Condemned: Criminal Origins E3 2005 Hands-On Report
First-person melee beatdowns with a survival horror twist.
It's 2005, and at this point, one thing is perfectly clear: breaking dudes' faces with blunt objects is awesome. Sega and Monolith are obviously clued in to this fact, as the duo is currently hard at work on Condemned: Criminal Origins for the Xbox 360, a first-person action game that puts its main combat focus on melee attacks.
Condemned lets you pick up a lot of objects in the environment to use as weapons. There's a brief demo being shown at E3, and in the demo, you start out with a pipe, which is great for cracking hobos in the teeth. You can swap your pipe for a screw-filled chunk of wood, a locker door, and so on. You can swing any of these weapons at enemies with the right shoulder button, and you can block incoming attacks with the left one. The window for blocking those attacks is pretty narrow, so you'll have to time your blocks properly to avoid damage.
In the demo, we also encountered a pistol and a shotgun. Ammo for the weapons is extremely limited, and there's no onscreen indicator to let you know exactly how much ammo you have. Instead, hitting the A button will check your ammo. In fact, your character will actually pop open the revolver and take a look at the remaining number of bullets. That's pretty cool.
But beyond combat, you're also out there investigating and collecting evidence. You have a set of forensic tools you can use to uncover clues. In the demo, that clue was a handprint. You'll pull out a UV light, and you'll have to look around for purple glows. That's your key that evidence is nearby. Once you're close, you'll automatically whip out some sort of camera device to collect evidence. It's not exactly as deep as a CSI episode, but if you're trying to collect clues while fending off an onslaught of hard pipe-wielding enemies, it could be pretty tough.
Graphically, Condemned looks like it's off to a sharp start. The models and environments look really clean, and the lighting (or lack thereof) makes for a dark, foreboding feel. The game's frame rate isn't quite up to par just yet, but it currently runs at a playable speed. And as development continues, the game will probably get smoother and smoother.
With most first-person games only throwing in melee as an afterthought, it's nice to see a game that, for a change, makes melee weaponry a focus. You'll encounter more firearms as the game continues, but your main course of action will usually be to grab a blunt object and start cracking skulls. And we're A-OK with that.
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