In 2005, Monolith Productions (F.E.A.R., No One Lives Forever) and Sega (Sonic the Hedgehog, Virtua Fighter, Shenmue) worked together to make a game entitled Condemned: Criminal Origins, a launch game for the 360. It sold well enough to warrant a sequel, and was well received critically.
The plot revolves around an FBI agent (cliché 1) named Ethan Thomas (Greg Grunberg, also known as Matt Parkman of Heroes). He is investigating an odd crime scene with two cops (both voiced by Peter Jacobs) when the game starts (cliché 2). After finding some clues, he identifies the killer as "The Matchmaker", with help from his female lab scientist (cliché 3). After the power goes out, he investigates (cliché 4). Eventually, he gets the power back on, but is soon confronted by a mysterious man (cliché 5), who then uses his gun to kill the two agents (cliché 6). The killer then throws him out a window into a two story fall that he survives (cliché 7). He wakes up in his apartment (cliché 8) and spots a person who identifies himself as Malcolm Van Horn (voiced by John Armstrong, who also did the voice of Dr. Killjoy in both of The Suffering games), a friend of Ethan's father (cliché 9). Soon finding out he is wanted by his own agency (cliché 10), he decides to track down the mysterious man (cliché 11).
The plot in this game is rather cliché-ridden, but at the same time, it is much deeper than most survival horror games. It gives you enough reason to continue, and the plot twists, while they themselves are unoriginal, are executed in a way to make you not expect them.
The voice acting in the game is very well done. In particular, Ethan Thomas sounds like an FBI Agent, with enough subtones in his voice to reveal his emotions. Rosa, his lab partner (voiced by Kimberli Colbourne) is also well voiced, portraying her professionalism and concern for Ethan Thomas without an overtone of being attracted to him. The grunts all sound the same, but you can hardly expect different from a game of this genre.
The graphics are very well done for a launch game. The enemies are detailed enough to show scars and blood and stuff, enough if they all came from a cloning machine. The blood itself is also scarily realistic, almost as good as if it came from the set of a high-budget horror film. The shadows and light are also realistically done. The only problem with the graphics is that the textures are somewhat repeated in each level. However, if you have time to stop and look at the scenery, it won't last long.
The game's difficulty is realistic. It isn't overly hard, but you are certainly no Master Chief. You can withstand about four hits from enemies, which is a bit more or less than they can take depending on the weapon you are using, but it still gives each battle a true feeling of a survival of the fittest struggle. However, there are options to turn down the difficulty if it gets too heated for you. Also, if you rely on the Wolverine healing factor, turn away from this game; You have to depend on medkits to heal here.
The weapon selection in this game is also highly realistic. You will not find open boxes of ammunition lying all over the place. You get a gun, it will last you for maybe 3 guys. The rest of the time, you are using melee weapons. But again, do not look for swords and axes and hunting knives of doom. You are forced to rely on such tools as sledgehammers, fire axes, 2X4s, clothes racks, and similar fare. What is really astonishing is that every weapon is different. You cannot separate each weapon into two categories. The worth of each weapon is demonstrated through 4 categories: Damage, Speed, Block, and Reach. How well the weapons score in each section is represented by comparing it to the weapon you are currently wielding. For example, a sledgehammer hits harder and from further away than the 2X4, but the 2X4 hits faster and blocks better. These differences are shown when you are holding one and have your camera centered on another. There are times when you are forced to rely on a certain weapon to break through a door, but these events are rare enough to give you an option as to which weapon you want most of the time.
The game controls fluidly enough on the 360, but it probably fares better on the PC. All the useful buttons are quick and easy to activate, with the exception of the kick button, which is a bit awkward to use in the heat of battle. Overall, the game controls very intuitively, but doesn't make any stunning innovations.
The investigation minigames that pop up every so often are, in my opinion, one of the few weaknesses of this game. Basically, you press the X button, look around for a glowing spot, press X again, focus, and press the right trigger. These pop up several times in the game, they are overly simplistic, and if you happen to get attacked by something while you have your tool out (hehehe), it takes a while to put away so you can use your weapon. You will most likely only get hit once in that gap, but in a game this realistic, that can literally be the difference between life and death. Overall, it gives the game a nice investigative feel, but there had to have been a better option to do this with.
This game, because of its grittiness, its realism, and its sheer mind****ery, is the scariest game I have ever played. If you play this game, you will be freaked out at least once. If you are in the mood for a realistic game that will also make you poo your pants, buy this. If you are not a fan of scary games, there is no reason to buy this, unless you feel like investigating crime scenes.
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