2005 Reviews

Condemned: Criminal Origins

  • Review Date: 2011-03
  • Release Date: 2005-11
  • Developer: Monolith Productions
  • Rating: 5.0

Released for consoles in 2005 and for the PC in 2006, Condemned: Criminal Origins is the next game from Monolith following F.E.A.R. Now Monolith has made some good games; Blood was good for it's time, No One Lives Forever and the sequel were underrated classics. But unfortunately it seems their designers are still stuck in the old skool style of level design. The problem that hindered F.E.A.R.; it's bland boxy level design, returns with Condemned. In fact, the level design in both games could quite easily swap places and you wouldn't know the difference. F.E.A.R. had slightly more open levels to account for fast shooting enemies, while Condemned's is more condensed and cramped. However it's still the same room with two corridors connecting to the next room. It's maze-like, repetitive and is almost a series of box rooms littered with debris. It certainly doesn't feature the kind of detail you'd get from Doom 3.

There's really nothing in this game that stands out as looking great. Perhaps the final level taking place in a decayed apple orchard at night was a highlight, but it still lacked detail and was extremely linear. It sounds better than it was.

Basically Monolith followed the same pattern as F.E.A.R. in creating a game with supernatural flashbacks throughout; the scares are all the same. In fact, you could almost say this is the same game just with a different story and melee combat instead of guns.

So while F.E.A.R. lost brownie points in the design section, it made them up with it's fun gameplay. The same can not be said for Condemned, which is melee based combat using random weapons such as crowbars, 2x4's, axes. Now I've played good melee based games; Heretic II and Rune got it right. Condemned swings but misses, because it's too basic. The game comes down to a block-swing-step back process, or if you're taser is charged, which almost always is, then it's taser-swing-run back to wait for taser to recharge. It's just not that fun. There should have been some combos or powerhits of some kind. I complained about the combos in Dark Messiah, but at least it had them. Their drawback was the awkward key presses in trying to perform them. Condemned's gameplay is just too simple and becomes repetitive very fast.

Which leaves the storyline; which is flawed just like the rest of the game. The main premise is cliched but acceptable; a serial killer takes your gun and kills some cops which you are blamed for so on the run you go to capture him. As it turns out, he's been killing other serial killers. But then some whole supernatural plot comes into it with civillians turning insane, birds brains exploding, odd flashbacks and mysterious creatures popping in and out of existence (one of which you fight at the end). By the end of the game NONE of this is explained! Admittedly it does all get explained in the sequel but it just leaves the first game confusing.

If you loved F.E.A.R., not minding the average level design and love survival horror games then Condemned: Criminal Origins is worth playing the once. Otherwise, it's a skippable title.

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