1. STORY & GAME MODES
As the game’s story begins, you take on the role of a Federal agent in to investigate a recent murder committed by a now well known serial killer. As the game progresses and you inspect the crime scene, things take a nasty turn and the criminal you’re looking for actually seems to be in the building with you, cutting out all the power. So as always, it’s your job to find the power supply and get the light back on so that you can hunt down and detain the wanted criminal. Unfortunately though, all doesn’t go as planned and you co-officers end being on the wrong end of your gun, thanks to a power surge from the power supply knocking it out of your hands, and straight into the criminal’s. From here on, it takes its usual twists and turns here and there, but nothing too extreme. In essence it’s all quite thriller-movie cliché, and only serves as a mediocre excuse to carry on and use some of the game’s less traditional gameplay elements. It’s not too bad though, there are moments where things will get extremely tense and frightening, all due to the nature of the plot itself, so it does work in that aspect. Unfortunately though, I’ve seen it and done it all before.
As for the game modes, well there’s the main story mode then there’s nothing else. So if the intense and frightening movie-like gameplay of the game’s main mode gets tiring or too much, don’t expect Condemned to be in your drive for much longer. Thankfully however, the main story mode isn’t that bad and does do itself justice n more than one occasion. There’s 10 levels in total, each with its own environment for you to explore, some shorter or longer than others. Alongside this is the addition of there being almost 1 new enemy in each level and a different weapon selection from each. Like I said though, that’s all there is in Condemned, which isn’t that impressive at all. Although not generally part of the game per se, the Xbox 360 achievements which you unlock throughout the course of story mode can add a whole new element of direction in gameplay. For those not familiar with the 360’s achievement system, for each game there is generally 1000 Gamer Score Points that you can achieve, which in turn tally’s up on your profile. The higher the score you have, the more you can boast about your skills. For Condemned, to unlock these points you’ll have to do such tasks as find hidden items, use every melee and firearm in the game and complete each level in story mode. To be honest, I found this a much more enjoyable pointer for going through the story again rather than just doing it for the sake of it. So there is always that in the case that the regular level climbing gets dull.
Story Rating: 3/5
Game Modes Rating: 2/5
Story & Game Modes Rating: 5/10
2. GAMEPLAY & CONTROL
The controls in Condemned are all pretty basic and relative to most other FPS games out there nowadays. You have your basic Right Trigger attacks, left & right thumb stick movement controls. Alongside this you will use the face buttons to reload firearms, investigate crime scenes and to check ammo. A nice addition to this is the block function of which is a mild necessity in Condemned. You do this simply by pressing down the left trigger and you will block for around a second. So if an enemy comes at you wielding a pipe or whatnot, time it right and you can block off his attack and stun him for a moment allowing you to show him who’s really boss. Aside from this, there’s nothing new to the control system at all for FPS games, but has nothing much wrong with them as a counterbalance.
Gameplay within Condemned consists of 3 elements: Shooting guys, hitting guys over the head and blocking their attacks, and investigating crime scenes and other areas spread throughout the course of the story. First of all, shooting guys doesn’t happen that often because A) you’ll hardly ever spot a gun until the final levels and B)Even when you do you’ll be limited to around 6 or so bullets, then it’s useless. Personally, I found this style new and very realistic, which helped add to the game’s mysterious and helplessness theme running though the game. When you do finally get to wield a firearm it will either be a basic pistol, shotgun, double-barrel shotgun, machine gun or rifle. They all work really well and the feeling you get from firing away with these guns is very realistic and fun, seeing as most of the time you’ll be killing people with planks of wood and steel pipes. Enemies will drop the ground appropriately and scream out as you shoot them in the torso or head, nice.
As for the melee combat, well that’s a totally different story altogether. You see, you’ll probably never be short of a melee weapon through the entire game due tot the fact that you can grab things to use from all around you such as 2x4’s, pipes, sledge-hammers, mannequin arms, locker doors and many more. Although demanding at times, especially when up against numerous foes with firearms, the hand to hand combat system works very well and plays out to a very high degree of realism. There are the odd moments where it does falter however (such as enemies hitting you from 6 feet away with a small pipe) but most of the time it works like a charm. This is certainly one of the best parts about Condemned, right from the start of the game, as a matter of fact, it’s probably best during the first level. Let me just warn you, this game is violent. Playing this for the first time, I felt totally submerged into this world of hatred, anger and pain. Then all of a sudden these guys come hunting me down with pipes screaming crap in my face and as I hit the right trigger button and smashed his face with a 2x4 as revenge, I could feel the blood pumping through my veins at an amazing rate. Now this isn’t simply down to the melee gameplay elements, it’s the game as a whole. So I won’t go on about this much longer. As I mentioned previously, another interesting and new style of melee combat is the blocking action, in which you try to evade enemy attacks. During one on one battle at the beginning of the game it could be said that this feature isn’t the most used at this point but as the game progresses you will most likely be thankful for having such good reflexes.
Finally there’s the Investigation feature, which you possess because that’s you job… or was. There’s not much to this element of gameplay, but it does offer a new and effective twist to progressing through the game at times. Basically you have around 3 or so primary tools to use on crime scenes. I won’t bother going into what each does but essentially all each does is ask you to scan an area or person for marks of which can gives you clues and direction in order to make sense f what is going on around you. They all work effectively well and do add a great deal of realism to your journey.
So in conclusion, gameplay is overall more than decent enough to carry you through and keep you interested for the duration of the game’s story.
Gameplay & Control Rating: 8/10
The graphical style in Condemned is hard to review, mainly because it’s so damn dark half of the time. Not to worry though, you do have a flashlight that brightens things up… a bit. I’m not going to complain however because setting Condemned in a colourful and bright world would make the game nothing like it is. Instead I’m going to focus on what you can see and it’s relation to the darkness and setting around you. So yes, you do spend around 80% of the game in near complete darkness but what you do manage to see is very well done indeed. Enemies look terrifying up close, blood splatters all over the place when you strike them down and it will even stain your weapon of choice for a certain amount of time (and then disappointingly disappear). Environments themselves also look terribly detailed with tons of high detailed textures placed upon many unique objects throughout the entirety of the game. So in a way, it’s a shame the game is so dark because you probably won’t see half the work that’s went into the creation of Condemned. Cut-scenes are range from terribly bad to amazingly scary at times and either reminds you that you’re playing a computer game or completely submerge you within Condemned and scare the hell out of you. Overall, the graphics are pretty decent with the only downfalls being the overly repetitive nature of the game’s settings and the bad cut-scenes. Get over that however and you have yourself a realistically gritty game… that looks good at the same time.
Graphics Rating: 8/10
If there’s one thing that’s great about condemned, it’s the sound effects. Everything sounds brutal when hit across an enemy’s body and sounds exactly as it should. Intertwine this with the moans, groans and screaming of your drug addict friends and what you have is a perfect mix in realism that is very much needed in a game such as Condemned. As for the music, there’s not that much of it really, it works more along the lines of Doom 3 and such games in that there wouldn’t really be music playing in this place that you’re in so there isn’t going to be any. Again, adding to Condemned’s realism factor. Yes, I know, I’m referencing to Condemned’s realistic nature every second sentence but to be honest that’s what multimedia does in a game like this, it’s used to create a world that you should believe exists. When it’s done well, it does work and that’s exactly what Condemned achieves. Everything isn’t perfect however, as usual. You see, the voice acting isn’t done terribly well but does feature some strong points from certain characters. Other than that though, Condemned is exactly what Condemned deserves in terms of audio.
Sound Rating: 8/10
There’s always one, isn’t there. Yep, Condemned’s weakest point in my view is its lifeline. Generally speaking it lasts as long as a general FPS game usually does, which is around 8-10 hours first play through. As for replay-ability, I’d give it a further one play through just to unlock all the Xbox 360 achievements stuffed in there, so all in all you have around 15-20 hours of gameplay before you have absolutely no reason to play Condemned ever again. No multi-player, no mini-games or side-adventures of any sort, it’s simply the story mode and that’s it.
Lifeline Rating: 2/10
6. DIFFICULTY BALANCE
Condemned is one of those games that simply follow the lines of: the further into the game you get, the more enemies we’ll throw at you. So as simplistic as it may be at times, it generally does work, seeing as facing off with more than one enemy can prove quite a handful if you’re not careful. Overall, the enemies do get harder to beat as you progress, but you see, as this happens, there also seems to be a lot more powerful weapon selection at hand, so it doesn’t get too hard, at least not to the point of annoyance and distress. Instead what you have is a more-often-than-not simple game in terms of difficulty, getting subliminally with each level. Add to this, a few decent ‘boss’ fights and you have yourself a pretty well balanced game.
Difficulty Balance Score: 7/10
Even though Condemned is a game that settles in a genre that’s not really been re-invented since early 2000, what it does do, is take you away from constant gunfire and place you in a environment where you must use your surroundings to take the enemy down. What also separates Condemned from game’s like Halo is its few interesting but short-lived CSI gameplay elements and it’s severely brutal realism. On the other hand however, Condemned’s story and basic gameplay features are something we’ve all seen and played before. If there’s one thing that’s original about Condemned, it’s that it doesn’t feature any multi-player experience at all, and that is something fairly unheard of nowadays for the FPS genre.
Originality Score: 6/10
As good as this game could be in terms of all the sub-categories reviewed above, I can’t say that I really enjoyed Condemned at all, it just wasn’t fun. I found it boringly repetitive after several hours of play, too intense and reliant on fear rather than real threat. There will be some people out who will love this game far more than I do and enjoy it far greater but for me, it just didn’t serve a purpose and after my Xbox 360 achievement’s were unlocked and the game was completed for the second time, it went straight onto EBay. There are the odd moments where I did get caught along with the story, loved investigating scenes and highly enjoyed ripping some guy’s jaw off but a lot of the time, I spent not wanting to progress because I was either sick of whacking people with sticks, or that I had went through enough pairs of underwear for one day.
Enjoyment Score: 2/10
Story & Game Modes: 5
Gameplay & Control: 8
FINAL SCORE: 5.8/10
XGD RATING: 6/10
Although not the greatest game to come out for the 360 to date, Condemned does offer the user a unique and thrilling experience that deserves to be tried out at least once. Condemned is somewhere between Doom, The X-Files and Chronicles of Riddick, so by all means, if you enjoyed those, give Condemned a weekend, but that’s all it deserves. Rent it if you’re interested.