What do you get when you mix Silence of the Lambs, CSI and Manhunt? A very intense adventure!

User Rating: 8.5 | Condemned: Criminal Origins X360
Since the day I played Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube a few years ago I've had an interest in the horror-action-survivor games. Whether if it is the more popular series such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Fatal Frame, or the less well known games such as Clock Tower 3 and Haunting Ground, they hold a certain fascination for me. Maybe it's because at my age (44) they tend to bring a bit more excitement into my comfortable, but rather mundane daily routine than other genres. About a month ago I purchased a 360 and with my next paycheck I wasted no time in buying a copy of Condemned, a game that I had heard many favorable reviews on. While it wasn't a perfect game, you'll see that the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

GAMEPLAY (8) We start right out with a good example of what I'm talking about. You are an FBI agent on the trail of a serial killer. The game is played from a first person perspective, and you will have a lot of fights wherever you go. The combat is set up well, using the RT to attack, the LT to block, and pushing on the RS to kick. Occasionally you will find a handgun or shotgun but the limited ammo means that you will always be using them for a short time. Most of the time you are using a variety of melee weapons such as pipes, boards, sledgehammers, axes etc. Each weapon has a distinct feel as far as damage, speed and blocking is concerned. The thing is this combat pretty much stays the same from start to finish. You won't be finding improved weapons or combat techniques, you'll be sticking with the same method. However, it works so well that it really isn't a problem. Now I'll admit I've never been in a fight where I was trying to kill someone with a shovel, but this feels like it's giving you a very accurate simulation of what that would be like. I never became bored with it. A nice little touch is that if your enemy gets to the point where he is almost down you have the option of picking a fancy finishing move. The other part of the game involved using your detective equipment to pick up clues at the different crime scenes. These parts of the game ae nice in that it gives a break from the fighting, though there is really no challenge as the game pretty much tells you what to do.

GRAPHICS (9) Another example of not being perfect but still getting the job done. Most of this game will take place in extremely run down and dirty environments, places that you would normally not want to go anywhere near for fear of picking up a disease or an injury. Abandoned apartments, subway stations, a school and a department store that has been closed for years are some of the places you'll go on your investigation. These environments for the most part are very dark and you will have to rely on your flashlight. The game does do a great job with the lighting and the details but some of the areas will seem a bit repetitive as you go through hallway after similar hallway. I know it would go against the general idea but I would still like to see an occasionally brightly lit area in the sequel just for some variety. The enemies you face are very realistic, not only in their detailing but also in their movement. Once again you will see some repetition but the fighting is so frantic you won't be concerned about the fact that this guy looks like the guy you fought ten minutes ago.

SOUND (9) Sound is very important in this game. Because you will be spending most of your time in dark environments you will be depending on hearing the approach of enemies before you see them. This will be necessary because they have a nasty tendency to come up behind you or try to hide around a corner before attacking you. If you keep your ears open, and especially if you have surround sound speakers, you can hear them as they appoach and can tell from what direction they are coming. The times that your protagonist has conversations is also well done and very believable. Music did not play a huge part other than contributing towards a dreary and dark setting.

VALUE (7) This game lasted approximately 10 hours, certainly not what would be considered a long time. However, the intensity and the story itself fit in very well in this amount of time. To be honest I was ready for this game to end after 10 hours, not because I didn't enjoy it but because I was getting exhausted from the intensity! The game does offer a lot of different achievements, and you can go back and replay the chapters if you want to try to find and unlock everything the gme has to offer. I picked this game up for $18 so I felt it was worthwhile despite the relatively short game time.

SUMMARY Obviously this game is not for everyone. It definitely deserves its M rating for extreme violence along with some other disturbing scenes. Certainly would not have children playing or watching this game. I thought that the story was intriguing and the combat, while repetitive, was still a lot of fun. This was one of those "I gotta play just a little more, gotta see what's around the next corner" type of games. I won't give any spoilers but I have to mention one chapter in particular. There is a point where you have to go through a shut down department store. The last ime the store was open was several Christmas's ago and the decorations are still up and it seems like you can still faintly hear Christmas music. As you go through the darkness you realize that the store still has many mannequins on display. Imagine going through the dark with only a flashlight and having these statues looking at you from every direction. It was a brilliant level, and one that I'm going to have to go back to and check out again!