Condemned
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox 360
Publisher
Sega
Developer
Monolith
Genre
First Person Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
 
Grade
The Good

• Intense refreshing gameplay
• One of the scariest games ever
• Beating up enemies was never this brutal
• Story will hook you

The Bad

• The game could be repetitive for some
• Game can be beaten rather quickly

 
Grade
A-

Sega and Monolith have teamed up to bring us this frighteningly original first person action game that will chill you to the bone and make you question the very sanity of your character.

You are Ethan Thomas and you work for the FBI. You have been tracking down a serial killer by the name of "The Matchmaker". You and your fellow officers have just arrived at the latest victim's location. This is where your descent into darkness begins and once it starts it never lets up. Once this game grabs you you'll want to make sure you finish and see what the ending has to offer. Chapter by chapter you will be given a little piece of the puzzle feeding you the urge to continue on and see what's really happening. Is all this real? What is driving people mad? All the questions will be answered and new questions will be made by the end of the game.

The story itself is presented rather well through in-game cutscenes and information is revealed by talking to your lab partner, Rosa, over the PDA phone. You will send various samples and pictures to her for analysis over the course of the game and the plot will start to unfold as more evidence is gathered in the levels. Condemned does a really good job of pulling you into the atmosphere and the tension that Monolith has created, which is absolutely dreadful. By the end you will have traveled through a subway station, abandoned school, a run down department store, and more. Overall there are 10 chapters for the game and each one is a decent length minus one of the mission's that ends way too quickly but still the adventure comes in at a decent length.

Gameplay:
The game is all played from a first person perspective. You will be searching and trying to survive the enemy encounters and trying to hunt down the killer at large. If you get claustrophobic or nerve-wracked easily then you're in for one hell of a ride. Ethan uses firearms, but is limited to the bullets that are already in the gun. Once that runs out your done and need to find another weapon. To be honest, firearms are not in abundance and this was done on purpose so that you'd be forced to get close to your enemies and use melee attacks with assorted objects, but might I add that the melee is some of the most brutal in any game and really adds to the overall qualities that make the game shine. While dishing all this carnage you'll come across pipes, 2x4's, cutting board knifes, signs, and more all for your beating pleasures. Just when you thought you have seen every kind of weapon that could be found you'll stumble upon something else new to deal the punishment out. The game also has some standard weapons you'll find in every level that are used to progress in the game. You might run into a specific wooden door that needs an axe to be broken down or a sledge hammer to bust open a padlock, these instances happen a couple times in every level but the weapon needed is usually near by so it never poses a problem. You're also equipped with tazer automatically, and this can be a life saver. If you don't have a weapon and someone is smacking you with a pipe or shooting you with a gun (yes, the enemies will use firearms as well) then you can just grab the weapon from them after you have stunned them. Another great feature is that you can block with any weapon that you have. When the characters go in for a hit you just time your block button at the right moment and you'll knock the enemy back and that gives you a shot at a damaging blow. You might want to be careful though: the enemies can do the same to you and block your attacks leaving you wide open.

Backtracking in the game is kept to a minimum and most times your route will take you back to where you need to go to proceed to the next new area. Occasionally, in each level you'll come to a spot that has some evidence that needs to be found and collected. You search for blood trails, snap pictures and take samples of chemicals, etc. The game semi-holds your hand in this part of the game, due to that fact that anytime there is some evidence to be found the X button appears in the bottom right hand corner and informs you that there is evidence to collect. I believe that they included this into the game in order to keep it from being too difficult or time consuming, but if they ever make a sequel it would be nice to include that assistance as a option. While taking these samples and taking pictures, you can't help but almost feel like you're on the show CSI, proving to be a very good idea and I hope to see others follow — it really gives you the sense that you're tracking someone down and solving riddles. You will see things in this game that will make you freak out and it does not cheat out on the gore and WTF moments.

Graphics:
Condemned
has an atmosphere that is almost unmatched by any game created today. The only other game to send as many chills down my spine as Condemned would be the Silent Hill series. The backgrounds are dark and gritty and usually the only light source you have to see with is your trust flashlight that, luckily, never turns off once it's on (those must be some damn good batteries). The attention to detail is amazing. In my opinion this is by far the most realistic looking 360 game available at launch. Walls are cracked and broken, sinks are rusted and brown, windows are busted, the backgrounds just continue to impress. Add lighting into the mix and you have some very tense and scary situations to put yourself through. The tazer gives off a particularly satisfying glow along with the evidence tools you use throughout the game. Condemned is filled with some of the tiniest of details that just push the experience a little further then most. When pulling an electric pipe off the wall you'll see sparks fly, pull off a gas pipe and you'll see the gas starting to leak. Smack a low-hanging light and it goes bouncing around shifting the lighting with it. These little details don't make or break the game but keeps you in the game. The enemies that you have to fight through the game come in different forms and sizes. They range from normal looking humans to "WTF is that thing". Some look like just average criminals and the others… well…. They look like they came out of a Clive Barker film. Very disturbing and grotesque, meanwhile when you smack them around there faces will get beaten up and bloody. Nice affect.

Sound:
The background music in Condemned knows just when to play and how to play it to send a shiver of terror down your back. Most of the soundtrack seems to comprise of bass and metallic clinking noises. It doesn't play often but when it does it gets your ears perked and you'll wonder what's coming your way. The sound effects on the other hand are superbly done. The sound of the metal hitting the face of your enemy has a roaring thud and the snapping of a neck has never sounded my visceral. Every weapon has a different sound effect when being swung at your enemy and this keeps the combat from being repetitive with the same sound with every weapon. Meanwhile the voice acting for this game is surprisingly good and the enemies will yell at you often. This is no kid's game and you will be told to F$#% off many times in this game. That's just the beginning of the insults to your character. Enemies let out screams and shrieks when being hit and they are quite verbal when chasing you as well. Tell me your not scared when you have a woman running at you full steam and screaming at you while holding a lead pipe! For everyone that has surround sound, be prepared, you'll be turning your head to look behind you a few times during the course of the game.

Overall:
Condemned is a great 360 launch title and anyone that is a remote fan of horror games should check this game out immediately. I haven't played a game this scary in a long time and the game play remains interesting throughout. I strongly advise that you play this game only at night and with the sound turned up. You will loose about 50% of the scare factor by not doing so. The game can be beaten in about 10 hours, give or take depending on how fast you proceed through the game. Some of you might not be interested in purchasing a game that is only 10 hours but everything else really shines greatly and makes up for these short comings. I've heard some complaints concerning the gameplay getting repetitive but this wasn't a issue at all when playing myself and I felt compelled enough to beat this game as soon as possible, I was that hooked.

If you recently purchased an Xbox 360 and are looking for a fantastic, albeit short, horror masterpiece that will most likely be copied in the years to come, Condemned is a refreshing horror experience that everyone even remotely interested in should like. Take the movies Se7en, Saw, Silence of the Lambs and throw them into a blender and you'll get an idea just how scary and disturbing Condemned can be.

- - Justin Celani

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