One Game I Cannot Condemn

I finished Condemned this week and posted a review. I thought it was excellent; one of the best recent horror games that I’ve played. I went into the game with low expectations (the E3 2005 demo made it look really bad), but by the end boss I was throughly satisfied. Check the review for details about what makes Condemned such a neat entry into the horror genre.

16 thoughts on “One Game I Cannot Condemn

  1. Chris, I noticed in your review that you had no mention of the use of sound in the game. I think it was the most well-done aspect and it even won an award for it. I don’t know if you have a surround sound system but it makes a HUGE difference for this game.

  2. really?, i mean the games either love it or hate it but that boss was just as bad as the one in cold fear, if not easier.

  3. Hm…the PC demo didn’t impress me much, but that was before on my old video card so it didn’t look as good as it could have. Now that I have my 360 is hooked up to a brand new widescreen monitor and the 360 version is only $15 at Gamestop, I think I might give it another try and see if it engages me.

  4. > Andy

    I enjoyed the sound a lot but I didn’t hear enough of it to comment in the review. One problem with playing games when you have a 2-month-old is that you have to turn the volume way down!

    > Hellsing

    Are you serious? The Cold Fear boss requires new mechanics to be learned, while the Condemned boss is just another fight. Plus in Condemned they are much, much better about giving you a chance to heal and select weapons before you go up against him; in Cold Fear your locked into whatever you happened to have before you entered the boss room. I beat the Condemned guy in about 2 tries, which was much more fun than the 20-odd tries it took me to beat the Cold Fear one. Condemned was excellently balanced; almost zero frustration throughout the entire game.

  5. actually the boss mechanics werent knew, if you ran into certain scenarios, especially using the stealth enemies, which i only ran into once, you have to use it there too.
    Its just run, place bomb and do scripted attack method and just repeat it, but its not as bad as condemneds “smack him ,pull, repeat 4 times, end.”.
    but like they say, different strokes for different folks.

  6. > Hellsing,

    Yeah, I guess everybody likes different stuff. I thought the fact that you can fail the Cold Fear boss in under 30 seconds was a pretty bad flaw, as was the the way you had to take hits until the mini game started in the second stage. I talked about it in the review. Condemned’s boss was straightforward and fun for me; the game told me what to do and gave me a chance to refill my health in between boss modes, so I was happy with it. It wasn’t amazing, but it certainly wasn’t frustrating either.

  7. the major thing that bugged me about condemend was that it was so linear, follow a trail and keep pulling the right trigger, i rarely used the defend move and overall it was just a bit too mindless for me, then in the last 2 levels it adds magic and thats when i just whent “okay, any love i had for this is lost”.

    In the commentary unlockables they mentioned it was origionally a game were each level had you working as an fbi forensic agent from start to finish hunting down a different serial killer each level.
    now THAT would have been the game i would have made should i have the choice between the two.

  8. i’m glad you finally played through, and apparently quite enjoyed, this game. i mean, i guess not everyone likes it (well, of course), but i thought it was quite impressive.

    i’m kind of surprised that you listed the… well, ugliness of the main character as a drawback to the game, though. i do agree that he was quite ugly, but… in a way, i found this to be refreshing. i mean, you could probably count on one hand the number of games you’ve played where the main character is *not* a fairly attractive person. and, along these lines… i was absolutely delighted when you finally get to meet, face-to-face, the lass who’s been helping you from the lab (been a while since i played the game, i forget her name). she is… the absolute opposite of a model. there are *very* few video games which could resist the temptation to make the major female supporting character anything less than some sort of beauty queen (irregardless of what sort of life she’s supposed to be living). frankly, it took considerable courage and integrity for the game developers to do such things, i think.

    oh, as a little, last, side note… in the opening of your review, you seemed to attribute at least a fair portion of the reasons for the sharp increase in murders to drug use. it’s been a while since i played, so perhaps i’ve just forgotten, but i dont remember very much concerning drugs being involved in the game. perhaps certain people in the game, who didnt know better, suggested drugs as being the reason, but it’s obvious from an early stage that the reasons for the increased violence is something much more bizarre and… well, “occult” (think of the old usage of that term, not the more modern) than the more typical, obvious answers. this is shown even very early in the game by the huge number of dead birds that have been found around town (which you go around collecting, because, presumably Ethan Thomas is really really creepy, hehe). it becomes more evident when you progress through the game, and see just how widespread are the anti-social, mentally deranged people all around in the ruins (it can often seem, when you’re progressing through the game, as though society is genuinely deteriorating into oblivion, quickly enough to shock, yet slowly enough that people dont recognize it immediately, trying to go about their lives as if things are normal… a little bit like how the world was destroyed in Kurosawa’s “Pulse”). this point was outlined even more when they, later in the game, show during a pre-level loading screen that cops have not been immune to the recent increase in somewhat insane aggression, resulting in certain cops suddenly attacking and killing other cops (cops attacking non-cops might not have surprised me as much, but violence within the force is something of a rarity). … i was happy they mentioned this eventually, btw, as one problem i had with the story of the game was how quickly the police decide your character MUST have gone insane and killed his fellows. cops have more solidarity amongst one another than that, in general, but if there was an increasing precedent for this sort of stuff to happen, their somewhat rash reactions are somewhat less unlikely.

    ok, that message ended up much longer than i intended…

  9. > feighnt

    What I meant about the main character is that he appeared to be poorly modeled compared to the other characters in the game. I didn’t mind his design at all, but I thought he looked fairly bad on screen. Agreed about the lab woman–they did a good job with her.

    I believe that in the very first level the lab woman attributes the violent behavior of the squatters to drugs and psychosis. This is the best theory that the cops have, I guess, at the time that the game starts. You are right though–very quickly it becomes clear that something else is very wrong.

    The one issue I had with the story is that there is a loose end that is never tied up: the part about the protagonist having some crazy file. The suggestion is that he’s a special person, or that he’s been augmented in some way (part of his x-ray is blacked out); there’s some reason that the cops have been tracking him internally. It’s also suggested that he may be slightly psychic, as he has all kinds of flashbacks throughout the game, and at the very end the nameless menace voice suggests that he’s “always” been one of them. But this idea is never explained or expounded upon; I wanted to know more about what the heck made him so special, and why he was the one who was able to actually confront the evil dudes. A minor flaw in the plot, maybe, or maybe the hints were there and I just missed them.

  10. aah, okay – sorry for misunderstanding you, concerning the modeling of the main character – and thanks for refreshing me on the drugs stuff (i really gotta play this game again some time).

    i can kinda understand what you mean about the loose end, though i didnt really view it as a flaw because the end of the game shows that Condemned wasnt intended as a stand-alone game… they must’ve been intending a sequel right from the start. i’m sure we’ll learn all about this in Condemned 2 (part of me is wary of that, though – i often find that horror is less effective when they start to explain things a lot, but maybe that’s just me).

    If memory serves by the end its insiuated that in areas like the mall were the dead birds are showing up and violence is escalating theres something in a document about ultra sonic waves or something effecting peoples minds.
    as for the x ray thing that bugged me too, but what happens at the end might jsut mean he was one of them.

  12. Great game…but as I’ve mentioned a million times before…a rushed story.

    I’ve been replaying it recently and I should have really noticed all the clues of the plot’s downfall from the start. I didn’t mind the idea of this ‘hate demon’ trying to get into Ethan’s head…but when they tried to make it a priority over Serial Killer X’s plot strand, it just lost focus of what it was about. Looking at it from an ex-film student perspective, I just see the story as rushed and trying to please everyone as a launch title; unable to decide what it wants to be incase of a potential sequel (which it got in the end).

    Graphically, ALL of the characters are ugly because of the bulky designs created. They tried to wedge Greg whatshisface from Heroes AKA voice of Ethan’s face into the game (see an unlocked demo reel to see what I mean) and it makes him look…well…odd. But at least he’s not the chisled jawed Bruce Campbell-look-a-like they intended in the production art.

    I thought the birds plotline made sense, but you had to unlock bits of that story for any of it to make sense! I think the developers had to give some stuff up to meet an Achievement quota and sacrificed the plot as a result. It’s not fun trying to look for bits of metal and birds when you wnat to get on with the game.

    Can’t wait for the sequel though.

    I dunno, the sequel includes autonimous baby dolls as enemies, exactly like the supernatural build of resi 4 in fact, that does not bode well for me. sure they pulled that freaky doll stuff off in ghost hunters bayou level but that was tongue in cheek survival horror it just doesnt fit condemneds aesthetic.

  14. Well, I had to post on your blog for the first time because coincidentally I had just been playing Condemned last night. Just got a 360 and I got it used for $15 because I like survival horror and I heard this was a good game.

    But I was wrong. I’m not quite finished with it so we’ll see. My biggest complaint is that it is monotonous and boring, which you also pointed out.

    At one point my roommate came in the room and asked what I was playing. I said, “This is Condemned. Do you see how I’m walking through a dark dilapidated area holding a melee weapon? Okay, then you’ve seen everything. This is the entire game. There’s nothing else to show you in the hours I’ve been playing.” There are no puzzles, no bosses, no items, no interesting cut scenes. You just walk around and occasionally bash up some hobo. That’s it.

    I can’t stand the combat either. It’s totally repetitive for one thing. Also, it suffers from ‘don’t know why I died’ syndrome. Sometimes I’ll be walking around and the screen will suddenly unceremoniously say ‘You are dead’. Great. Presumably some hobo hit me from behind. But ‘don’t know why I died’ syndrome is a symptom of a bad game. You should always know why you died, how you messed up, and what you can do differently next time.

    Also, if the game isn’t boring enough when you ARE progressing, sometimes you can get stuck and be unable to find the next door you need to go through. Then you have to walk around with your flashlight for 20 minutes searching for the exit. Excitement! I never get stuck in Silent Hill or any other survival horror.

    The only thing scary about this game is how annoying it is. How annoying it is to be walking around and FLASH! You are dead, start over. Or how annoying it is to be searching for the exit. I find myself dreading that either of these things will happen and that is the only fear that is produced.

    Yeah condemned cerainly has its faults, its kind of why i havent reviewed it for my horror blog since i think i would be biased and give an unfair recommendation, but it does have its charms, like the dummys in the abandoned mall for example.
    my biggest problem with condemned is that the enemies arent randomly generated, and on a second playthrough its the same enemies in the same spots, so you dont get, well jumped, by the ‘jump’ flash scares for example, you know theres a “crawlin’-crack’ed” coming around the next corner and so on.
    For a launch title it was impressive but the game was scripted to the point of replayability ,aside from achievments, being completely undesireable.

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