Condemned combines inventive melee-based game play and a real life horror theme to create a terrifyingly gritty, crime t
Leandro29 wrote this review on .
Playing as agent Ethan Thomas, you must try to track down the elusive murderer responsible for eliminating the list of depraved serial killers your character has been tasked to track down. Along the way Agent Thomas finds himself an integral player in the events leading to a final showdown against the forces behind this slaughter of the not-so-innocents.
You start the game investigating a rather twisted crime scene where a young girl has been murdered. Occupying this perverse scene are a strange assortment of mutilated mannequins, all arranged in various poses around a dinner table where the victim is seated.
This is quite an appropriate introduction to the depraved goings on that players can expect to find in Condemned. Unfolding out like a cross between Se7en and elaborate CSI episode, only with more blood and a lot less devotion to proper police tactics, Condemned hurls players into a rundown, dilapidated world filled with drugged, mutated, and violently xenophobic freaks that seem to squat in droves inside just about every building into which Agent Thomas pursues his prey.
The one thing you find out early is that routine gunplay is not the standard for Condemned’s combat. Your character starts out with a loaded .45, but after plugging a few murderous junkies out for blood, you will find that your weapon’s ammo runs out rather quickly, forcing Agent Thomas to go a less traveled route.
All around you in pretty much every level you play are weapons. Things like steam pipes, 2x4s with nails hammered through them, fire axes, or even the door off of a foot locker can and do become deadly weapons of attack and defense in Agent Thomas’ hands. Need a weapon in a pinch? Well, just pull off a section of a nearby electrical conduit and slam your attackers upside their heads with it. Run out of ammo? Well just flip that burner over and use the butt to deliver the smack down. Need to get through that dilapidated door? Why not pick up a fire axe and bash it down?
Weapon improvisation is the order of the day in Condemned, and is a tactic both Agent Thomas and his attackers utilize to deadly effect. Each weapon has certain strengths and weaknesses. For instance, axes and sledgehammers will do plenty of damage, but are slow to use, leaving Agent Thomas exposed to enemies wielding something smaller and faster, like a piece of iron rebar. Be careful of which tools you use, because when enemies come at you with these improvised tools, they pull no punches. Crazed and usually fairly tough, they can pack a mean punch when behind a piece of pipe and will bash your head in if you fail to either get out of the way or block their attacks.
Blocking is pulled off by clicking the right mouse button at the right moment and requires a bit of practice and some good timing. Block too early or too late and Agent Thomas will be reeling. Hit the sweet spot and successfully and block an attack and you can perform a quick counter attack. Fight well enough and enemies will sometimes lose their weapons, forcing them to go scurrying about looking for another. Other times they will simply retreat from you, seeking shelter behind a nearby column, waiting for you to come their way again.
Occasionally your enemies will go down in a daze. When this happens players can select one of 4 different means of dispatching their would be dispatcher from a menu that pops up when this option is available. These attacks are nasty little moves like neck brakes, head butts, or a severe blow to the head; all of which will send enemies to the ground with a spray of blood and a wicked thud. Do not take too long to choose from these 4 options, though, as this dazed enemy state does not last forever.
If a gun or pipe is not readily available, Agent Thomas also comes equipped with a handy taser gun that will take down a junkie quite effectively. The only draw back to this weapon is its slow recharge rate, making it appropriate in situations involving only single or sporadic attackers.
Amidst all this random killing, Condemned routinely reminds you that you are, in fact, playing an FBI agent who, technically, is supposed to be seeking out clues to crimes. To facilitate that role, Agent Thomas has an array of crime scene investigation tools for uncovering hidden evidence left by the elusive killer he is chasing.
Inside this crime scene tool box you will find a couple different scanners which use infrared light to find blood splatter or fingerprint evidence. There is also a DNA sampler which is fairly self-explanatory, as well as a camera to collect a visual record of the evidence you find. To process all these various pieces of evidence, Agent Thomas utilizes the facilities of Rosa, an FBI lab worker who helps Agent Thomas connect the dots and make sense of the evidence he finds in the field.
All of these game play elements combine to make for an interesting and unique experience, at least initially. One fairly soon finds themselves bogged down in a routine with Condemned that can best be described as: block, hit, block, hit, scan wall, block, hit, block, hit, shoot, block, hit, block hit, find axe, block, hit, block, hit health pack, block, hit, block, hit, etc, etc, etc. Apart from the occasional scripted scene or heart stopping scare, the game play element in Condemned grows cold, fast. While certainly never boring, you do eventually begin to long for a change of pace, like maybe a gun with more than 5 bullets in it or perhaps a room not smeared with human waste. Sadly, you never really get that.
The various environments in Condemned can also lean toward tedium after a couple hours. They almost always consist of rubble-spewn rooms interconnected in strange, maze-like fashions, requiring one to wonder about within looking for a breakable door and then the axe that can break said door, before advancing to the next level. Every place you go is one long abandoned building or another, crawling with rats or dead birds, the later of which you must collect in sufficient numbers to unlock a collection of rather humdrum extra content in the game’s main menu.
There are a handful of different levels here and there, such as one that takes place inside a well designed subway station, or another that has you stalking around inside a creepy farmhouse. These levels do mix things up to a point, but are still fairly similar to the rest of the game and thus not really reprieves from the standard level design seen in most of the game.
Graphics in Condemned are amazing. That is no surprise, considering it uses the same game engine as last year’s incredible action shooter F.E.A.R. In fact, the two games are quite similar to each other in more ways than one. As you progress through the game you will find these games share the same kind of grainy and blurred flashback scenes, as well as similar ghost effects where entities randomly appear and then disappear in a cloud of ash and smoke.
It is in the finer details that Condemned’s look is most impressive. The realism imbued in everything from a piece of garbage to a vast subway station is quite satisfying. Weapons are also heavily detailed and change their appearance in accordance with their use. For instance, a pipe will become smeared with blood once used against a baddy, and a rifle butt will break into splinters and fall apart if used too much.
Exceptions to this graphical superiority are certain character models. While most enemies you face are well detailed and imbued with believable motion capture movement, the detail on Agent Thomas and his cohorts are not as good. They have a stretched out and blurry look to them, giving them an appearance akin to an unfinished ventriloquist dummy. Though this defect is certainly not a deal breaker, it does make one raise an eyebrow, especially during most cutscenes.
All this detail does not come without a price. Just like with F.E.A.R., Condemned is a bit of a system hog and will require a stout rig with plenty of bells and whistles to achieve a playable framerate under optimum graphical settings. Even some mid-range settings are rather demanding, so plan accordingly.
Sound is another integral and well done feature of Condemned. While the score is mostly just barely noticeable ambient music, there is an array of quality sound effects throughout the game. You will hear things like the insignificant creaks and squeaks from animals and nearby structures, the hum of your investigation tools while in use, and the inevitable and chilling sounds of snapping bones, pipe clanging against skull, or the squish of bullets piercing some random junkie’s sternum. All that, combined with great voice acting across the board make Condemned’s sound and sound effects nothing but a quality affair.
No multiplayer to speak of in Condemned, which is a bit of a letdown. Taking on another player or group of players in an all out street fight with nothing but pipes or locker doors would be something to witness. Alas.
Overall, Condemned is a game with many quality elements bogged down by a few cut corners. A well set up storyline at the beginning of the game seems to fall apart somewhere toward the end, as do many of the relationships between the game’s characters, many of which never really get started at all. Those factors, along with the lack of variety to the game play and the need for more varied environments, are what make Condemned: Criminal Origins a pretty good game, instead of a truly exceptional one.
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