Condemned: Criminal Origins is a brand new game from Monolith. In the game you play as an FBI name Ethan Thomas who specializes in serial killers. The game opens with you investigating the murder of one of the serial killers you have been after. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned and you are quickly on the run from the police, determined to prove your innocence.
The game’s main draw is its intense visceral hand to hand combat. The game features mostly hand to hand weapons like metal pipes, 2x4s with nails sticking out of the end, sledgehammers and fire axes. While there are guns in the game, they are very rare and only have a few shots in them. The combat is pretty simple to learn since you can only block or attack, but fighting requires a good sense of timing to properly block blows and attack back with your own. The fighting itself is great. It really feels like you are laying into people and it looks extremely brutal. Unfortunately, there is not much depth when it comes to the combat and it gets stale towards the end of the game.
Weapons in the game are classified by range, speed, power, and defense, though it is a bit difficult to tell the difference between some of them. Picking the best weapon can be somewhat of a guessing game as the game only tells you if a weapons power, defense, speed or range is greater or less then the current weapon you have. It also does not mention how much the difference is between the two weapons. You can also only carry one weapon at a time. You also have a stun gun which you can use to stun opponents and grab their weapon while they are stunned. After you fire it, its battery automatically recharges after a few seconds. The stun gun becomes an invaluable weapon later in the game when you are facing off against multiple opponents.
Every once in a while there will be a break in the action while you investigate some of the crime scenes. You will walk into an area and be prompted by your “instincts” to take out a forensic tool and look for clues. The correct tool automatically comes out, so all you really have to do is look around the environment for the clue you are supposed to find. While it is simple, it can be pretty cool at times. Most of the plot is discovered from these sequences, so they are definitely interesting even if it is extremely easy.
Most of the gameplay takes place in very run-down environments. From a subway station to a library, every environment in the game looks like it has been neglected for years and is falling apart. All of the environments are extremely dark and do a good job of giving off a sense of fear. Unfortunately, none of the environments are very interesting to explore and there is not much you can do while you walk around them. Occasionally you will wander into a door that you need to cut your way through with a fire axe, or fence with a padlock that you need to smash off with a sledgehammer, but that is pretty much it. Also, it is extremely easy to get lost in many of the levels since everything looks pretty much the same because of extremely repetitive use of textures. When you get lost there is no map to help you find your way, so you will find yourself wandering around until you stumble across the door you need to open.
Graphically the game looks extremely good. The lighting effects in the game are absolutely great to look at and the environments are extremely detailed. The characters look realistic and animate beautifully. The fighting animations of the enemies in the game are especially good. Enemies will stumble backwards when you hit them with a heavy object or come running at you, swinging wildly in the air. All of the animation looks fluid and very realistic.
The AI in the game is also pretty impressive. The enemies are extremely aggressive, though they do occasionally hide so that they can catch you off guard. Sometimes they charge at you while screaming some pretty nasty stuff or hide and wait to ambush you. They will also attack each other, which can be fun to watch. Enemies will see weapons in the environment and pick them up if they don’t have one. The AI does a good job of keeping the fights brutal and intense. One problem with the AI is that after the first few hours, the AI becomes pretty predictable. They have a few cool tricks at their disposal, but after an hour or so you have already seen them all.
The sound in the game is pretty average. There isn’t much music except for some ambient stuff here and there, but the sound effects are excellent. Every smash with a weapon sounds disgustingly realistic. The voice acting is also pretty convincing.
The biggest disappointment in the game would have to be the storyline. To sum it up, it’s awful. A lot of the real important stuff, such as why everyone is going crazy, is boorishly explained during loading screens instead of in the game. The ending is also pretty anticlimactic and underwhelming.
But still, Condemned: Criminal Origins is a pretty fun game to play. It does a great job delivering a good looking first-person melee combat game. It’s just the more you play it, the more you will wish it had a deeper plot and a more robust combat system to keep it much more interesting. So if you are looking for some fun melee combat and don’t mind its short length and underwhelming plot then go ahead and pick up Condemned.