SEGA Developed by:
Monolith Productions Genre:
M (Mature)Release Date:
November 15, 2005 Written by:
When the Xbox 360 was gearing up for its release date of November 22nd, 2005 for the North American release, most eyes were squarely on the Sequel to 2000’s smash hit, Perfect Dark. Critics and analysts all over the world wanted to know if Rare still had the magic that made them famous back in the 90’s. But underneath most radars was and is an awe-inspiring title, which tests a players skills and mental awareness. Known to the world as Condemned: Criminal Origins, Sega and Monolith set out to create a unique and invigorating experience that will keep gamers on the edge of their set with action and sequences not before seen in any horror title up tot his point.
Developed exclusively for the Xbox 360, Condemned gives you several elements from key horror and action titles or recent years, but combines them in a new and twisted way. You will see the similarities within this title to Silent Hill in the fact that you progress through the title in a rather linear fashion. But then you will also see similarities that tie into the Resident Evil franchise, namely Resident Evil 4. The title is rather dark and very brutal at times as you play as the main character trying to solve these rather bizarre and horrific crimes. And for those who have gotten a taste of what Indigo Prophecy was all about, then you have had a small taste of what is expected from this title.
The basis for Condemned is that you control a F.B.I. agent on the rise to fame (Ethan Thomas), who must rise to the occasion and figure out what’s going on with the city’s sudden rise within the crime rate. While in the search of a serial killer, several killings took place, two of which causes Ethan to be put on America’s most wanted list. While the two cops were violently killed, Ethan was out cold due to being knocked out by a fleeing suspect in his investigation. So throughout the many twist and turns, Ethan must solve the sudden rise of crime and steer clear of his former friends to clear his name. Piece of cake right?
The way Monolith constructed Condemned, gamers have to keep a sharp eye out and be quick witted as trying to analyze a situation can lead to your untimely death. So while you are looking for clues and connections linking all the violent crimes to one another, you must use you trusty forensic tool kit to gather evidence. But seeing how most of the people running the street are whacked out, or high on something, you have to be ready for almost anything. There are times within the game where you could be looking for clues, and someone seemingly high on something may run up to you. There is no way around things in this game, you must do battle in order to calm the situation. Now you can of course use your trusty tools to take care of the situation, but why not pull a play out of Rockstar’s Manhunt, and take a 2x4 loaded with nails to his head. This kind of technique come sin handy in sticky situations. Basically almost anything you find lying on the ground, from a led pipe, to a 2x4, to even a shovels can be used to aid in your progress through the game. Some may get a kick out of being able to beat your enemies to a bloody pulp, but after awhile, it does grow old and tiresome
For those first person shooting fans out there, you will feel right at home, but at a great disadvantage. Throughout the game, Ethan will come across several weapons that he can put to good use. Pistols and shotguns are fun toys to use on the crazed lunatics running around the city, but the one problem is that there is no ammo to pick up. So once you fire the 12 or so shots within the pistol, you are out for good. And for those who are wondering why doesn’t he have his own pistol, refer to the third paragraph; the person he was pursuing apparently took his weapon while he was out cold.
But just because you don’t have any ammo, doesn’t mean you will just stand there and get you ass handed to you. Playing as Ethan, you are also equipped with a nice little toy known as the taser. Sure it doesn’t do much but shock your enemies, it’s a great way to by time for you to pick up another weapon, or even take the weapon away from your enemy and beat him/her senseless. Just one thing you got to remember, not all enemies are stupid. Thanks to Monoliths incredible A.I. setup, enemies will at times evade, dodge, and even duck you attacks, which will leave you wide open to being cracked upside your head.
Not stopping there, you have nice Mortal Kombat style finishing moves. When you are beating you enemies with your shovel or pipe, after a few hits, they generally fall down to their knees. Once this happens, you are given your choice of four different finishing moves. Now these moves don’t heighten the game, but they are cool ways of killing you enemies after they were beating on you. You can either snap the neck, head butt your enemy, punch them, are simply slam their heads into the ground.
While nothing gets more tiresome than repetitive actions, which are visible within this title, you have to deal with icon popups, which are both good and bad. In the case of Condemned, it makes things a little to easy for you to progress through the game, which takes away from the immersive factor about the gameplay. You don’t really have to go looking for anything. Just walk around a particular room (once you clear it of enemies of course) until a icon pops up. If there is no icon within that room, you can just move on. But despite that and a few other factors, Condemned provides and invigorating and immersive environment that will have you hooked for a few hours (longer if you just like killing people)
Now well all know that the Xbox 360 on its own is a visual masterpiece, but when you look at a game through the console’s high-definition feature, it takes things to a whole new level. I will be straight with you, a lot of the action takes place within dark and gritty areas, where Ethan has to relay of flickering lights and go on and off, and his trusty flashlight to get around. I would have to say, beyond the noticeable detail Monolith put into this title, the captivating draw is the lighting affects given off form the various lights that surround the hey area, including your trusty flashlight. One example of the lighting is when you are outside among the flickering lights. Pay close attention to the ground or better yet, any of the characters moving around. You will notice that the lighting brings out the high levels of detail and almost human like appearance of each person. Not to mention, base on how the light hits the ground, person, or object, a shadow is cast, which can make you look like there is someone coming and there is no one at all.
Now for what Monolith could of worked on a little bit more is on the overall look of the characters. Their body movements are very fluid and lifelike, but what kills me is how their faces look a little too glossy. Not trying to make fun of the designs, because they were done very well, but it looks like they rubbed Vaseline on their face before coming out to party.
If you look at the overall picture, you wont really notice it all that much due to the highly stylized environments and objects surrounding the characters, but it’s a noticeable flaw that should have been adjusted be release.
Using the Xbox 360’s 5.1 surround sound, you will hear every little tinkle or footstep from all directions. So if you bump into a wall, or dock on a door, someone is trying to sneak up on you, you will hear everything. And because of this, the gameplay is heighten in more because not paying attention to the surrounding noises can lead to you getting attacked, and possibly killed. But what took away from an almost perfect audio atmosphere is the lack luster voice acting. Being how there was little to no emotion put behind some of the lines heard within the title, you didn’t really get into what the characters are trying to convey across to each other.
It has been several years since we have seen a title that has been able to keep gamers glued to the seats and wondering what’s around the next corner. Resident Evil started it all, and it seems that Monolith and Sega has reinvented the horror genre with their own flavor. The game isn’t relatively long, so the only real I can see someone playing through this title again is if they played it during the day time, and where to chicken to try it at night, with the lights off. But whether you play through the game once or twice, it’s a true experience worthy of partaking in. From it immersive and in-depth gameplay, to its realistic graphics and environments, to its breathe-taking detail to sound effects, Condemned: Criminal Originals is a solid debut for both companies in the era of the next generation. 8.5/
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