Condemned: Criminal Origins

released on Nov 16, 2005

Investigate crime scenes, collect evidence, and bring to light the murderers terrorizing the city as Detective Ethan Thomas. With danger lurking around every corner, you’ll need whatever weapons you can find to stay alive.

What twists the mind of an ordinary human into a serial killer? Assigned to the Serial Crimes Unit, Agent Ethan Thomas must answer this question, and bring the worst of society to justice. His solve rate is the best in the bureau....perhaps too good.

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the BEST horror game that is severely underrated
thank you pyrocynical for letting me discover this game

A nice detective horror game. I like the hobos all over the place.

This is definitely one of my favorite horror games of the past few generations. It's so gritty and the atmosphere is damn oppressive. Plus it has pretty unique combat. I found the story to be fantastic too, taking huge inspiration from Se7en.

Monolith was really in their bag back in 2005. Between this and FEAR they released two of the best horror games on the Xbox 360. Although this is definitely the weaker of the two it’s a great launch title and it’s amazing how well it holds up today. Sometimes less is indeed more.
The biggest pro of this game is how incredibly immersive it is. The first person perspective is actually perfect for this game and the environments and lighting still look shockingly good today in 2023. The atmosphere is top notch all the way through with no weak points. You make your way through abandoned buildings, back alleys, a library and of course the stand out abandoned department store. Every single area is oppressively dark and grimy with each one feeling like it was once lived it before it went to shit.
The sound design also elevates the game with some incredible surround sound work where you’re constantly looking over your shoulder hearing footsteps surround you and cans and other debris roll across the ground. Murderous addicts mumbling to themselves and panting as they try to get the drop on you never stops being eerie giving high levels of tension as your character SLOWLY explores the environment.
The level design is linear with just enough exploring to keep it fresh. You can find collectibles, secret rooms and staches of health or guns to give you the upper hand.
The main gameplay loop is the brutal 1st person melee combat which is very simple but always feels meaty and deliberate. Everything in the environment can be used as a weapon with each having unique stats. Large items like desk tops and locker doors are slow but deal more damage and block more effectively. Smaller items like pipes and 2x4s swing quicker. You’re also equipped with a taser that recharges. This is a great tool for crowd control. It never stops being fun tasing a maniac and then grabbing his fire arm while he’s stunned and then blowing him away with it.
The AI is excellent as well as they will retreat when they are disarmed and seek out items in the environment to wield. They will also retreat when you get the upper hand and hide behind corners or pillars to get the jump on you. They will also fake like they are swinging to throw off your block timing. Really good stuff even if it’s simple it’s always satisfying. I’m glad the game doesn’t get too deep and bogged down in extra mechanics.
Last thing to touch on is the detective aspect of the game. All in all it’s pretty weak as it holds your hand for the most part. The correct forensic tool will be auto selected for you and there’s no real agency or way to mess up. There’s a few sections that you have to follow clues or trails with a UV light that are pretty good but overall the detective sections are bare bones and a missed opportunity albeit being nice at breaking up the pacing of the combat and making you feel pretty immersed.
I definitely love the simplicity of this game and the dark grungy atmosphere much like the movie se7en hunting down serial killers even if the plot kinda jumps the shark in the 3rd act. The gameplay is straightforward but fun and it wraps up at the perfect time just under 7 hours.

condemned can be, understandably, a tough pill to swallow today, even with the ex-cop angle being handled as gracefully as possible within the confines of the story monolith were intent on telling. the matter of gamifying incredibly grounded, horrific violence against opponents who are passively coded with signs and signifiers typically ascribed in media to addicts, the mentally ill, or the unhoused is..... problematic to say the least
it's an intentionally grotesque game that conjures environments and scenarios that often feel pulled from a mix of televised procedural shlock, midnight grindhouse features, and fevered NIMBY paranoia. while I don't think condemned has serious interest in anything outside of the pulp aesthetics of derelict buildings and pathogenic violence, it doesn't surprise me that people often interpret it uncharitably, and I don't have any grievance with that interpretation. after all, if it looks like a dog and barks like a dog, maybe its a fuckin dog, and maybe that dog looks like it hates marginalized people at first glance?
but unlike the bullish nixonian loathing that games like intravenous explicitly espouse, and milsim tacticool games wink and nod to, in condemned it really is, for better or worse, archetypal window dressing: the regurgitated muck of a thousand tales of dirty cops, dirtier crooks, and supernaturally dirty cities that house them, with the explanation itself being significantly closer to lovecraftian madness than frank miller politics despite the crass veneer. less indictment of any class of person than a broad stroke of reductive nihilism; these people could be anyone
in school, fist fights and wrestling matches were the norm. slugging it out with guys who seemed twice my height and weight, getting dropped on my head and being told "don't go to sleep". noses running blood like a spigot, someone running over to tell me how many teeth just got spit out onto the asphalt. a sucker punch causing a friend's braces to shred his lips and cheek, knives pulled, guns threatened, a softball bat disarmed and turned against its owner. violence was equally stochastic and meaningless
much like with manhunt or outlast, this distorted hyperviolence presented in all its tooth loosening, nose imploding ghoulishness scans as a lot more sincere to me than the weirdly detached or sanitized "awesome" fare the medium tends to gravitate to, effectively digging its heels in on the side of material violence vs. the idealized violence of its contemporaries
condemned skips over the fetishism and goes straight to the nausea. there's a notion that stripping the player of options creates a more terrifying situation, but there's nothing scarier than having all the resources at your disposal and realizing with every desperate swing of whatever the fuck you could get your hands on that it might not be enough. the game conveys the panicked frenzy of violence, the flailing, the improvisation, the blackout chaos that drives thumbs in eyes and cracks heads on concrete. the shit normal people do when the chips are down
it's not sophisticated, clearly, and if it has any considerable artistic aspirations they're closer to fincher than anyone with tact, but like fincher it's inarguably deft
I'm not gonna convince no one, and thankfully I'm not interested in convincing no one, but for my tastes condemned is the medium's best yet example of horror at its most raw, pointless, and physical. an ode to the simplest body horror there is: the absolute frailty of life and limb and that which intends to shatter it