X05: Condemned: Criminal Origins Updated Hands-On

We get our forensics on with an updated playable version of Sega's Monolith-developed action game.

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AMSTERDAM--Attendees of X05 were able to test their skill with forensic science and blunt objects with a work-in-progress version of Sega and Monolith's new first-person action game, Condemned. We popped down to see how the eerie game was coming along and were pleased by what we saw.

We got to try out three different areas taken from the first few levels of the game. Though we've seen them all in one form or another over the course of the past few months, this latest look showed off how much more polished the game has gotten since then. Washington-based developer Monolith has obviously connected with the Xbox 360, because Condemned looks and plays better than the last time we saw it in action.

The three areas include the tutorial and two sequences from later in the game. The game plays as well as it always has and felt more responsive in spots thanks to tighter control. Using the forensic tools to snoop around crime scenes has gotten to be a more comfortable experience that doesn't affect game pacing as much as you'd think, though interacting with your team back at base (which usually occurs via a cellular phone in your inventory) can be a bit of a drag, since sometimes you'll have to hear them restate the obvious as you go about your business.

The visuals are looking head and shoulders above what we saw the last time around thanks to refinements to the lighting and shadows. These tweaks go a long way toward lending an impressive amount of weight to the creepy cinematic flashback sequences that will pop up suddenly as you play. The frame rate is fairly solid, although there are still instances of inconsistent slowdown and the like, which are par for the course for a game that's still in development. The overall art style in Condemned is nicely done and gets more mileage than you'd expect out of derelict buildings and corpses.

The audio has made some impressive strides as well. The strides have taken the form of a number of subtle changes that focus on how sound is used in the game, which ends up making your experience even more unsettling. The voice acting seems to be shaping up to be a good solid offering that lacks any weak links at the moment.

Condemned is poised to be one of the most unique games available for the Xbox 360 this year, thanks to its dark, stylish approach to storytelling. The first-person view works well as a narrative mechanic and gameplay style, because it gives a good sense of immediacy to what's going on. We also bet that you'll be jumping in your seat when the game's assorted lunatics appear in your line of sight. We like what we've seen so far and are anxious to see how the final game turns out on the 360. Condemned is slated to ship this fall for the Xbox 360. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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