Review by MGPythagoras

Reviewed: 01/20/06

A Good Original Game in a Sea of Ports...

Condemned: Criminal Origins in the little brother to the hit PC title F.E.A.R, while also being Monolith’s first foray into console gaming. With an intriguing story and stellar game play, Condemned stands out as one of the more unique 360 launch titles in a sea of ports and remakes.

Graphics 9/10

The first thing you will notice in Condemned is the stunning detail in each environment. From chipped bricks to tattered wallpaper to grass, you will see a wide variety of environments, all with detailed extras like cob webs on windowsills, rust on lockers, or blood on just about anything. However, some textures do repeat, but you will hardly ever notice it unless you intentionally look for them.

The character models are fairly well done, especially the main characters, and the enemies are well crafted to cause fear in the pit of your stomach. However, some of the models look out of place, but overall it does not affect gameplay in any way. The weapons, the heart and soul of the game, are modeled extremely well, and even carry such scars as blood, rust, and dents.

The only disappointing thing about the graphics is your flashlight. While some games have actually created real light, which reflects off surfaces and such, Condemned sticks with the Doom model and has your flashlight apply painted on light on surfaces, meaning no reflections. A small and unimportant detail, but this is a next gen game.

Sound 10/10

The sound in this game really helps craft the atmosphere of fear. Background music is absent, though if it had been included it would’ve felt out of place. The sound effects are top notch. Run along grass and you hear it crackle. Rip a pipe off the wall and you hear steam shoot out. Stop running and listen and you can hear a hobo mercilessly stalking you. And, most rewardingly, smash a hobo across the face with a hammer and it sounds just like you would expect it to in real life.

The sound really becomes a major part of the game. Listening to a person’s screams, an addict’s footsteps, or a gunshot gives you hints on where to go, or not to go, and just adds to this games immersion factor. The voice overs are all very well done, something you don’t usually expect from survival horror games.

Story 10/10

Perhaps the most well done part of this game, the story will have you just dying to play the next level to found out what happens to Ethan Thomas, the main character, even though the previous level just scared you out of your wits. As with any good story, this one features multiple twists and just unexpected events, though the ending does leave you hanging and is open to multiple interpretations. Overall, an amazing story.

Gameplay 9/10

Guns are a scarcity in Condemned, though you do get your share of pistols, magnums, shotguns, submachine guns, and rifles. Mainly, Ethan must use whatever weapons he can salvage from the environment, including paper cutters, axes, and pipes, to combat the deadly addicts of town. While going on a quest of sorts to track down a murderer, you will encounter countless addicts and hobos who would like to murder you, so, you must defend yourself in melee combat. While extremely simple (you can block and have three different attacks), the combat is rewarding. You can then finish off your opponent with one of four finishing moves (punch, snap, throw, or ram) or just kick them when their down.

You also have a taser to shock people and disarm them, which is pretty fun in and of itself.

The whole game consist of travel from room to room, put down a few enemies, find a few clues (more on that in a minute), travel around again, find a weapon you need to progress, and repeat. While it sounds repetitive, and it is, the game immerses you so much with its story and brutal combat you hardly even notice. The level design is also well done, and you very rarely get lost as most areas have their own distinct look.

The forensic part of the game, in which you take pictures, find evidence, and transmit it to Rosa, your forensic analyst, is heavily scripted and serves only to progress the story, although it is a fun diversion and serves to make the game more rounded.

Replay Value 6/10

This game is very short, around 8 hours. Although the game gives you numerous reasons to replay it, such as finding birds and metal tags to unlock hidden reports that bring out the games background story, you could collect these all on your first try and even then the rewards aren’t that satisfying. A second play through is worthless, as this game’s main drive is its story which, after having completed it, you already know so there is no driving force to play again. The enemies also remain in all the same locations, so unless you choose a harder difficulty, the game remains the same.

Rent or Buy?

Buy. While lacking in replay value, this game is a nonstop roller coaster of fun and fear, and among a sea of ports and trash, a true gem in the Xbox 360’s launch library

Overall 9/10.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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