Back when the 360 was coming out, one of the games that looked quite interesting for me was Condemned: Criminal Origins. With the creepy atmosphere it presented, as well as the notion of some cool little gimmicks like a focus on melee combat with found weaponry, and forensic information gathering, this looked to be a game that might get my interest as a First person action game for a console.
Well, I found it used for about 17 bucks, and picked it up pretty easily...and everything was great up until I actually started playing it.
Then, well, the anger began. And it's rare for me to get more or less angry at a game, but typically it happens when I feel like there are bad general game design choices in play that I wasn't anticipating, and this game just seems to have a load of them that keeps it from being even functional as a decent game in my book. Granted, I'm only about up to Chapter 4...but I think I'm getting a good feeling of the general scope of this game.
Firstly, there is plenty of good about the title. The presentation is great, with appropriate sound design, graphics (for a launch level title), and other effects, the game does a solid job of shaping the environment, and showing some level of flair with the different weapon designs.
That being said, pretty much everything else about the game just has left either a bad taste in my mouth...or simply caused me to feel really, really annoyed about what I was trying to struggle through.
Firstly, the forensic gathering in this game would've been a nice gimmick, if it actually felt like you were really investigating something using some level of puzzle/problem solving about the matter..but since the game conveniently uses the excuse of the 'system' determining what forensics tool you are supposed to use at what time, these segments just feel worthless on all levels, especially since every time you gather evidence, you have to sit through a phone call, and stay exactly where you gathered the evidence, namely due to...
Our second problem, which is an overabundance of invisible walls in this game, which leads me to think that this game is supposed to be very strikingly linear in how the levels flow and how the action builds, which would be fine. After all, Resident Evil 4 was linear, and the levels were built as such, but this makes navigating stages rather annoying, especially when sometimes an invisible wall isn't really an invisible wall, simply somewhere that you can contextually move around an obstacle (like climbing over a single chain or something, while your enemies easily jump over various low walls). Granted, this wouldn't be so much of a problem if..
The levels themselves weren't so confusing to actually move through (problem 3). The stages feature a deceptively open-yet-linear flow to their design, which leads one to believe there's a meaningful amount of freedom to explore and find things (like the occasional weapon with one or two bullets in it)...but really, the game simply wants you to ultimately go on one particular direction without ever telling you where to go, which would be okay, as some adventure games do this, but typically the way you have to go is conveniently blocked off by some door that requires a specific weapon to open up, which means that if you don't already have this weapon (normally you won't), you have to find that weapon, meaning that the majority of this game is nothing more than..
A continuous, unending fetch-quest for either: A) A fire axe, B) A Sledgehammer, or C) A Shovel. And every time you have to get one of these things, there is pretty much always some sort of pre-scripted combat scene you have to deal with, either to get the weapon from an enemy, or you have to negotiate a group of enemies just after getting the weapon. This, again, wouldn't be a problem, if...
The enemy AI weren't a complete joke. Seriously, the enemies in this game really aren't that bright most of the time. I can't count the times an enemy will run out into the open, see my character, then slowly run over around the nearest corner in an attempt to hide from me, only to swing out and try to hit me with a melee hit. Many times, the enemies will simply run away from you, even if they are bigger than you, and have a stronger weapon than you, simply because they were supposed to hide at this point in the AI or something. Plus, the actual hit detection and block detection is wonky, so many times you'll get hit without much control over it, despite the enemy AI simply being poor...which is a direct result of...
The rather clunky feeling controls. These simply come off as being rather slow in response, and your character generally is on the slow side, making it difficult to negotiate some combat situations, especially when it comes to blocking attacks. Typically, you'll end up dying a few times in combat, which wouldn't be bad...but then that leads to my last gripe...
The friggin' checkpoint system. This isn't to say that I'm a fan of saving anywhere you want, but when you go through 4-5 minutes of dialog/forced forensics, only to get killed by an enemy right afterwards before you have a chance to defend yourself...it's a ridiculous idea to force the player through that 4-5 minutes of dialog/forced forensics all over again. It simply makes the game needlessly longer, and more irate at the situation, much like myself right now.
At the end of the day, the game, to me, is a rather harsh blending of a game that treats the player like he/she is an idiot (hand holding objectives, no control in forensics gathering, etc.), while at the same time being so confusing/contrived that it makes the player feel like an idiot (level design, controls, etc.). I dunno. I want to like this game...but I don't know if I can finish much more than what I've done so far.
Sorry if I annoy any fans of the game, just had to get this off my chest.