Originally Published 16 March 2011

Last week, I finished my run through Condemned: Criminal Origins. It had been in my 360 since before the holidays, but I’d been distracted by other things and just got around to finishing it.

The PC in Condemned is a law enforcement officer with a track record of capturing serial killers. Lately, however, he has been in a slump. The last few killers that he had been investigating have apparently gone to ground, their trails ice cold, soon after he begins pursuing them. The game starts with him doing an investigation into a new killer.

Soon into the investigation of the most recent murder scene, the PC is ambushed and has his gun stolen. The thief makes various comments that seem to allude to a greater knowledge of the PC before running off. Said thief very soon kills two police agents with the PC’s gun and leaves him wanted for two cop killings. The PC then flees to pursue the real killer, find the missing serial killer (who doesn’t seem to be the same person as the one who took his gun) and to clear his name.

Although the plot of the game sounds as good a starting point as any, the later end of the plot quickly decays into a rather disjointed mess as (insufficiently explained) supernatural forces begin to pop up as the ultimate root of all the madness. This is compounded by the fact that–although the PC is ostensibly being driven to clear his name for two murders–by the time even the first level is completed, he has murdered at least a dozen people. To me, this made deep motivations very unclear.

Condemned is a mess, gameplay wise. The game uses a first person perspective, but uses melee combat as the most common form of interaction with enemies. This style choice results in rather frustrating interactions if you get surrounded or are hit from behind and have to very slowly pan around with the analog stick. Furthermore, the game is deliberately drawn out by the insufferably slow moving speed of the character. The game also uses a checkpoint/autosave as its primary method of saving. While nice in theory, Condemned’s checkpoints store complete game state, so if you were two steps ahead of an enemy who is about to stab you to death, you’re stuck being stabbed to death every time you load (unless you choose to restart the level of course).

It also doesn’t help that the game probably would have looked at home on the Dreamcast. Although I understand that it is a five year old game and an early title in the current generation, but it has aged very poorly. Consider that Jade Empire, Devil May Cry 3, and Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones are contemporaries and consider in that light. It also mostly takes place in badly lit sewers or abandoned buildings, resulting in a lot of generic, gray/brown, destroyed levels.

There wasn’t much for me to like here. I tend to enjoy and seek out horror games, but this was yet another game that attempts to startle rather than to induce an actual environment of fear and apprehension.

Condemned: Criminal Origins: 0

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