Review by Ryan Gillam

"Some things in this world are made to shock you. Condemned is one."

The horror game type is nothing new, we have had Resident Evil, Silent Hill and countless others. Condemned raises the bar again and makes not only a game which will have you jumping behind the couch every 5 minutes but one with great gameplay.

You play the part of Ethan Thomas an FBI agent framed for the murders of 2 police officers. You need to track down and find the real killer with lots of twists (and maybe turns) along the way. The game takes place in the crack addict streets of someplace in America. Terror waits around every corner waiting to jump out and smack you round the head with anything that can be pulled from the environment, such as a locker door or a pipe.

This game is not for the weak of heart (or for playing around you parents) blood is everywhere in this game, some you lay though by smashing the addicts around the head with a blunt instrument or a sub machine gun. It is also naturally part of the scenery, which is designed to look as gruesome as possibly to keep the atmosphere at a high. The graphics are immense they show something which would never be achieved on the original Xbox.

The story keeps you hooked from start to finish with a lot of plot twists. The story is delivered to you mainly in 2 forms. The first is the gathering of evidence and contacting your good friend at the lab named Rosa. She will give you the low down on what is going on. The most effective and innovative way though is the flash backs that you will receive that show you the killers actions, these can get scary at times, especially in the later levels. However the only criticism is that the story is too short and lacks much depth.

If you are expecting a game pretty similar to CSI or one of the other countless crime programs on ITV at night then you are defiantly wrong. The main aim of this game is too scare the living daylights out of you and deliver an almost perfect story at the same time. The evidence search is too simplistic and the game tells you when there is evidence near by. However to be honest this compliments the game well as it keeps the game flowing at a nice healthy pace without being bogged down for 2 hours searching the levels for that last piece of evidence that you need to gather to get to the next level.

The one great thing about this game is how neatly everything falls into place to form the atmosphere that keeps you on wits end from beginning to end. This is the sound, graphics and the fact most of the time you only have the torch to see in front of you. There are also nice little surprises everywhere in the game, which you won't expect. I can't tell you how many times my screen suddenly filled with blood only to turn around and see that there was a someone with an axe aiming towards my head that I never saw there before. The sound compliments the atmosphere perfectly and taking this away will destroy the game, so for all you 90's people out there who love their custom soundtracks you should do away with the likes of Hanson and listen to some top quality game noises. Even the sound of you knocking over a dustbin will send you crying to your mummy. The final ingredient to the atmosphere though is to play extremely late at night when you have had a bit to drink and are tired. The scary parts of the game will probably make you have a heart attack, but you will be coming back for more of this gaming paradise.

The achievements are something new to the gaming scene, and Condemned has plenty of them. However collecting them may seem a bit of a chore. This is because not all of them can be collected in the first play through and to be honest the second play through does not hold the atmosphere of the first time you played the game. This is because you know where everything that scares you is and it takes a major part away from the game, leaving you with a bog-standard run around and smack people with pipes game. However leave it for a month or two and come back and it will feel like a fresh game to you.

I feel this game is probably one of the better games to come in the launch line up of the Xbox 360 however do not purchase this as your only game. The reason why I am saying this is because even for the casual gamer there is only 10-15 hours of gameplay and you will have nothing to tide you over until March when the second wave of Xbox 360 games come into the stores. As I said it also lacks short-term replay value. To get the full effect of the game you may want to leave it a while, but rest assured you will get as much fun out of it then as you did in the first play through. If you like smashing people over the head with weapons that have been torn from the wall and shoved into your sweaty palms then go for this, but make sure you stock up on toilet paper before you do and be prepared for a ride to hell and back.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/03/06

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