Condemned: Criminal OriginsCondemned: Criminal Origins is a first person psychological horror video game, developed by Monolith Productions and published by Sega. It was launched worldwide in 2005 on the Xbox 360, with a Microsoft Windows version released later in 2006.
The game uses a first person perspective. Condemned: Criminal Origins places an emphasis on melee combat and puzzle solving, including searching for fingerprints and gathering evidence.
Upon release, Condemned was met with moderate to good reviews by many aggregates and critics. Many reviewers cited its questionable storyline and lack of progression as the game's biggest fault. As a reprieve, the game's solid controls and fresh approach to the horror genre were praised. A sequel, entitled Condemned 2: Bloodshot, was released on March 11, 2008, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Other media forms include an internet prequel and a planned film adaptation to expand the Condemned franchise. The developers have cited films such as The Silence of the Lambs and Seven as inspiration for the game.
Condemned: Criminal Origins PlotThe game begins with the protagonist, SCU agent Ethan Thomas, arriving at the scene of a murder. He and his fellow officers go into an abandoned building that is surrounded by psychopaths and criminals. The crime scene they investigate is one of a young woman. She is on the floor with strangulation wounds, sitting across a table from a male mannequin. Ethan, along with his colleagues, agree that the murder was most likely committed by the Match Maker, a serial killer that Ethan has been investigating. After they collect evidence from the scene, one of the officers smells cigarette smoke. Believing that the smoke must be coming from their suspect, they decide to split up and go after him. While searching for the suspect, Ethan tries to restore power from an electrical box. Due to an electrical surge, Ethan is shocked, and drops to the floor, causing his weapon to be thrown from his hand. A man hiding in the shadows takes it and flees. Ethan manages to chase the man into a small, dead-end room, where the man holds Ethan at gunpoint and tells him they have similar goals. Ethan's colleagues enter the room and tell the man to drop his weapon, and are promptly shot by the man with Ethan's gun, who then shoves Ethan out a window onto the street.
Ethan wakes in his apartment with Malcolm Vanhorn, a friend of Ethanís father, at his side. Malcolm warns Ethan that he is wanted for the deaths of the two officers who were shot with Ethan's gun. Ethan is determined to prove his innocence, although his own sanity appears to be slipping, as throughout the game he suffers numerous horrific visions.
He soon learns that the killer is interested in Ethanís SCU career. Later, he finds the body of the Match Maker, killed by his own modus operandi in an old department store. He presumes that the man at the original crime scene, referred to in the game as "Serial Killer X", is the culprit and that he is trying to kill the serial killers that Ethan is looking for. Ethan searches for the one that he thinks is next, a serial killer dubbed 'The Torturer'.
Ethan tracks the Torturer and Serial Killer X to an abandoned apple orchard in the rural town of Brier. Shortly before finding the Torturer in the farmhouse, Ethan is attacked by a strange man-like creature. Ethan kills the creature, and continues in his search. He searches through the farm where he eventually finds the Torturer dead, also killed by his own modus operandi. Soon, Ethan finds the mysterious killer, who is revealed to be Leland Vanhorn, nephew of Malcolm Vanhorn. Malcolm arrives and knocks Ethan out with a shovel to prevent him from hurting Leland. Leland then knocks Malcolm out.
When Ethan revives, he is tied up and at the mercy of Leland. He explains to Ethan that he has been killing the serial killers that Ethan had been hunting, and that he intends to kill Ethan as well. As Leland thinks of all the ways that he can kill Ethan, cutting Ethan's finger off in the process, Ethan notices another man-like creature hiding in the rafters. This creature is known as 'The Hate' and is identified as the source of the madness gripping Metro City. Malcolm jumps Leland from behind and succeeds in wrestling him to the ground. Ethan manages to free himself, and Malcolm tells him to kill The Hate, saying that it is the cause of Lelandís madness. Ethan pursues The Hate as it tries to escape, fighting waves of hideously deformed creatures along the way, and eventually corners it in a barn and kills it.
As Malcolm drives Ethan home, Ethan discovers that Leland is alive, and in the trunk of the car. When Ethan opens the trunk, he is given the option to shoot the tied-up Leland. If he does not shoot Leland, Leland pulls out his own gun and waves it at Ethan before committing suicide. Later, Ethan and Rosa are having a conversation in a diner when Rosa reveals that she is wired, possibly explaining that she still trusts him. Rosa then leaves the diner, and Ethan goes to the bathroom. While in the restroom, the player witnesses as Ethan's mouth becomes that of one of The Hate before the game comes to an abrupt halt.
Condemned: Criminal Origins GameplayAlthough the game is played entirely from a first-person perspective (only broken for cut scenes) it is not a traditional first-person shooter. Firearms are present, but are somewhat uncommon. Unlike many other games from a first-person perspective, though, firearms are especially deadly, often killing enemies with a single shot. The guns that can be found, or taken from enemies, are only good for as long as the current ammo in the magazine lasts; once this is depleted, the butt of the gun can be used as a weapon. To complicate matters further, enemies operate firearms from the same ammo reserve, meaning once the enemy has been dispatched, the player only gets what ammo was left over from the fight. This encourages players to attack enemies with firearms quickly.
The focus of the experience is on improvised melee, allowing players and enemies to collect, or even pull, weapons from their surrounding environments, such as pipes, locker doors, shovels, and 2x4s. The word often employed by the developers of the game to describe the combat is 'visceral'. A quick-kick is available for attacking without, or alongside, a hand-held weapon, and attacks can be unleashed in different directions and configurations, such as left to right or overhead, but combat is notable for not utilizing a combo system, unlike similar titles such as The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. In many cases, blocking is necessary both before and after landing a successful hit. The player can also perform "finishing moves" when the opponent is on his knees, such as headbutting or breaking their neck.
The artificial intelligence displayed by enemies requires the player to think on their feet a great deal more than similar games. Enemies are able to flee and hide effectively, often surprising the player by quickly appearing from a concealed spot. Enemies can also effectively feint, in order to trick the player into blocking at an inopportune time, leaving themselves open for the real attack.
Although there are sharp weapons in the game, one cannot stab or dismember enemies. In fact, the player can almost never wield an actual knife or sword, with the exception being in the School level, where the player has brief access to a meat cleaver. Some melee weapons fall under the class of entry tool, (like a fire axe for a rotten door, or a crowbar for a locked safe) and act as keys in the gameworld, allowing the player to access new areas or locked boxes.
The player also has a taser gun which when used stuns the target, does some damage and allows the player to seize the stunned enemy's weapon. Later in the game, Lieutenant Rosa gives the player a new upgraded taser, which is much more powerful, causing the enemy's legs to give out. One hit or shot after that will kill any enemy. Common uses for it are safely attacking enemies with guns (since it allows players to stun them from a distance and then seize the gun while the enemy is incapacitated), countering an immediate attack (since using the taser does not require the precise timing that blocking does) and obtaining the chance to make a free hit (a hit where the player does not risk being hit first). However, it has to recharge between shots so it cannot be used to bypass the game's system of carefully fighting enemies.
The entire game takes place in derelict urban environments, with minimum lighting. The player must use a flashlight to navigate through the game's constantly darkened environments, while dealing with frequent enemy ambushes.
Near the end of the game the player loses both the flashlight and the taser. This means all strategies which required the taser become impossible and the only personal light source becomes burning planks which means carrying a gun reduces visibility. This effectively forces the player to rely exclusively on blocking, hiding and evasion for defense and close range attacks for offense.
ReceptionCondemned: Criminal Origins received mostly positive reviews. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic give the Xbox 360 version 82.31% and 81/100 and the PC version 79.13% and 78/100. GameSpot gave Condemned an 8.0, saying that "it captures hand-to-hand combat with intense, lifelike brutality like no other game before it."
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