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Awful Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins (Xbox 360)

Monolith's beefy, crunchy, and squishy 360 launch title was one of the must have games at launch.  Does it still hold up?

Yep.
 
The easiest way to explain this game would be comparisons to Bioshock, but Condemned is basically Bioshock's Big Daddy.  They have a different motif, but their atmosphere and the way they tell their stories are remarkably similar.
 
Condemned does so many things right that it is almost hard to decide where to start.  Should I talk about the improvised melee weapons that actually manage to feel like you're clubbing a crazed homeless drug addict to death with a blunt object?  Perhaps the eerie suspense generated by the game's dark and foreboding environments and crazed homicidal enemies.  The memorable characters like Serial Killer X, a serial killer who hunts and kills serial killers by following the protagonist.  The protagonist, a psychic detective.  The hefty character designs that seem to add even more weight to combat, and helped pioneer the style that nearly defines Xbox 360 action games?
 
Condemned brings the same amount of immediacy to improvised melee combat that F.E.A.R. brought to (the appearance of) coordinated tactical artificial intelligence, and is significantly more effective at creating stress than F.E.A.R. by not giving the player phenomenal superpowers and by severely rationing ammunition for the few ranged weapons that can be found in the game.  Further stress is created by the game's measured pace.  Walking speed is quite slow, and the ability to sprint is carefully rationed with a meter system.  Health packs are relatively plentiful, but this was before it was the industry standard to recover health by taking cover, which is something that really doesn't exist in Condemned anyway.
 
Graphically the environments hold up quite well, the character designs are solid, but the characters are a wee bit low poly, which wouldn't be as noticeable if there weren't a lot of close-ups in profile.  The psychic flashes are far scarier than the Japanese-cult-horror flick cutscenes in F.E.A.R.
 
Certainly a top 20 list candidate, and a must-buy, especially at the bargain prices you should be able to find it at these days.

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