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Condemned: Criminal Origins Review

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By the time you get to reading it will be Halloween and that means my Scare Fest will officially be started. I originally planned to start my Scare Fest at 9 am (eastern time), but I decided that I wanted to drop a horror review tonight at midnight. Here’s my review of Condemned: Criminal Origins!

The Great:

Gameplay:

When this game released back in 2005 it was amazing. I was already amazed with F.E.A.R, that released in October of 2005, and a little over a month later I was knee deep in this game getting scared all over again. Condemned isn’t as atmospheric or subtle as F.E.A.R, but it’s super creepy and I love that I can use weapons in the environment around me to defend myself with. Once I ran out of bullets I would usually be defenseless in other horror games. Not in this one! I’ll grab a pipe and lay the smackdown on whatever ran up to me. You would think that fighting hobos in an abandoned building wouldn’t be scary at all. You’re wrong. This game does more then simply throw people at me to beat to death. It slows things up by letting me investigate crime scenes. These investigations help piece together what’s going on and helps progress the story. You use your cell phone to get help from a colleague to help you analyze the evidence and then go back to work. And by work I mean murdering people while trying not to go crazy. At the time I had never experienced a game quite like this one and I think it’s held up pretty well since then. 

You have a bunch of tools available to you for analyzing crime scenes. You have a UV light, a camera for taking photos, and a laser. Each tool is used to find different forms of evidence that you’ll take a picture of and send to your handler for analysis. It’s a great feature and one I wish would come back to gaming. I actually felt like an FBI agent trying to solve a crime in this game. 

Graphics:

Condemned was a launch title for the 360. It launched with games like Call of Duty 2, Kameo, Gun, Need for Speed, and Quake 4. None of those games (except COD 2) are any good. Condemned was the best launch game the 360 had and it helps that it was an exclusive too, back when the Xbox brand had exclusives. The graphics, at the time, were amazing. No one had seen anything like it. It was dark, gritty, had fantastic looking characters, and was probably the best looking game of 2005. Don’t quote me on that because I’m not entirely sure what games released that year outside of the ones that mentioned already. The lighting in particular was, and still is in some ways, excellent. 

Sounds:

The opening of this game starts off with some strong ambient sounds with a dark tune playing the background. It set the game up perfectly. I was expecting something to jump out and kill the dude I was walking with and when it didn’t I sighed in relief. The voice acting holds up pretty well and, in my opinion, sounds better than some games that release today. The soundtrack adds to the amazing atmosphere this has and add in the excellent use of ambient noises in the background and you’ve got yourself a classic. Even the voice acting is good and that’s usually an area, in horror games, that lacks the most in these kinds of games. F.E.A.R. is a perfect example here. 

The Good:

Story:

The story in this game had an excellent build up. You play as Agent Ethan Thomas. What should be a simple investigation goes really wrong and you get up framed for something you didn’t do. The only choice you have is to clear your name by following in a sadistic serial killer’s footsteps with the help of you colleague back at the bureau. The story in this game got noticeably worse the further I got in the game, but I still really enjoyed most it. The sad part is that the set up is so good that you want to be blown away and at the end of it all you’re not. It just boils down to you walking through many hallways and beating the shit out of random people. 

The Bad:

Lackluster Locales:

This game… has a LOT of hallways and most of them look the same. The locations are Condemned biggest weakness. There’s nothing that stands out about any of them. F.E.A.R. 2 had the elementary school, Resident Evil has the mansion, and this game has… hallways. Lots and lots of hallways. This game could have been a masterpiece if the developers gave us more interesting locations to explore. 

The Storyline Teases More Than It Delivers:

This game could have been a masterpiece. It was a great introduction to the Xbox 360, but, like I stated above, the story in this game teases you, a lot, and doesn’t deliver at all. It’s still an experience that I’m happy to have, but I wish it was more then what it was. Combining the different gadgets you get to solve problems is really neat and when I thought the story was going somewhere, good, I became incredibly disappointed when nothing happened. 

The Verdict

Condemned: Criminal Origins is fantastic. Yes, it does have flaws, but every game does. The story started off super interesting, but unfortunately got less so as I continued to progress in the game. The gameplay, at the time, is fantastic and has lots of oomph which is important in a game that focuses so much on melee combat. The true highlight is the ambient sounds, soundtrack, and creepy factor that this game has. It can be really fucking creepy and it's backed by some amazing sounds. Condemned isn't perfect, but it's one of the best horror games I've ever played and I can only hope that we get to experience another game in this series someday.

8.5
Final Score:
8.5

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