Condemned: Criminal Origins Review

In Condemned: Criminal Origins you play as Ethan Thomas, an FBI agent assigned to the Serial Crimes Unit. The police in an unnamed city have called you in to help them track down a serial killer with some unusual methods Ė it seems that he likes to place his victims in staged scenes surrounded by mannequins. Making matters worse for the police, and for you of course, the city is experiencing Joe Fridayís worst nightmare with drug-crazed maniacs with a proclivity to violence running loose in the city. So in violation of every rule of FBI procedure you head off on your own into one dangerous location after another to beat a bunch of drug addicts to death while single-handedly tracking down the serial killer.

Well, youíre not entirely alone. Youíll have a constant companion in your cell phone connection to an FBI lab technician. As you collect evidence youíll be able to send it in via your phone and receive a fast and thorough report on the analysis. To collect this evidence youíll make use of a bag of forensic gadgets that would make Gil Grissom jealous. This sounds like it would make for some cool puzzle-like gameplay but this aspect of the game is pretty much on autopilot. Your ďinstinctsĒ tell you when it is time to use a tool and youíll automatically select the right tool for the job. All that you really need to do is to point the tool at the right spot which is never difficult to do. The CSI games were pretty simple, but at least they let you determine when to use a forensic tool and let you select the tool to use. Oh well, this isnít really a game about evidence collection anyway. Itís about surviving your latest case through the magic of brutal violence.

Condemned is not really a shooter and can be more appropriately described as a survival horror or action game. After all, most shooters give you a gun for more than 5% of the game. On the few occasions when you do find yourself with a gun youíll be limited to the bullets you find in the gun Ė there are no ammo packs lying around in this game. You do get to carry around a taser with you, but this is more to temporarily stun an enemy to let you get a free hit in than it is to incapacitate your attackers. Most of the time youíll need to improvise with whatever makeshift club that you can find in the environment. Everything from lead pipes to that old standby the board with nails can be used to beat down your attackers before they can take you out. The gameís fight sequences are one of its best features, with the hand to hand battles being both tense and appropriately disturbing. The fight controls are limited to an attack and a block which are executed with the mouseís left and right buttons, respectively. The trick is all in the timing as youíll need to strike when you see an opening and block at the right moment to deflect an attack. The enemies have a variety of attack styles that will keep you on your toes, but after a while the fighting can grow repetitive as there are only so many tricks that the screaming maniacs have up their sleeves.

Condemned also does a good job of creating a creepy atmosphere, but this has its troubles with repetition as well. You spend most of your time making your way through dilapidated, abandoned industrial buildings. The dark hallways, piles of junk, and strange noises generate a feeling of apprehension as you constantly watch for the next maniac to come at you. However, some variety to this type of setting would have made the game better. This is doubly so because it is too easy to get lost (thereís no map in the game) or to miss the door to the next area. Itís frustrating to bump around in the dark as the levels are pretty linear so if you miss the one way out, then you miss the only way out.

Itís not too surprising that the story is dark and bleak; youíre on the trail of a serial killer after all. What makes it even more interesting is that it eats at Thomasí psyche and as it unfolds it has him questioning his own sanity. It all sounds very intriguing, but it never fully hits its stride. Itís one of those cases where you have some good ideas for story elements, but the cohesion of these elements and their ultimate resolution donít quite come together.

This review is shorter than most that I usually write and the reason for this is that thatís pretty much all there is to say about the game. Like the story, there are some cool ideas here but theyíre not built upon enough to make a truly great game. Youíll probably enjoy the first part of the game as long as you can stomach the premise and the violence, but soon after that the repetition will begin to set in and youíll be disappointed that thereís not more to it.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 78%.  Itís an interesting game that could have been a really good game.


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