Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Condemned : Criminal Origins - Xbox 360 - Countdown to Halloween

Following on the lead of Mr. Blake, I will take a look at a rare game type for me : horror.

This review is from playing the game a few years ago, so I may forget some parts. And it will also be FILLED WITH SPOILERS, so be warned. The game's been out for a few years, so if you don't want to get it spoiled stop reading this, go get it and play it and come back.
I'll wait ....

Here we go. I'm going for a more structured review this time.


The main character Ethan Thomas is an agent in a special investigation unit investigating serial killers. You communicate mostly through a partner back at the home office that analyzes the evidence you collect, and pop up from time to time. Also, a mysterious old guy seems to be stalking you.

Ethan Thomas

It winds up that many parts of the city has seen a rise in violent crimes from it's transients. Eventually, you discover that there is mind control involved and EVIL!!! You fight more and more powerful enemies, and theirs deformities raise with their craziness. You follow trails through a variety of settings, leading to the showdown with the Big Bad.

Condemned: Criminal Origins Various


This game is very gritty in everything it does. Gameplay is no exception. The entire game except for the cutscenes is in first person. So what makes this different from any other shooters then? Well, there is barely any guns through out the game. And the rare ones you find have a limited number of rounds and after that, that's it. So, most of your fights are close-up brawls, using pieces found around: pipes, planks, doors. You do get some axes, sledge-hammers and crowbars. But all of these are still implying contact. So you swing and block at the oncoming crazies and so do they to you. It all make for a very visceral, gritty and impact violence. It contributes to the disturbing nature of the game.

Condemned: Criminal Origins Various

The forensics element is mostly only to advance story and vary the gameplay. Gives you a bit of a breather. You don't really get to do any hardcore evidence gathering. The tools you need are automatically selected and it's a matter of pointing them at the right place at the right time.

The baddies seem to be coming in an un-ending flow, around every corner. You get to fight all sorts of bag-people, street gang members and mentally infected people of all irks.

A big part of the atmosphere of this game is the visual and audio elements.

Most of the game is spent in partial darkness, only dimly lit by the narrow beam of your flashlight. The environments are all familiar locations that would be normal, except that they are all in severe states of decay or various renovation. So the familiar of high schools, stores, subway stations, and even a farm house get twisted and made uncomfortable.

Condemned: Criminal Origins Various
Public library section

There is very little music in the game. Mostly environment sounds effects.

So, the silence and darkness become very oppressive, because you just KNOW that there's someone lurking around the corners. And often, you can HEAR them in the distance, muttering or yelling at you. And just brushing against a stray bucket and sending a pile of stuff noisily clanging is enough to make you jump out of your skin.

And the fact that it is a first-person view means that you can get snuck upon, since you can only see in front of you.

It also emphasizes the violence of the combat encounters and makes them much more memorable and in-your-face.


It being an older game, it is useless to compare it to games now in terms of quality. It relies a lot on the darkness, so you can't really see most environments clearly. So halls are pretty repetitive and it's easy to get turned around sometimes, there not being any map. The stages were very nicely different from each other though. Believable structures all, except the old abandoned department store. I don't know it just didn't seem believable layout-wise to me.

The character animations were good. Seeing crazies flailing wildly coming at you got me every time.

Final thoughts

I have to confess that I never actually FINISHED the game. I did get to the final boss though, but I didn't feel like investing the time to deal with him. Call me lazy.
This game offers plenty of startled cat-jumping-out-of-the-closet scares and some very visceral combat and lots of creepy and scary atmosphere.

It was a lot of fun to play, even though it often scared me into taking long breaks between play sessions. And not to play in the dark.
I liked the experience a lot. Good scares, good atmosphere, good story.


rowen26 said...

Oh yeah, I had forgot about the lunch lady. Hehehe!


Blake said...


I'm shocked. Well then, you have to send your broken dead X-box back to Microsoft.

Wait for it to come back and then pop the game in and play it until you beat the boss or your X-box dies again.

YAGRS said...

This is one of my favorite games on my Xbox 360. I have the sequel as well, but I haven't gotten around to playing it yet. I have too many games like that (still haven't managed to play the PS3 Alone in the Dark, either).

Blake said...

Even after playing the horendous demo of Alone in the Dark. I still want to have some hope that the game is not all THAT bad.

I read a guys comment somewhere that after the first hr or two he started to get used to the controls and really didn't find it that bad.

That's quite a bit of time to pass to start getting used to. Its a beautiful looking game, I would love to give it a shot. But the demo made me want to rip my teeth out.