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Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins

You might think this review is over 6 months late, but since the game’s price has been cut in half and we didn’t bring you a review before now is a good chance to check this game out. With all the mediocre quality launch games Condemned was a pleasant surprise. The shopkeeper looked strange at me when I told him I wanted this game to crack Junks’ skulls in with a claw hammer. “But this is no regular fps” he said, I nodded and took the game home with me.

In Condemned you’ll play an FBI agent named Ethan Thomas who is assigned to the serial crimes division. You are the best cop of your division with a solving rate way higher than anybody else’s. You’ll start off in the game by following a colleague to a crime scene through a dark sewerlike set of corridors. A young woman has been murdered by a serial killer who left a couple of clues behind like you see in the typical serial killer movies like ‘the Bone Collector’. After a couple of dialogues and using your investigation tools which I’ll get to later, you’ll quickly get distracted by some noises you hear upstairs and supposedly the killer is still in the building. You head upstairs with your colleague and a cop who was guarding the building and you decide to split up to catch the killer. You’ll encounter some hostiles and finally you’re in the position where the killer is pointing a gun at you. Your 2 friends try to rescue you but they’re shot by the killer and you’re framed for murder. And that’s the beginning of the first out of ten chapters from this game. In the following chapters you’re trying to clear your name, find out why you’re so goddamn good at solving mysteries, why you’re being helped by a guy named Malcolm Vanhorn and why lots of people try to kill you.

Killing your enemies

When you first start playing the game it’s a little weird why all these weird zombielike dudes on steroids are attacking you. It appears it’s some kind of ‘virus’ that is twisting the minds of those left behind by society. So don’t feel guilty when you splatter one’s guts across the wall. During your investigation you’ll encounter a lot of hostiles, and you have various ways of killing them. Your standard gear comes with a taser, which will stun your opponents for a short period of time. To finish them off you’ll need something else, and by something I mean anything larger than approximately 20cm. A crowbar, steampipe, paper cutter or even a mannequin arm are a few examples of skullsmashing goodness. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and you can do your finishing move. Your opponent gets dizzy and you can choose 4 different ‘fatalities’ like breaking his neck or smashing his skull. This made me laugh even the 100th time I did this.

But the game has some guns too, not as fun as melee combat, but it can make some situations a lot easier. Most of these guns can be found in trashcans, lockers or other less usual places, unlike normal shooters where guns are rotating with stars around them in the middle of a corridor. You’re also unable to reload your weapons, you’re stuck with the ammo already in the gun. But no problem when your gun is empty and there’s still a guy trying to wack you, just use the back end of your gun and give it a swing. When you cracked your gun there’s always your mighty foot which you can use to kick him in the balls. But you should definitely keep in mind that most of the time you’ll have to use melee weapons so don’t think of this game as a regular FPS.

The excitement

The suspense in this game is just marvelous. When you’re walking down a dark hallway equipped with a pipe and you suddenly hear some glass cracking behind you, you turn around and you’ll only see a shadow quickly disappearing around the corner. You can’t see him anymore, but your Dolby 5.1 system tells you he’s trying to get behind you. You quickly face the direction the sound is coming from, you see the scumbag trying to make a swing at your face, but you respond with your right bumper which tasers him, giving you enough time to end his miserable life.

There is this one chapter in the game which is just amazingly scary. I suggest you make sure you don’t have a pacemaker, play at night, turn up the volume, kill all the lights and enter the chapter called ‘Bart’s department store’. When playing this level you will get scared, you will shit your pants and you will have to pause it occasionally. Worst scene in the store is a corridor where you just know and feel what is going to happen and it still scares you stiff, and you’ll surely feel your heart in your throat after you’re done with that one. Words can not describe how amazingly well Monolith, the company behind this game have created such a great atmosphere.


As said before you’ll have the ability to use investigation tools. With these tools you can analyse fingerprints, follow bloodtracks and some other stuff which will help you with unravel the mysteries in this game. You’ll get help from Rosa while doing this. She’s one of your colleagues who still believes in you and is helping you put together all the pieces. One of your tools has the ability to smell decaying flesh, and this is used sometimes for finding dead birds. These birds are scattered throughout the whole game, 6 for every chapter. You can obtain them to earn achievements and unlock extra content. There are also 3 metal plates hidden in every chapter, these can also be gathered for extra achievement points and unlockable content. They’re fairly easy to find but you’ll have to look in every chamber and occasionally you’ll have to slide a deskdrawer to the side to find one. Almost every plate is surrounded by drawings of eyes staring at you.


The game has some downsides as well. The biggest problem for me were the occasional frame drops. When you’re in a room that has all kinds of fancy lightning and your strolling around you’ll notice the game will stutter a bit. Not that it makes it unplayable, but it can be a little annoying, especially for me since it was my first Xbox 360 game and I thought I had bought this godlike uber console with mad processing power. The second problem is the ‘melee mayhem award’, this award seems to have a little bug in it. According to the description you’ll only have to find all weapons but in practice you’ll need to swing them as well. You’ll also need to play the game in the correct order to get this achievement, in contrary to the other achievements which can be obtained by playing the levels in random order. Also not a very big deal, only for achievement whores. The third and most important problem is the game doesn’t have any lasting appeal. You’ll only need about 10-15 hours to complete this game on your first run, but after that there’s not much left to do except getting all of the achievements or try to get on top of the leaderboards by killing the most guys.


Especially with its low price, I’d recommend you buy this game immediately if you’re into horror games. The story, although a bit short has some nice plot twists and there’s enough action to keep you busy between the moments where you’re refreshing your pants because of the scary stuff. Combined with the atmospheric visuals and the superb sound this game is still one of the best games around on the Xbox 360.

Final Score: 9 out of 10 - Very Good (how do we rank games?) Condemned: Criminal Origins newsvine:Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins furl:Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins reddit:Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins fark:Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins Y!:Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins gamegrep:Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins

26 comments on 'Review: Condemned: Criminal Origins'

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Comment by Ninjertbh on 2006-06-14 15:00:58 | Reply

This was by far one of the scariest games I’ve ever played. A tad short unfortunately, but the whole experience makes up for it.

Comment by MrMoen on 2006-06-14 18:52:09 | Reply

I just started playing FEAR, but I cant imagine it beeing starier than Condemned.

Comment by The M.A.R.T. on 2006-06-14 15:10:24 | Reply

So can we pick it up in the Netherlands also for half of the original price already? And if so, where?

Also I saw that Kameo would be 30 dollars or so. Anyone seen that one around in the Netherlands somewhere? MediaMarkt maybe?

Not yet in the netherlands as far as I know, only Amped and King Kong can be found for around €30.

Comment by The M.A.R.T. on 2006-06-14 15:18:14 | Reply

Too bad. Let’s just wait then Kameo and Condemned, that would be nice, 2 games for the price of one :)

Comment by Smiley Dave on 2006-06-14 15:42:35 | Reply

played it, didnt get all achievement but worth the money

Comment by Studley on 2006-06-14 15:44:21 | Reply

“9 out of 10 - AVERAGE”? Boy you guys have high standards :D

Have you read the ‘how we rank games’? And why would you rate it lower?

Comment by Studley on 2006-06-14 16:06:53 | Reply

Shouldn’t it say “9 out of 10 - Very Good” then ;)

I mean, 9 out of 10 isn’t very average is it!

Lol you’re right :D

Comment by Peewee on 2006-06-14 16:10:09 | Reply

according to the How do we Rank games article, a 9 is Very Good, en a 6 is average.

Yep we do have very high standards. As such I have fired Rival24 for screwing up on his copy/paste and fixed the score ;)

Comment by Studley on 2006-06-14 16:51:47 | Reply

Could’ve been worse, it would’ve been appropriate if you had bludgeoned his head with a fire extinguisher…

On topic then. I couldn’t get into Condemned. It’s certainly an original and interesting game, but I’m not really into horror/puzzle crossovers (as much as I loved decapitating zombies in Resident Evil, I was rubbish at the puzzle-solving, so quickly got bored… which is why I’m looking forward to Dead Rising).

If we get a price cut in the UK (which is very very very x1000 unlikely), I might give it another chance sometime.

Actually, some weird guy behind the counter tried to flog me Condemned for its new price, I said no, I want table tennis, he laughed.

I’m glad you reviewed this, it is an excellent game. The 18 cert. is well deserved.

Comment by somedude on 2006-06-14 18:49:54 | Reply

This game is definitely worth playing. It was possibly the scariest game I’ve ever played. The atmosphere is incredible. I actually had to have my dog in the room when I played the game. It was just too intense. Of course that could be because I was playing it alone in a small dark room with 5.1 surround sound and the game projected onto a 120″ screen…

Hell yeah, 9 well earned! It’s never too late to play (or review for that matter) this game! One of the best, maybe the best of the first line of games.

Gave it a 9 also. :)

Comment by apebapestas on 2006-06-14 20:33:06 | Reply

this game scared the crap out of me in the later levels. I went through it like 3 or 4 times but still missed a few achievements but theres no way in hell im goin through it again. I HATE THE APPLE ORCHARD LEVEL AND THE SCHOOL. Freaky ish if u ask me.

I have my worst memories from Bart’s… but yeah the whole second half of the game is bitchin freaky: the burnt library corridors, the school, the orchard… aaaah :X

Is it possible that FEAR can beat this in terms of “scary-ness”?

Nah, I’ve played FEAR on my PC, it’s fun but not very scary. I think the main reason for Condemned being scary is the melee combat.

Comment by zaknafein on 2006-06-14 22:15:25 | Reply

I live in the U.S. and everywhere I look the game is still $59.99. Is it half price in the US or just in Europe?

Ridge Racer 6 and Condemned: Criminal Origins are now available for only $39,99 at some of the bigger retailers like EB Games, GameStop, Best Buy and Amazon.;v=glance&n=468642

Comment by mtbjunkie on 2006-06-15 05:28:09 | Reply

This game is great, it was one of my first buys. I had allot of fun and had poo in my pants more than once. I dont remember there being online play though which was really dumb. graphics where great for a first round 360 game.

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