietly slipped out of the gaming public's consciousness. This is a tragedy, because it remains one of the premier horror titles of the current console generation, and a landmark game in the genre as a whole.

Condemned's strength lies in its setting and tense atmosphere. You aren't some space marine blasting aliens on a far-off planet or a secret agent on a mission. You roam back alleys, warehouses and dilapidated buildings, fighting off crazed hobos with whatever happens to be lying around. And while the game does introduce some supernatural elements, it is the gritty realism of Condemned's setting that makes you feel thoroughly immersed in its world and creates an atmosphere of almost near-constant tension.

Condemned uses a first person melee combat system, something notoriously difficult to pull off. But rather than feeling clumsy or awkward, the game uses the perspective to make everything feel visceral and immersive. It is difficult to describe the feeling of beating a man to death with a 2x4 or smashing his skull in with a shovel, but rest assured that it works frighteningly well here.

Every title can be nitpicked, and Condemned is no exception. For starters, the game contains some unreasonable difficulty spikes, especially near the end. There's nothing wrong with a challenge, but good game design should build up to it slowly, training the player for what they will have to face. But far more damning is the inclusion of a stun gun, which regrettably makes a significant portion of the game very easy to play through. This cuts through the tension and makes a significant negative impact on the overall quality of the game.

Condemned will probably take you around six to eight hours to complete. The presence of some collectibles and a few other tidbits do offer a little incentive to replay the game, but overall it is probably not the sort of game that you will play more than once or twice. However, the quality of the atmosphere and combat remain unchallenged today, and the game's age means that it can probably be found for a song at this point. So any fans of the horror genre or those who want to see how well melee combat can work in the first person when done right should definitely play Condemned: Criminal Origins.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/03/11

Game Release: Condemned: Criminal Origins (US, 11/16/05)

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