Condemned: Criminal Origins
Unpacking a new game, let alone a console, is for men an experience that holds the middle between the feeling women get when they’re shopping in overdrive or kids when they’re heading down the stairs on the day Santa passed by. In other words: it’s fun! If you’ve gotten yourself an XBox360 by now and next to PGR3 you’ve gotten yourself Condemned, the fun won’t stop after unwrapping the plastic!
Condemned was a title that got a lot less attention with the launch of the new console than let’s say Perfect Dark Zero or Kameo: Elements of Power. The only thing I knew about it was that it had something to do with empty buildings, forensic investigations, and from the demo at E3 I also know that there were brutal fights present. I was happily surprised when my virgin soul got astonished by the visual beauty and some hours later also by the atmosphere and storyline.
What of course (in HD, but certainly also on a regular TV) gets noticed first are the amazingly beautiful graphics. Not only are light- and shadow effects used as in no other game to date, also the attention for detail in the surroundings is impressive. Ceilings are no longer just flat squares, they exist of wood, filling and space in between. These pieces of wood are cracked, hang loose or are nailed to something. The same authenticity we find in the phones, the desk chairs, the water pipes, the light knobs, the closets and rugs and so on. Imagine all that with real-time lighting effects, HDR and an immensely good atmosphere of decay, destruction and lonelyness, and you’ll have an idea of the feeling that this game gives you from the first beautifully looking images.
As Ethan Thomas you go looking for a serial killer who’s after his colleagues. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like you all too much and tries to put the blame for a murder on two officers in your shoes. Not all too difficult if you first loose your gun of course. Logical result is that only one of your colleagues believes you. Rosa, a specialist in forensic analysis, is a gift from heaven as through the mobile phone she’ll support you during your quest through hell.
And I’m not exaggerating when I say hell! A strage disease has taken control over the city and its inhabitants. A cough sirup isn’t sufficient here as the whole town is filled with raging psychos that have only one goal: getting you killed (and preferably as bloody as possible). And they’re smart… very smart! Each enemy will try to keep his own life and will run away when noticing you’ve got a gun!
They’ll hide in a dark corner to jump onto you from behind. Most of the time they’ll have something to hit you with real hard and when I say real hard I mean hard! In Condemned you won’t only shit your pants when someone suddenly jumps out of the dark but on top of that the action is so life-like and hard that it’s like you feel the bashes coming down your own teeth. Realistic A.I. really does contributes to the atmosphere.
All the weapons you use have to be found. Don’t think about automatic rifles with tons of ammo laying around. If you find something with bullets in it, you’ll have to do with those. What you can do for the rest is use closet doors, iron bars, sledgehammers, and more of such goodies. Bloody scenes guaranteed what immediately comes as a warning: this isn’t for the faint at heart!
Condemned is frightening. Not like in Doom 3 that thanks to some cheap trics let’s you jump up now and then, but so scary that your heart starts pounding when you hear a suspicious noise, you would rather like to stop playing when you hear a door squeeking, and you get uncomfortable in your chair when a shadow seems to move.
The action is pretty hard, the investigations you need to do are beautifully created but just a bit too simple and scarse, and the proceeding too linear. I didn’t really mind the linearity since you get a strong story in exchange though. What you give up in freedom comes back in filmic quality, excellent voice-acting and nicely finished characters. The only downpoint you can give is that all in all the game is pretty short and because of the realistic surroundings you start to get bothered when something’s not right
Condemned succeeded in its scheme. It’s a strong thriller without much freedom or variation, but with tons of atmosphere, a strong storyline, beautiful graphics, brutal action and an excellent finishing. If you’re looking for something special and aren’t afraid in the dark, then this is a must have! While awaiting a sequel, I’ll be off now, bashing some more people’s heads!