Condemned: Criminal Origins Hands-On - The Creepy Xbox 360 Action Game Heads for the PC

This first-person action game shares a lot with last year's hit shooter, F.E.A.R., when it comes to creepy atmosphere and brutal combat.

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Last year's Condemned: Criminal Origins for the Xbox 360 is the kind of game that can send politicians into a tizzy. In the incredibly atmospheric and creepy experience that is Condemned, you play as an FBI agent forced to battle endless waves of deranged criminals, and you're armed mainly with pipes, clubs, axes, and any other blunt objects that are available. In other words, Condemned is mainly about bludgeoning enemies (and then kicking the body when it's down). It goes without saying that the Xbox 360 version was a viscerally satisfying and mature-rated game. Now Condemned is headed for the PC next month, and we got our hands on a late version of the game to see how the action translates from Microsoft's next-generation console.

Get ready to beat down some criminals the old-fashioned way in Condemned.
Get ready to beat down some criminals the old-fashioned way in Condemned.

Condemned is a first-person action game, and you witness everything through the eyes of FBI agent Ethan Thomas, who is called in to investigate the latest in a series of grisly murders when mysterious things begin to occur. The game seems to take place in one of those rundown, generic American cities like those seen in gritty, surreal crime movies such as Seven. Crime is skyrocketing, and for some reason, criminals are turning into crazed, homicidal maniacs who bludgeon other people to death. You'll have to figure out what's going on, and you'll be armed with limited resources, so when you run out of bullets, you'll have to turn everyday objects into lethal weapons, from pipes ripped from walls to sledgehammers and fire axes.

The fighting system in Condemned is fairly straightforward. The left mouse button lets you swing your weapon, and the larger or heavier the weapon, the longer it takes to wind up, leaving you vulnerable for a moment. Meanwhile, the right mouse button lets you use your weapon to block an incoming attack. You can hit the space bar to kick your opponents to create some breathing room (or to finish them off if they're lying on the ground), while clicking on the mousewheel lets you use your stun gun to temporarily daze your enemy. If you can get an opponent on his knees, you can execute a cinematic finishing move to put him out of his misery. It's a bit disturbing just how satisfying it can be to beat down a tough opponent, which is probably why the game has a Mature rating. The action, while brutal, doesn't get too graphic. Still, this is easily a game for adults because of the intense, violent content and the language (enemies will utter profanities at times).

Condemned isn't just about fighting and shooting, though. The game features some light, CSI-style investigating, and you'll have to use high-tech tools to detect and collect evidence, which is transmitted to your lab partner who keeps you up to date on your cell phone. The evidence-collecting is fairly simple. You are usually alerted if there's evidence nearby, and you can then use the appropriate high-tech device to locate it (the game automatically selects the device, so you don't have to fumble around to find it). Once you locate the evidence, simply lock onto it and transmit the data, and then wait for your lab tech to process the information.

Be a crime scene investigator when you're not busy fighting for your life.
Be a crime scene investigator when you're not busy fighting for your life.

From what we've seen of the game thus far, it seems to be a fairly straightforward port from the Xbox 360 to the PC. A decent, high-end PC should be able to deliver visuals that easily match those of the Xbox 360 version. Meanwhile, fans of F.E.A.R. might feel a bit of déjà vu playing the game. Condemned is developed by Monolith, which also worked on F.E.A.R., and there are many similarities between the two games, from the creepy atmosphere, the blighted urban environments, to the graphics engines. There's also a fair amount of in-game physics, as you'll see enemies knock over chairs and other objects in order to get to you.

Unfortunately, Condemned is single-player only, so there's no multiplayer gameplay. Still, the single-player campaign should boast a decent amount of replayability, as you can go back and play at harder difficulty levels, or you can try to pursue all the secondary objectives, such as collecting as many bird corpses as possible (there's obviously a sense that something paranormal is happening, and that the birds are somehow involved). This promises to be one of the most atmospheric and eerie PC games so far this year, and the PC version of Condemned will ship next month.

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