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Back Catalog: Condemned

We’re well into the current console generation, and all three consoles — well, two mostly — have a rich catalog of games and experiences. The Gamers Pub is beginning a series that will look back on some of the games that new console owners may have missed out on and veteran gamers may have overlooked. Witty name to come…

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Monoltih

Released: November, 15, 2005

An Xbox 360 launch title, Condemned is a healthy dose of the old ultra-violence. Taking control of crime scene investigator Ethan Thomas, you bash the faces, snap the necks and crush the skulls of jacked-up junkies in the pursuit of a serial killer.

And I mean bash. While there are firearms in the first-person game, most of the guns you pick up will only have three or so bullets in them and most enemies will gladly charge you even after swallowing two or three lead pills. Instead, Ethan spends most of the game delivering death via blunt force trauma — pipes, rebar, sledgehammers, sign, planks and desk drawers will all get smeared with blood.

The environments tend tend to be places like empty subway stations and dilapidated buildings and they are almost always pitch black, with only Ethan’s flashlight bearing an infuriatingly small beam guiding the way. Most often, you’re only alerted to enemies when you hear them either breathing or snarling at you.

But that’s enough set-up. How is the game?

The biggest flaw is the opponents you’re given. I’ll hazard a guess that I’m a little more than halfway through this puppy, and so far the enemies are all pretty much the same. The kind of folks you see in the most depressed part of a city that are completely crazed (they’re content to bash each other’s brains out if you let them) by something that the game’s story continually hints at. They use the same weapons and tactics and can sometimes make pretty clumsy attempts at surprising you — they are completely unable to successfully hide around a corner. The truly tense moments come in large, dark rooms when you know there is more than one of the bastards running around and your rude confirmation is a road sign to the back of the skull.

However, that just reinforces the fact that the main character in this game is the oppressive atmosphere. I first tried this game a couple of years ago and hated it. Ethan moves very slowly and the bland enemies didn’t keep me interested at all. However, since then I’ve upgraded my gaming set-up to a 40″ high-def TV and 5.1 headphones and it’s made all the difference for this game. Now I’m completely immersed in it. I’ll hazard a guess and say I’m a little more than halfway through the game and the god damn thing keeps me in a state of near-constant anxiety. My cat has flirted with being tossed off the balcony a couple of times by jumping up on the couch. Now I know why people get so frightened by them in slasher flicks.

The stage I’m currently playing is a library and in it you meet up with another character. I was so relieved to see her and it was the first stretch of gameplay where I could truly relax for a while. Of course, that didn’t last long at all.

So far, I’m enjoying this game plenty. The story is passable, but new elements have been getting added lately so I’ll have to withhold judgement until after the game is finished. I’ll have some highlights ready for the next installment, but so far Condemned is looking like a solid rental if you have the right set-up.

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