Review by End of Days

"This is what console launches are all about."

This game ranks up there with my favourite games of all time - the atmosphere, the gameplay, the story...everything adds to a fantastic game. The atmosphere of the game is so intense, it drains your emotions - forcing you to play in short bursts. This is a first in a game for me...absolutely fantastic! Anyway, now that I've fondled over the atmosphere, let's start with the review, eh?

Condemned's story starts off quite slowly - it doesn't pick up until Chapter 4 (there are 10 Chapters over all, averaging at about an hour of gameplay or so each). Ethan Thomas works for the FBI, and he's going to investigate a murder scene in a typically scruffy area of the City. Walking through corridors with your partner, things start to get spooky when it gets dark and you need to turn on your flashlight - this is something you'll have on for 95% of the game. Anyway, our first real gameplay element comes into play when you're asked to investigate the scene of the murder - which is depicted by a mannequin and the murdered woman.

Using your investigative tools is very simple - because it's automatic. When you enter an area with some evidence in it, then screen will blur a little, and a pop-up will inform you to equip the correct tool - hitting X does so. This can be anything from a Gas-o-meter to an infra-red light. When you find the evidence, you'll be asked to prepare the collection tool. Hit X again. You'll then have to focus on the evidence, usually pull the R trigger and the info is sent off to your friend in the Lab - Rosa.

That's half of the game's content right there. The other half? Dragging yourself through corridors and round corners, wielding a Shotgun - but mainly, you'll be carrying a Lead Pipe or another random melee weapon. This is where the game really shines. Early in the game, you'll either run out of ammo, or you'll come to a scripted event where the suspect steals your gun. And there's enemies still scouring the building for you, or their next fix.

Ethan will get up, and you'll instinctively look for something to wield, won't you? Walk up to a wall and pull off the conduit, why don't ya? Or do a little more rummaging in out of the way places and you might manage to find a very rare...gun! Yes, gun's are rare - extremely strong, but once you use the ammo in the gun, you'll have to toss it or use the butt of it as a melee weapon! Say I had a Shotgun. These normally come loaded with 5 shells (if you find it in a corner or whatever - stealing one from an enemy, it can either be empty on only have a few shells in). Once they're gone - Ethan will reverse the gun and use it as a bat! Cool, eh?

The game has some of the best controls I've ever used - simply because they're so...simple, I guess. R-trigger to attack, L-trigger to block - that's a given, really. X to check your ammo, A is context sensitive, B for your flashlight...Left bumper for the awesome's all extremely simple and easy to get at - largely thanks to the superb Xbox360 control pad.

I guess I'll go loosely back to the atmosphere here with the sound - there's some chilling music - and the sound effects are fantastic. Hitting someone over the skull with the butt of a shotgun never sounded so good! Enemies rarely talk, but when they do, you can guarantee it'll be full of expletives. The sound sets a good standard for the chilling gameplay itself...which is a thing rare in games so far.

Condemned: Criminal Origins sets the standard for next-gen Survival Horror games, in my, and many other peoples, opinion. If you can only get one 360 game - make sure it's this! Sure, it's short, sure it's kinda repetitive, but this is the only original 360 title that's satisfied me more than I expected so far!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/30/05

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