Review Rewind: Condemned: Criminal Origins (X360)

Review Rewind: Condemned: Criminal Origins (X360)
2.5/5 Review Score:

There’s a huge lack of true “horror” games in today’s market. Sure you could be fighting grotesque monstrosities on Mars, but when your hero has unlimited ammo, a burly hulking physique, and/or an armory that puts Middle Eastern dictatorships to shame, there’s not much to fear. Condemned: Criminal Origins is different. Offering genuine creeps and in-your-face gameplay, it represents the horror genre well amongst all the military shooters and sports games.

 

 

The game is told from the first-person perspective of Ethan Thomas (voiced by a pre-Heroes Greg Grunberg), an officer in the Serial Crimes Unit, a special branch of the FBI. When he’s called to the suspected scene of a serial killer, he soon finds himself on the trail of an even worse danger. Hindering his hunt is an entire city being plagued by leagues of psychotic homeless and his own unit who is hunting him for a crime he didn’t commit. Overall, it’s a bit by-the-books and clich√©, but there are some nice twists and the ending is okay. There has since been a sequel to further flesh out the story of Officer Thomas as well.

 

 

What really helps sell the story is the atmosphere. Unlike most so-called horror games, you only have what’s within arm’s reach to fend off your enemies. Literally. No flamethrowers or RPGs here. You rip framing out of unfinished walls, tear locker room doors right off their rusty hinges, and constantly toss and pick up newer and stronger objects to use. And when it comes to firearms, not only are they uncommon but the ammo for them is limited. Once you run out, you either bash people with the gun itself or you toss it. No ammo is to be found anywhere but since you can carry one melee weapon and one firearm, you can safely keep the firearms for emergencies while relying on your close-range weapon of choice. To help you decide which weapon to hold onto, the game will helpfully display the weapon’s stats that you are looking at along with the one you are holding to make comparing easy. You’ll need to make sure you have the right weapon ready when the next deranged homeless guy jumps out of the shadows looking to end your life.

 

 

Played in a first-person perspective, the game relies mainly on melee combat. You use the right trigger to attack and the left trigger to block. If you block at the proper time, you can parry an enemy’s attacks and counter with your own. While good on paper, it’s not so in practice. Combat feels clunky and blocking is unresponsive so I constantly found myself just swinging wildly while praying that I survived. The enemy A.I. at least keeps things interesting. They will flank you, attack and block just like you, and will even run off and hide during combat so they can spring out as you come around a corner for a surprise attack. For a 7-year-old game, this is pretty neat. The lack of a combo system is a bit of a downer, but finishing moves can be performed when an enemy is weakened and falls to their knees. Another aspect of the game is investigating. When you’re near something of interest, Ethan can pull out some context-sensitive tools to look for clues, like a bloody handprint or discarded piece of wire. While neat, it really breaks up the flow of the game and isn’t very engaging or conducive to the overall experience. Also, it’s never used outside of the story, and the game overtly points out when you should be looking for clues. It would have been nice to maybe have some non-campaign-related clues to uncover that could fill in some backstory or something.

 

 

Like most older games, the real downside of Condemned is it’s outdated visuals. The gameplay environments, from creepy farmhouses to decrepit subway tunnels, really let you know that Metro City is not a nice place to live and are passable by today’s standards. What really sticks out are the characters models. During gameplay, the enemies are creepy and move rather fluidly. But during cut scenes, any sense of realism is tossed out the window and is replaced by blocky, awkward lip-synching and poor animation. On the audio side, the features suitably creepy¬† music and ramps it up when enemies become hostile toward you.

 

 

There’s no multiplayer and no additional modes, but there are three difficulties to choose from. You can also unlock things like concept art and motion capture video by obtaining achievements. Otherwise, the game doesn’t have the most replay value. Even all of the achievements can be obtained in one play-through.

 

 

Released back in 2005, the game has it’s flaws that are quite noticeable. But overall, Condemned: Criminal Origins is a fun, entertaining experience that still somewhat holds up to today’s standards. With some hectic combat, scary settings, and an interesting scavenging system for equipment, it’s a solid though linear experience that’ll keep you on your toes from beginning to end but won’t have you running back for more and gets a 2.5/5

2 Comments
  • Fire Hawk D
    October 5, 2012
    #2
    GD Star Rating
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    I plan on writing more. I just finished Fable III and am about to finish Enslaved. I like to switch between old games and new games.

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