The new era in gaming has brought along some innovative titles. Xbox 360 owners can transform their elf princess into various creatures, gun down endless waves of enemies as a red haired heroin, and even control the mighty king of the jungle. One inspiring game, entitled Condemned: Criminal Origins, puts gamers in the shoes of Agent Ethan Thomas throughout his struggles with serial killers and even fellow FBI agents. Condemned delivers a freakishly horrifying experience that shouldn’t be missed.

What’s this all about?

Condemned is a first person horror shooter set in an urban city. From the start, we’re introduced to our beloved FBI agent on a seemingly routine assignment. Unfortunately for him, a crafty murderer manages to turn everyone against Thomas so he needs to clear his name. Thomas will travel through the downright ugliest parts of the city as he mercilessly beats down drug addicts and crazed civilians. With only a trusty lab analyst to help him interpret data, you need to overcome the grimiest of situations in order to solve this horrific mystery.

Astonishing Atmosphere

While it’s obvious that gamers should expect some impressive visuals and a decent audible performance, Condemned does an absolutely extraordinary job at delivering a spine tingling aroma. The developers went a step beyond the typical first person view by making it feel like you’re actually the detective. Every time you open a door, swing your weapon, or just decide to sprint the screen will shake accordingly. In addition, the screen becomes encompassed in an aura of blood once you get struck with a weapon. Little details, such as flies buzzing above rotting corpses and post-death ragdoll effects, also create an added sense of realism. As expected, the character models are highly detailed and plenty of emphasis has been put onto body parts. Occasionally there are a few jagged edges and minor graphical glitches, but these quirks aren’t devastating by any means.

Not only are the visuals up to par by today’s standards, but the vivid audile performance is truly needed to bring out the full horror effect. The game makes the environments seem like they’re actually alive; leaking pipes with drip with water as rats scurry off into dark corners. Background music is used sharply at certain times to create a quick shock effect; while other times the only noise that will accompany you are your footsteps. The voice actors did a great job as well, and it can be very intimidating to hear an enemy scream curses at you but is then nowhere to be found. Often, small whispers and footsteps are played lightly just to keep you on your toes, but other times someone may slowly be creeping up behind you. In the end, a bone chilling product is created that can really make you scared to continue on with your adventure, making Condemned all the more enjoyable.

Killer Instincts

Like any other detective, Agent Thomas needs to analyze crime scenes in order to find out if he’s on the right trail or not. A variety of forensic tools are available to him, allowing him to track odors, test blood samples, and take hi-res photographs of the scene. Thomas has a knack for his line of work, so the game always tells you when you need to investigate and it even prepares the right tools. Still, you need to scrutinize every last nook and cranny until you find a piece of glowing evidence that will lead you on your way. An Xbox Live Achievement can be earned for collecting every piece of data, so make sure you don’t overlook anything.

In addition to parts of the crime scene, there are also hidden metal pieces and dead birds that can be used to unlock special concept art, movies, and information about the storyline. While it is possible to complete the entire game without finding either of these, it’s much more rewarding if you can truly appreciate this game’s story. Some dead birds can be scouted out by using an odor detector, but the only way to find metal pieces is by searching on your own.

Get Ready for a Beating!

The combat system in Condemned is different from most other games, partially because of the available weaponry. Most of the fighting relies on melee combat with weapons that can be picked up anywhere throughout the world, including 2 by 4’s, pipes, paper cutters, mannequin arms, locker doors, and pretty much anything else that you see. Weapons are rated based on their speed, damage, ability to block, and reach. Every time you find something else to pickup, a box will come up that compares it to your current item, making it a relatively easy decision if you want to exchange. A few guns can also be picked up along the way, but due to their limited ammunition supply most of your time will be spent bashing people to death.

The fights themselves are fast paced and require a lot of finesse if want to remain unscathed. By default, the right trigger will swing the item in hand while the left trigger will block incoming acts. If you block just before the enemy makes contact, they become extremely vulnerable for a few seconds. However, if you block too early you leave yourself wide open and susceptible to a barrage of hits. In addition, enemies can be stunned for several seconds with a Taser, and you can even follow up attacks with a quick kick sometimes. If you knock someone on the ground and make them rest on their knees in a trance, one of four grotesque finishing moves can be laid down.

The computer AI is highly sophisticated, especially on the higher difficulties, which helps make the experience scarier as a whole. Some of the addicts you face can take cover and be silent for a few seconds, and all of a sudden they will rush out and attempt to get a few quick hits before you even know what happened. They act in an overall violent matter, and when big riots burst out they can even start to attack each other! Sometimes it’s a good idea to hang back and watch them pound each other mercilessly, and when things begin to die down you can swoop in and finish the rest.

There’s certain plenty of fun to be had knocking people out, but a lot of the entertainment comes from simply exploring new areas. With only a meager flashlight to venture into dark hallways and the like, it’s hard not to get frightened at every little thing that moves. If you walk in front of a light source in just the right way a huge shadow will fly up on the screen, which can be extremely scary after hearing a few enemies lurk off. Whether a certain area seems too quiet or if a zombie like creature comes launching at you from a locker, plenty of different scare tactics are implemented in Condemned so there’s never a dull moment.

A Second Time Through?

Playing Condemned the first time will provide roughly 10 hours of gaming depending on what difficulty you choose, but once the entire game is done there isn’t too much incentive to go back and play. Unless you’re a diehard fan who needs to go back and find every last bird and metal piece the adventure isn’t all that great after you know all of the hidden surprises. Checkpoints are setup frequently, and if you die right before you reach the next benchmark its simple to fly through that whole area with ease, so imagine how dull it can be to go through the whole game again. Most of the adventure relies too much on triggered events, and the lack of any multiplayer component really makes it a turn off. Still, if you’re just looking from straightforward melee combat and don’t care about being fed the same story over again, it’s still possible to enjoy Condemned several times over.


At the heart of Condemned lies a solid storyline with an in-depth combat system and a haunting atmosphere, but there isn’t enough variety to keep gamers coming back for more. Still, playing the campaign the first time through is an absolutely bone chilling experience that makes this game easily worth a rent, if not a purchase.

Game play
Graphics 19/20
Sound 18/20
Value 16/20
Lasting Appeal 16/20
Overall 87/100


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