Written by sPINDRAFT 11/01/2013
This old classic starts out like a true hollywood crime drama. You play as Ethan Thomas, an SCU (Serial Crimes Unit) detective called in to investigate the most recect homicide being linked to a madman dubbed the Match Maker. There is darkness afoot and itching to have its way with Ethan but in these early scenes everything is fairly basic crime scene protocol.
Moving through these first manuevers, as the story attempts to set itself up, the dialogue gets a bit flaky. In retrospect it just doesn’t seem be able to find a decent way to flip the aces as the local officer in charge first has you standing guard in the empty room where the smell of smoke is strongest then suddenly reasoning that you should be required to search the huge building all by yourself in light of the latest turn of events (the power goes out – sounds like a typical slasher plot right).
From here on out our cool little crime drama becomes more and more sinister as the darkness that permeates the events of this murderous tale becomes the driving force behind the story. Speaking of murder, you become a prime suspect of your peers before you even get out of the partially restored, or is it partially destroyed, Weisman Office Building for the brutal shooting of the two officers that escorted you into this fray to begin with (you will just have to play the game to find out if your actually guilty or not).
From here the horror filled thrill ride does nothing but pick up steam as you move through the subway levels, and on through the several chapters ahead, searching for clues to the truth of what is happening and who or what is responsible. Through all of this you will be fighting off one wave after another of crazed members of the lower echelons of society who like the poor birds have gone insane at the hands of some unknown force, at least the birds seem to escape their personal misery rather quickly since most of them are already dead when you come along and the rest are flopping around in their death throws – the crazies are not as docile, they mostly just want to beat the living hell out of you. Ethan’s story only gets worse from here, having only one helpful ally in this miserable mess he finds himself on the run from the law and on the hunt for the evil that set this disaster to spinning and you are now along for the joyride.
Monolith released Condemned for PC back in 2006 to mostly positive reviews, for its day it was a graphical masterpiece and can still hold its own against the best of today’s virtual worlds. Developed on the Lithtech Jupiter EX Engine the game mechanics are well tuned with great attention being paid to little details such as when you are stumbling through the shower locker rooms at St Josephs Secondary School and the open, skewed locker doors bounce off of you as you run into them, clattering and slaming shut just to bounce back open again on there squeaky hinges. The sound alone is enough to make you cringe as it makes you feel your position has been compromised, the experience here is a fine example of the care given to creating a living, breathing enviroment.
Another area never left to whither away into obscurity is the game play itself. The root of the entire story, the common denominator if you will, is based on searching; whether that be for clues of one kind or another, sparsely located health boxes, a new tool or weapon, the killer you are hunting or just the direction you should be going in. Condemned never looses sight of this common thread – you start out searching for the truth and will continue to do so right through to the very end.
If any fault can be found with this game it would have to be its ability to become stagnant about two thirds of the way through (maybe repetitive is a better word). Its not that the game looses any of what makes it good its just that after about seven chapters of running around inside various buildings doing essentially the same thing over and over again you get a little bored with the setting. The game play is still awesome you just find yourself at the next stat sheet going damn, is this thing ever going to give it up. Considering that about nine hours of game time will get you to the end of chapter ten it is worth noting this minor flaw. The redemption in this small negative is finally reaching Apple Seed Orchard. The setting is now outdoors, way more spooky, the ghouls are a bit more sneaky and put up better fights; in short the challenge is quite suddenly amplified and the game is once again on.
Criminal Origins is an engaging game with a singularly minded story line, both well built and well delivered although I must admit I was happy to finally get near to the end. Its as if the stresses placed on Ethan Thomas have seeped right through the keyboard and into your very bones creating a worn weariness that you begin to hope will find a nice restful solution at some point in the near future.
There is a sequel to all of this called Condemned 2: Bloodshot; although created by the same companies who developed the original it was released only on console and since HAG only reviews PC releases there will most likely not be an additional article. Be that as it may there are many current games out, and new games coming, in the horror genre to keep us good and busy being scared but the HAG definetly wanted to re-visit this beautiful classic for addition in our Ghosts From The Past category. I hope you enjoy this flashback as much as I have.
HAG Score - 9.2