Video Game Review: “Condemned: Criminal Origins”

I feel like this whole month I have started every review off with a preamble about how I couldn’t possibly have done a horror-marathon of reviews without looking at such and such, or something. What I do is I usually reserve that statement for something like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or something that has without doubt left its mark on the horror-genre. Condemned: Criminal Origins never really had too much notoriety, I will likely spend a lot longer awaiting for Condemned 3 than I will the next rendition of Outlast. This doesn’t change the fact that I couldn’t have possibly looking at horror video-games without taking the time to look at Condemned: Criminal Origins.

Condemned: Criminal Origins is a first-person psychological horror video game developed by Monolith Productions and published by Sega. Monolith, other-wise, did some work on F.E.A.R. and did developing work for the upcoming Middle-earth game. Condemned received mostly positive reviews from critics and eventually was followed up with a sequel called Condemned 2: Bloodshot. 

I wrote a review of Outlast a couple of weeks ago on Out of Frame, and I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I know that I cited that I wished it would have been more like this video-game. Condemned isn’t completely perfect, but I think that it’s easily one of the best horror-experiences that I have ever had. The atmosphere is depicted particularly well. There is a couple of scares in there, once or twice, but I appreciate it more because of the decor than anything else. Similar to Clive Barker’s Jericho, albeit not nearly as grotesque, I don’t really find it terrifying, but I find it easy to merely appreciate the dark subject-matter and the demented creativity that went into creating the atmosphere. 

Although, I might be an odd-one out, having become completely numb to horror in-general, because a lot of other gamers have cited Condemned as being absolutely horrifying. I will say that it is absolutely demented and the squeamish might have more of a response than someone who is more accustom to it. Some might even find that as a fault, but I think it did a terrific job at adding to the atmosphere and getting across a certain environment and evoking certain emotions. 

The story is about an SCU agent named Ethan Thomas that is looking for evidence after the murder of a young woman. The crime-scene is grisly but it’s nothing that they haven’t already learned to expect. The entire neighborhood is surrounded by criminals and junkies that would sooner knife them than smile in their direction. A couple of things happen from there, and it basically ends with Ethan Thomas losing his gun. After his partner is shot and killed, evidence doesn’t look in Ethan’s favor, and now it becomes about him stopping the killer and proving his innocence.

The creator of this video-game cited out Silence of the Lambs and Seven as being his inspiration for the experience, and you can definitely see that with the storytelling. The villains that you come across are very enjoyable along the way. Certain killers that might not be extremely impressionable in their appearance or distinguishable in their actions but ultimately add something to the sum of the story-line and overall experience. The Evil Within, for example, had some very distinguishable villains that you might walk away remembering, whereas this one has serial-killers that are crazy and enjoyable but not necessarily ones that you’ll walk away remembering for years to come. I walked away remembering Condemned very fondly though, but I would say it was for it’s overall experience and not just picking and choosing certain enjoyable aspects. 

The story received some mixed reviews from some but I can’t really say that I had a problem with it. I believe it becomes a little over-the-top and outlandish in Condemned 2: Bloodshot, but I think that they kept it grounded enough to keep it from becoming overbearing. The voice-acting is fine and everything from a superficial standpoint mostly comes off with a positive outlook from me.

There is also a lot of unique little puzzles and tidbits that keep this from becoming repetitive. That’s something every first-person experience has to be careful of. They have to be able to keep everything interest while at the same time not completely losing their message along the way. Condemned allows for you to look for clues through the use of Ultraviolet lights and various procedural methods. You’ll find yourself looking for fingerprints and gathering evidence into what is a very violent and vicious environment. 

The absolute best aspect of this whole thing is the controls, which feel very refreshing and very unique. Instead of an emphasis on gun-play, the controls are more centered around melee combat. They easily could have messed this up badly, but instead, the controls are fluent and a lot of fun to use. There’s a certain intense brutality about it that makes it easy to become enthralled into the experience. Provided that we’re willing to accept Ethan Thomas going on a mass killing spree to prove himself innocent of a murder. 

I love this game. In-fact, I think it might even be one of my favorite horror experiences of all-time. The fact is, unlike so many others, my mind always drifts back to this one. I could pick it up and play it at anytime and never become tired of it. If you are looking for a worthwhile horror video-game, I can’t help but recommend Condemned: Criminal Origins.

Thanks for reading…

Rating: – 4.0 out of 5.0