Evening, all! Last week, I fired up my Game Boy and took Metroid II for a nostalgic spin. And a lot of you seemed to like it.

I'm switching gears this week because, if you've been following this article series of mine, you've likely realized I'm very much random and a bit insane. So, since I've been playing Shadow of Mordor (it's great) let's check out another Monolith Productions game. This one's called Condemned: Criminal Origins.

Condemned is a kind of first person brawler set in a bunch of creepy environments. It also happens to be the first Xbox 360 game I ever owned! Well, also Gears of War,but I played this first.

In Condemned, you play as Agent Ethan Thomas, who's tasked with catching a serial killer who kills serial killers. Said serial killer, named Serial Killer X, frames Ethan for murder, and so you have to clear your name.

Advertisement

This involves a lot of beating crazies with various melee tools. Condemned bills itself as a first person shooter, yet actual shooting is greatly de-emphasized. Instead, you fight with various hand-to-hand weapons, most of which are improvised. So, you end up pulling pipes off the walls, picking up two-by-fours, and basically using whatever you can find. Weapons break after a few uses, and so you need to constantly find new objects.

Also, you get to look at your phone a lot.

Combat smartly utilizes just the two triggers on the controller: RT attacks, LT blocks. Your enemies are insane, but they aren't stupid; they'll change position on you, work together and actually feint to get you to block early. While the combat is simple, it's effective and fun, and besides, a complex system wouldn't mesh well with the first person nature of the game.

Advertisement

There's also some light crime scene investigation. Being some kind of forensics guy, you come across crime scenes like the one in the pic above. You then have to investigate by...well, by pointing tools at things and holding a button. It's fallout, I think, from Metroid Prime-that is, "let's put scanning in every game because scanning is presumably awesome." It's kind of a weak point gameplay-wise in Condemned, but it gives you a break from the action and mixes things up a bit. I wish it was handled a little better is all.

But the combat and atmosphere is the real star here, and that's where Condemned shines. Each level is sort of a horror stereotype (abandoned rotting building, creppy abandoned department store, etc.), but the levels in Condemned stand out because they're so fully realized. They're dark, dingy, and David Fincher-esque. They feel like real places instead of video game levels, and that goes a long way toward immersion, something I always speak highly of here.

Advertisement

Gah!

I mentioned the smart, simple combat controls, but just telling you how it controls doesn't quite capture the combat's visceral, hard-hitting nature. Swinging a crowbar at some chump, like in the pic above, produces a satisfying thunk and sends your enemy reeling. I mean, a lot. Generally, they're sent to the floor if they don't regain their balance. Sometimes you knock some teeth out. It's a violent game, for sure. I'm a big fan, though, of combat that just feels right, and a lot of that has to do with impact. Like, when you pick up a crowbar or sledgehammer in Condemned, it feels hefty, as it should.

This was a really awesome looking game when it came out, and it still looks okay today. As I mentioned, the world is always dark, so you spend a lot of time looking around with a flashlight. The lighting is great, because, well, it has to be. There's not a ton of variety in enemy design; everyone's basically "homeless psycho," but they look convincing. I don't remember any music really standing out, but the audio is top-notch. Every weapon impact makes you squirm with sickeningly authentic sounding effects. Voice acting is...well, it's there. Certainly functional. None of it is bad. Greg Grunberg-or, that dude from Heroes, apparently-voices Ethan, who's mainly just there so you have someone to play as. He gets more interesting in the sequel.

Advertisement

Condemned is still a fun, somewhat different experience, despite the story going pretty off the rails towards the end. The sequel, Condemned 2: Bloodshot, was pretty cool too, though it, too, goes loony with it's story. Still, one of the best first person melee games to come along.

Also, the title of this article refers to the fact that this game has only 970 Achievement Points instead of 1000 like every other game ever. Why.

Thanks for reading! Hit the comments! Let me know what games you wanna see in this article series! And Tweet me @WingZero351

Advertisement

Next week, I'm going back to the indie market, with a game where seemingly one-note gameplay gives way to a touching story.