If you ever wanted to murder some hobos, then Condemned: Criminal Origins is the game for you. Condemned is a first-person brawler developed by Monolith, the same people that made F.E.A.R., and while F.E.A.R. is all about cheap jump scares and creepy little ghost girls, Condemned is about stalking through creepy dilapidated environments, wondering if the noise you just heard was nothing, or the sound of someone sneaking up on you. Someone who wants to cave in the back of your skull with a lead pipe.
Condemned has a very strong melee focus, and even though guns are available, they’re somewhat rare, and you can’t refill your ammo with them. What it has in the clip when you pick it up is what you get, so when you only have a bullet or two left in the gun, it’s usually better to just waste the bullets (so if any enemies pass through that area, they can’t use it against you) and toss the gun for something else. Just about anything can be used as a weapon; you can rip off planks from the walls that still have nails or bolts in them, or pipes, or rebar, even a bar from a clothes rack or the arm of a mannequin. Some weapons, like fire axes, sledgehammers, or crowbars, can be used to open some blocked doors.
You play as Very Special Agent Ethan Thomas, the FBI’s ace investigator, who is framed for the murder of two cops while they are investigating the crime scene of the latest victim of The Match Maker, a serial killer who strangles females and poses their corpses to look like they’re on a date with a male mannequin. It’s no wonder the feds are so ready to believe that one of their best agents killed two cops, what with his habit of collecting dead birds and scarabs of metal, and stuffing them in his coat pockets.
So Ethan goes on the run, to catch the real killer and prove his innocence. As he follows the trail of the killer (playing CSI minigames along the way), he encounters the local homeless population, who are quite homicidal. But that won’t get Ethan down, he’s more than happy to go to town on their smelly impoverished asses, and take any dead birds or scraps of metal they might have.
The level before the finale is the greatest part. You track down the serial killer to his house out in podunk nowhere, a creepy almost abandoned shack that has cryptic writing on the walls that you need to follow with your UV light to get all the clues and put them together to find his secret hideout. The atmosphere is great, it’s all dark and windy outside, making the shutters on the windows creak and slam open and shut; the floorboards creak, and you’re not sure if the creak you just heard was your own or if someone else is in the house. This house cranks up the creepiness factor to 11, and it climaxes with you and the serial killer alone with each other in the house. It becomes a game of cat and also cat, as you stalk the hallways, hoping to get the jump on the killer, with the constant paranoia that he might be right behind you.
- Released: 2005
- System: Xbox 360 (Later ported to PC)
- Publisher: SEGA