Review by Enders Shadow86

"Underwear sold seperately..."

You're walking down a dark hallway, littered with trash, torn-up, blood infested walls. The only light above is flickering rapidly, you hear deep breathing- footsteps. You're holding a bloody shovel, right on the trail of the Torturer, a deadly serial killer. You hear a garbage can rustle and fall and you jump out of your seat! You take some cautious steps forward and peek into a room. Then you see something jump across the room and you hear the loud thump as a drug addict cracks a 2 x 4 over your head from behind. You stumble forward a little and turn to see his enraged, bloodied face and pound him with the shovel – once, twice, three times. He is on the floor kneeling and defenseless when you ram your head into his to finish him off! Loud breathing…

Condemned: Criminal Origins is the scariest game I have ever played. I'm not going to lie to you to make me look like more of a man. I literally almost crapped my pants several times while playing. The terrifying gameplay, intense storyline, and stunning visuals create a sense of suspense I have never felt in a game. This sensation came over me mainly because of the intense atmospheric experience that the developers create.

In the game, you are Ethan Thomas, an FBI agent who gets framed for the murder of two fellow officers. Soon, you are on the trail of the serial killer who framed you as he leaves behind evidence of his killings for you to find. On the way, you discover that you have been spied on all along by this mysterious killer. The story develops and creates a tension and suspense that sets the tone for the horrifying and brutal gameplay. The narrative is pretty frightening and it adds a nice touch to the gameplay. The plot twists are intricately interwoven into the player's decisions and actions in the game.

The gameplay is more of a mixed bag- meaning I enjoyed it for some time, until I grew tired of it. It consists mainly of walking through dark hallways, and beating up addicts and hobos. You are supplied with a taser to stun enemies and can carry one melee weapon or firearm. If you run out of ammo or choose to use a new melee weapon, you can pick up almost anything lying on the floor. Occasionally, you'll need a certain object like a shovel, a sledgehammer, or a fireaxe to get through areas and continue the game. The controls are simple and intuitive.

Fighting addicts and hobos is easy and addictive, but it does get monotonous later in the game. There isn't enough variety in the fighting. There are only three actions- swing/fire your weapon, block (mostly ineffective), and taser. I guess they made it this way so it would feel more realistic and suspenseful. Developers didn't want superhumans walking around. I still feel that the gamer needed more control over character actions- something like using an analog to swing a weapon in different directions.

Thankfully, you do get to investigate and search for clues. In Condemned, you use gadgets that help you find evidence you need to nail the suspect, but these tools are automatically chosen for you before you begin to investigate. The problem is that this part of the game feels forced. After each investigation you have a cutscene or a conversation with someone. Therefore, the game is very linear. I would have like it much more if the game was more open ended and allowed you to search through an area in search of clues without a systematic step by step approach. It would have allowed the player to do the thinking instead of the game.

Another issue I had with the game was the short length. Most people can finish the game in a couple of days. I finished in less than 10 hours. Though this is fine for this type of game I felt like something was missing. More gameplay modes should have been available to make the game have more replay value. There are achievements that you can try to tackle after you beat the game the first time, but I believe most players wouldn't be motivated to go through the grueling game again.

Without a doubt, the best part of the game is the enormously detailed environment that makes the game feel real. These are some the best graphics on the Xbox 360 and that's saying a lot. The player models are realistic and the faces all look very unique and detailed. Enemies come in all different shapes and sizes and take away some of the monotonous feeling of the constant fighting. Lighting effects are done to perfection. You'll see shadows on every door, every broken window, every torn up wall and it sets the tone of the game. Almost everything in the game is tangible- meaning you can knock over tables, buckets, chairs, and pick up steel pipes, shovels, wooden sticks, and fire axes to use as weapons.

The sound effects create a sense of suspense unrivaled in any horror game I have ever played. During gameplay, music is rare and when it does play it adds to the sense of mystery. But most of the time, there is no music to make you feel- more alone. When it is this silent, you will often hear your own breathing, or breathing of hobos. You'll hear footsteps around you in the dark, or in a bedroom upstairs. When enemies attack, they will scream and startle you. The voice acting is sub par and is used often during the many dialogue sequences in the game. Overall, the sound effects and scary music add to the atmospheric environment that the developers create.

The difficulty is generally a little too easy. I did die several times but I never really felt challenged. There just isn't enough exciting gameplay to create that challenge. The good part of it is the quick learning curve but it quickly gets replaced with that feeling of repetition.

Overall, this is a decent game. It has a good, suspenseful story and good gameplay while it lasts. The graphics, sound effects, and shadowing are top notch and add to the overall tension. The bad things about the game are that the gameplay gets boring towards the end, and there isn't enough variety in the fighting. Condemned is also too linear, too short, and not difficult enough. If you like games that make you think and you're into the horror, suspense thing, go out and try this game. If I were you I would rent it and beat it, or buy it and trade it in, due to its bad replay value. When you are done playing, you may have to go the local store and get some new underwear…Sorry, they're not included with the game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/31/06

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