[Editor's Note: Dream Sequels is a monthly feature where we conceptualize a sequel to a game
that doesn't yet have one, but could.]
I remember reading about the original Condemned in a physical copy of a gaming magazine. Oh how the times have changed. With an emphasis on brutal, melee combat, including the ability to beat someone to death with a pipe you pulled off a wall, my 13-year-old self was teeming excitement.
And, wait, crime-scene investigation as well?! Of course, I’d seen loads of daytime television as a teenager, so that hit extra close to home for me. I had to have it. And you know, what? I wasn’t disappointed. Monolith Productions had produced something that, while not without its flaws, was terrifying, original and visceral all at once.
When Condemned 2 rolled around, I slammed my money down – I got the first copy. As you may have already read, I was somewhat disappointed. While the second half of Condemned 2 couldn’t possibly follow the success of the first, the game certainly went off the rails both in terms of story and gameplay, making it one of the all-time great disappointments.
But to say that has curbed my interest in a Condemned 3 is to grossly overstate my position. In fact, I believe that my relative lack of enjoyment in Condemned 2 is perhaps what most necessitates a third installment. This is their chance to do it right, to restore the series and fully capitalize on Condemned’s enormous potential. If the game was both great and fully resolved, in terms of story and character, a sequel would be extraneous and potentially harmful. In the same way the Star Wars sequel trilogy was demanded by the poor state of its prequels, we need a Condemned 3 now more than ever.
Will it happen?
Well … it’s possible. Has there been any indication that it will? Not for a long enough time to instill deep seeds of doubt.
Here’s the thing. If you look merely at the details of Condemned, you’ll certainly have some hope. It was developed by Monolith Productions, who has had recent success with the Middle-Earth games (I know Shadow of War hasn’t come out yet, but does anyone see that flopping, at least financially? Nada). So that makes you think: “well they have all this extra money!”
Except that overlooks a very important legal aspect of the series: it’s not owned by Monolith anymore. Former Monolith CEO Jace Hall owns the sole rights to the Condemned series. He did make a Facebook post asking if people would be interested in a sequel and expressed interest in handing the sequel off to an established indie developer. This would, of course, be beneficial for both parties, as the developer would get a guaranteed audience for its game (something difficult for an indie studio) and the Condemned series would live again.
So it’s happening, yeah? Not so fast. That Facebook post was more than 2 years ago, and he has yet to comment on Condemned 3 since. Ho hum.
What Would It Look Like?
So this is a tough one. Condemned 2 really wrote the series into a bit of a corner, going the cultist route and giving your main character the ability to scream his enemies to death. I would hate to be the writer assigned to making this story make sense again (in actually, I would love that, please hire me).
It’s a hard job, though. On one hand, my inclination would be to just pretend it never happened, but this approach would raise the question “why not just reboot the series?” That’s why I would look to another great horror game for the clear path ahead: Outlast.
Outlast remains one of my favorite horror games of the last decade, but it too had a serious plot problem. It wrote itself further and further down in Mount Massive Asylum until you’re in an underground military bunker finding out that the main antagonist of this whole game – the driving force behind every terrifying encounter you’ve had – is nanobots. Sadly, I’m not kidding.
But, in swoops Outlast: Whistleblower, the DLC story expansion of the original game. Whistleblower neither ret-conned nor doubled down on this nanobot aspect, it simply refocused the series. Think of the way Star Wars has conveniently ignored midi-chlorians ever since The Phantom Menace. Whistleblower focused on a more grounded aspect of the same universe, and Outlast 2 is now following in its footsteps.
Condemned 3 would need to change its protagonist, the same way Whistleblower and Outlast 2 did, that goes without saying. Change the characters and the setting, keep the plot loosely connected, maybe have this new detective or criminal investigator stumble on to the outskirts of this story. This way everything that happened in the first Condemned could still happen. This new protagonist wouldn’t have the same game-ruining super powers as Ethan Thomas, so the focus would again be on claustrophobic, melee-focused gameplay.
But, even though the improved gameplay of the first half of Condemned 2 minus the messed up plot of the second half would make for a great game, it also wouldn’t necessarily move the series forward. Condemned 3 would need to improve the formula of the best iteration of the games so far. How could it be done?
In terms of story, there are many things you can do, even acknowledging the Oro cult. After all, a mid-credits scene in Condemned 2 did show our infamous Serial Killer X (or SKX) getting accepted into the Oro, and it would be a shame to leave an Easter Egg like that unexplored. My instinct would be to kill him, though, rather than go further down the rabbit hole. A notorious murdered, just accepted by a cult of crazies, is killed. By who? For what purpose? I can’t wait to find out.
As for the gameplay, Condemned 2 made major strides in its crime-scene investigation rewarding the correct reading of evidence with upgrades and weapons you can use, but Condemned 3 could take this even further. What if interpreting evidence incorrectly had a direct impact on how and with whom you interact in subsequent scenes? Too many times, especially in the first game, crime scenes can feel like a formality. No matter what you say, the plot will progress forward in the exact same way.
Make me feel like a real detective who is racing to find out the truth before the truth claims another victim, all the while, I’m fighting for my life with planks, pipes, wrenches, axes and anything else I can get my hands on. I’d play that game in a heartbeat.
The fact that Condemned 3 hasn’t happened yet is a bit of an enigma, especially since I feel I’m in the minority with my opinions on Condemned 2. Most people loved it, or at least really liked it, and people ache for news on the next installment.
While it doesn’t appear likely to happen any time soon, it’s possible, which gives us reason to hope. With careful steps taken, Condemned 3 can restore the series to greatness and become a must-have horror title.