Condemned Xbox 360
Published by SEGA
Developed by Monolith Productions
Release Date: Out Now
Condemned, an introduction.
Take a quick look at the Xbox 360 launch titles and you'll see the usual cluster of sequels (and prequels in the case of Perfect Dark Zero) and games that have yearly updates (such as FIFA, Madden etc.). Quite a few of the games have already appeared on other platforms and have arrived on the Xbox 360 in slightly modified forms, with some being great and some being not so great. If you want a completely original title then you're left with Kameo, Gun or Condemned and only two of these were exclusive to the Xbox 360. Kameo is a great game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Condemned is also a very good game, however, it's definitely not a game for the whole family and it's not a game for the feint hearted.
What's the game about?
Condemned puts you in the shoes of FBI Agent Ethan Thomas. Thomas has been assigned to the Serial Crimes Unit and is charged with bringing the worst serial killer to justice. It's certainly no easy task and it all goes horribly wrong in the first chapter. Whilst Thomas is on the hunt for the killer, the two police officers that are with him are murdered. Owing to an accident he has earlier in the mission, Thomas loses his gun and it's with his gun that his fellow police officers are killed. Naturally as his gun has been used for the killings, he's the prime suspect. From the second chapter onwards, Thomas is alone. He does however have the assistance of Rosa, an expert lab technician who will make sense of any evidence that he finds during the game. The game isn't just a straightforward hunt for a murderer though. The various dark and derelict locations you'll find yourself in are filled with psychopaths that think nothing of picking up any kind of heavy implement and charging toward you in an attempt to finish you off. Believe me when I say there hasn't quite been an experience like it to date.
What's good about the game?
If you're the kind of gamer who loves being scared to death then you'll definitely want to pick up Condemned. The Resident Evil games create a tense and chilling atmosphere whilst the Silent Hill games create a more disturbing kind of fear but Condemned manages to create an atmosphere of fear that surpasses anything I've seen before in a console game. How is this so you might ask? Well for one, during the game you're attacked by all kinds of psychos who simply want to kill you with anything they can get their hands on. Nothing original there you may say but the AI is quite sophisticated and knows how to block your attacks as well as how to avoid them. It can't be emphasised enough the game isn't a FPS and is almost completely mêlée in nature. There are moments when you can use firearms but these are few and far between and you'll never find any ammo, so once you've used the ammo in the gun you're back to using anything you can find as a weapon (you can only hold one weapon at a time). Items such as crowbars, shovels, planks and pipes can all be picked up and used to swing at your enemy. The mêlée nature of the game also adds to the fear factor as you have to stay in close quarters with these psychos. Thankfully you have a device known as a Taser, a device which emits an electrical charge that will temporarily stun your enemy. This is a great aid in taking out single enemies but when you're attacked by multiple enemies it's not quite so effective. Using the Taser will deplete its charge so you can't use it constantly. It does recharge when not in use though. What also adds to the fear factor is that at any given time you can be attacked. The location of the enemies isn't as tightly scripted as in the Silent Hill and Resident Evil games. You simply never know when you're going to come under attack. This causes you to be constantly nervous and twitchy and it really instills a feeling of absolute fear. The enemies will sometimes wait for you to be in a position where you are easily cornered, which is definitely a tense experience. The combat isn't just a case of wildly swinging a weapon. You have a block move and the use of a Taser. You can sidestep an enemy and you can also aim your attacks at specific parts of the body. There are also some finishing moves that you can perform. To add additional suspense to the game most of the time you're in very dark locations. Thomas has a flashlight (that can be used even when you have a weapon in your hand as it's fastened to your shoulder strap) but this will only light up a small area and it still makes it possible for enemies to avoid detection.
To give you a respite from the fear and taking enemies out with just about any implement you can find, you are also tasked with collecting evidence. Thomas has forensic tools such as a 3D scanner, a UV light, a laser light, a digital camera and a sampler (which examines the chemical makeup of a piece of evidence) that can be used. When you're in a situation where evidence can be gathered you're prompted to use the appropriate piece of equipment. Using these forensic tools is as simple as could be, you can't really go wrong in fact, so if you're playing the game just for the action you needn't worry about there being progress halting puzzles.
What's not so good about the game?
Those expecting Condemned to be an all guns blazing FPS will be disappointed as this is something the game was never intended to be. The level design could have been better to be perfectly honest and there are times where it can become a little disorientating because corridors and rooms you are passing through are very similar to those you've already passed through, which makes it tricky to get your bearings at times. You'll get approximately 10-12 hours from the game on your first play though. Whilst you could argue the game could have been longer, it would have probably felt artificially padded out had the game gone on for 4 or 5 more hours. Of course you can always play through the game again on a higher difficulty setting if you wish to, although there isn't a great deal of incentive to do so unless of course you want to complete the achievements (that increase your Gamerscore total) that you didn't do on your first play through.
How does it look?
Condemned looks good and if you happen to play the game in high definition you're really in for a treat. The detail on the enemies you face is much better than in most games we've seen to date. The mêlée combat looks great and the level of detail definitely adds a lot to the experience. As we've already mentioned, the level design could have been better in terms of its construction. Owing to the dark and dreary nature of the levels the various environments you'll encounter aren't as graphically impressive as in some games we've played on the Xbox 360 but overall the game looks good whether you're playing the game on a standard TV or HD display.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Thankfully Condemned does offer subtitles and as a result you'll be able to follow the game's story and be fully aware of what needs to be done. Loading screens also reveal parts of the story in text, which of course is fine for deaf gamers. Your HUD shows gauges for your health, endurance and Taser battery charge. Text prompts appear when you can use your forensic tools too. Objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time. The only concern I have with Condemned is that there are no captions. Because of the nature of the game many enemies can be heard before they are seen and as a result deaf gamers will definitely be at a disadvantage here, as you won't be aware of a nearby enemy that's probably getting ready to charge at you. Sometimes you'll actually see objects being thrown around which of course is a definite indication that enemies are nearby, but there are quite a few moments when the only warning can be footsteps or the sound of groaning and deep breathing, which is much more problematic. Don't get me wrong, the game is far from impossible for deaf games but it is more difficult.
Condemned is a brutal action game that's fully deserving of its 18 classification. It's not a game for the squeamish or delicate and might come as a bit of a shock to those who normally enjoy action games in general. The brutality of the combat aside though, Condemned definitely deserves praise for its presentation and creating an atmosphere that is truly soaked in fear. The combat system is a well thought out one and having to deal with an enemy AI that's fairly sophisticated makes the experience all the more rewarding. The level design could have been better though and some will point to the game's length as also being a problem. The addition of captions for the out of sight enemies (that can be heard) would really have been a nice touch (and made the game more accessible for deaf gamers) but sadly there are none. If you want a fear soaked action game for your new Xbox 360 Condemned is certainly well worth it.
Overall Game Rating: 8.3/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
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No review can really describe just how terrifying an experience Condemned is. If you enjoy action games and being scared out of your wits then Condemned is certainly recommended.