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Condemned: Criminal Origins
(hx) 12:42 PM CEST - Apr,26 2006

Condemned: Criminal Origins is a first-person action game from Monolith (makers of F.E.A.R.). The game was originally released for the Xbox 360 but has now been faithfully adapted to the PC. In the game, you play the role of Ethan Thomas, a talented FBI agent specializing in the investigation of serial killers. Called to the scene of a murder by a killer called "the Match Maker," you soon find yourself in way over your head as events escalate out of control. You are soon on the run - being pursued while continuing to chase the killer that started this whole mess. Your only friend is your colleague Rosa, who you send clues and communicate with via high-tech cell phone during the course of your investigation. Now it is up to you to clear your name and catch the ultimate killer by digging through the slums to find him.

You begin the game with an immersive tutorial that blends seamlessly into the plotline. Here you first learn to use your investigative tools. In certain areas of the game where evidence may be collected, you are prompted to equip an investigative tool (laser light for footprints, UV light for bodily fluids, gas spectrometer for gases). Once the tool (which is automatically chosen) has been equipped, you hunt for evidence and typically take a snapshot or sample of it for instant transmission to Rosa back at the lab. Investigation, however, is not the "meat" of this game. Once the door opens, you can expect that there is a drug addict somewhere in the room hiding behind a desk with a metal pipe. Or maybe there is no one. That's the guessing game you play. Often times you get ambushed by them from around the corners, which keeps you jumpy for the most times. A direct hit to the head with a metal pipe is not pleasant and can cause a severe damage to you.

Condemned give you the ability to use a variety of weapons, including axes, conduit, pipes, shovels, crowbars, random guns and more. Each weapon has different attributes - speed, blocking, damage, and reach. So while a small pipe may be quick, resulting in quicker reaction times when attempting to bring it up to block an attack, a sledgehammer has a longer range and more damage, which may take down one of the crazies in one or two hits max. In addition to the many melee weapons available, you will occasionally run across firearms such as pump shotguns, .45 caliber pistols, or machine guns. However, they are rare and typically only come with a small amount of ammo. You will find no spare ammo clips lying around, so most guns are useless after their existing supply is spent. Keep in mind though that you can only carry one weapon at a time, so don't take the decision of switching weapons lightly as it may make future battles a little tougher.

The vast majority of combat in Condemned is first-person melee combat. The left mouse button lets you swing your weapon, and the larger or heavier the weapon, the longer it takes to wind up, leaving you vulnerable for a moment. Meanwhile, the right mouse button lets you use your weapon to block an incoming attack. You can hit the space bar to kick your opponents to create some breathing room (or to finish them off if they're lying on the ground), while clicking on the mousewheel lets you use your stun gun to temporarily daze your enemy. If you can get an opponent on his knees, you can execute a cinematic finishing move to put him out of his misery. You can snap their necks, pound their heads into the floor, deal a wicked punch, or deliver a thunderous head-butt! It's a bit disturbing just how satisfying it can be to beat down a tough opponent, which is probably why the game has a Mature rating! :)

Dealing with enemies is still one of the more pleasant parts of the game. Although combat itself is very repetitive and redundant, the AI is quite impressive. The baddies will hide and try to ambush you if they have a chance. If you charge them, they may behave very differently. Some drug addicts will fight you to the death recklessly, while some will estimate their chances and may try to run away and get a better weapon and backstab you. There's also a fair amount of in-game physics, as you'll see enemies knock over chairs and other objects in order to get to you, etc.

Condemned is not without its flaws though. The level design in the game is rather disappointing. Much of the game takes place in dark and damp corridors, subway stations, manors, sewers and such. Though I felt the dark and gritty level design was stunning, I did feel that walking through the levels at times became tedious and occasionally I found myself getting lost, especially when I had to backtrack as everything looks the same. It also is probably worth to note that the game is pretty linear. It's extremely rare when you will have a doubt of where to go or what to do in the game.

Overall this game has exceeded my expectations. I loved playing F.E.A.R and this one from Monolith doesn't disappoint either. These Monolith guys know how to make a game look exceptional and with a high powered card you can smell the sewers it's that real looking. Top notch work guys. I'm looking forward to a sequel! If you can stomach the violence, and have a decent enough PC to run it, by all means, get this game.

related links: demo (455MB), trainer +5, unlock all missions.

System requirements: P4 2.0 GHz, (P4 2.4 GHZ recommended), 512MB RAM (768MB recommended), DX9 compliant card ATI 9500 or NVIDIA 6200 with 128MB RAM (NVIDIA 6800 with 256MB recommended), DX9 compliant sound card, 8GB HDD Space, DVD-ROM drive

snd: 5/5 - excellent atmospheric audio, creepy environmental music, mediocre voice-acting
gfx: 4/5 - great - F.E.A.R.engine, can be overly dark at times, a bit boring level design, hardware hog, minor bugs
playability: 4/5 - pretty good, bone-crushing hand-to-hand combat, scary and extremely moody, solid enemy AI, pretty linear, lack of puzzles, too short (~12-15hours), no multiplayer
genre: action/psychological thriller
platform: PC (also available on Xbox 360)
release: April 2006
developer: Monolith Productions
publisher: SEGA
Overall: 84%

last 10 comments:

Stumpus(03:47 PM CEST - Apr,26 2006 )
It's going to be a good game (going by the PC demo on PCZone June) hopefuly.
I like the fact that you have limited ammo and the way that you can use the scenery in the derelict building; ie steel or concrete pipes are ripped off walls. Wooden battons/fire axes etc as well as punch,block and kick to take out the mad ass baddies that you meet in the demo!

Definately worth keeping an eye on.

AhPook(04:18 PM CEST - Apr,27 2006 )
I'm particularly impressed with how smoothly the game runs, my computer is rather outdated by today's gaming standards. The only upgrade its seen in the past two years is a GeForce 6800GS which I picked up to play Oblivion.

The performance auto-detect set most things on high or maximum and I've yet to see any framerate drop.

miglaugh(01:54 PM CEST - May,04 2006 )
I'm impressed with the game also. The graphics are better than FEAR in my opinion. Works my x800xtpe to the bone in some areas but I can turn everything to the max with 4xAA and 8xAF and still have playable framerates. The grain effect is awesome at removing pixelization when you're right up on the wall.

The new gameplay style is different to... I've been creeped out a bunch by people coming at me with clubs and shit and all i have is an empty pistol. Timing is everything thats for sure.

miglaugh(03:41 AM CEST - May,08 2006 )
Ending was a little anti-climactic. They never answer some of the core questions I had.

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