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Condemned: Criminal Origins

Isn\'t he adorable?The Condemned series, so far, has been a pretty intense ride, one that has kept me enthralled for the past few weeks. Today I will go over the first game in the series, Criminal Origins. Criminal Origins (CO) is a solid scary ass game, even though the graphics were not too hot, despite it being on the Xbox360. CO introduced us to all of the basic Condemned gameplay elements, which include brutally painful combat, using items you find just lying around on the floor, as well as the Crime Scene Investigation modes, to collect evidence to help solve the game’s overall case.

Criminal Origins EthanIn Criminal Origins, you play Investigator Ethan Thomas in apparently the worst city that never existed. The city is crawling with homicidal maniac bums everywhere you turn. You are on a case to find a killer named “The Matchmaker” who kills his victims and sets their bodies up in little dioramas with a mannequin of the opposite sex. Very creepy stuff. You apparently have some kind of ability to see what happened at a crime scene during the act, but you can’t really control it, and sometimes it makes you puke. Later on there is a serial killer who is hunting other serial killers as his victims, and it somehow links to something that looks to be a cult.

The best part about this first game is that you literally have no idea what the hell is going on in the background. Besides what I just said, you get no hints or conclusions. No idea what the cult is, no idea why people are going batshit insane, no idea how you got this “power”, no idea why all these dead birds are around (or why you should pick them up), and no idea why you are so important. I mean, you slowly get some propaganda to help try to define the cult, but it doesn’t help. That is what makes this game so unique. It really is a mystery, and remains a mystery through the whole game. Even the ending makes you think “What the hell just happened?!”.

One of the side quests in CO was to find these dead birds, because their corpses began appearing around crime scenes, for no apparent reason. They are somehow connected to the murders going on, but the game never explains them, and I always found it weird that you are collecting them. Same with the metal pieces, until you find out they are part of the propaganda for the cult that we also know nothing about.

Pistol Whip! The combat in the game is one of the most brutal I have ever seen. You literally pick up whatever you find on the ground, and beat people to death with it. This includes pipes, electric conduits, shovels, fire axes, sledgehammers, etc. There are a few guns in the game, but they can also be used to melee. The first thing I did when I played the game was flip my pistol around and pistolwhip all of the enemies in the first level to death. Not as effective as something heavy, but definitely a great feeling (because I’m a serial killer). You cannot reload weapons or hold extra ammo, only check how many shots you have left in your current gun. Guns can also break if you melee for too long with them. I never had a regular melee weapon break on me though.

If you choose to beat someone senseless, sometimes they will fall to their knees, which gives you a choice of four options of what to do with them. This includes breaking their neck, slamming them to the floor, kneeing them in the face, and I forgot the rest. Hell I could be completely wrong besides the necksnap, because that is all I used for instant gratification. The rest just weren’t brutal enough.

It\'s a footprint... from a boot!The other major component of the game is the use of different tools to investigate evidence at different crime scenes. The game does its best to tell you when you can use the tools, so it’s not exactly difficult to use them, but definitely makes you feel like you are really investigating as a detective, and adds a few nice breaks to the endless slaughter found in the rest of the game. You can use the camera to take pictures of evidence, this crazy ass tool with a blacklight to collect samples, and a meter to detect methane to find corpses.

The game had some control issues, such as holding the left joystick to “sprint”, and I use the term lightly, because you move slow as shit the entire game, and “sprinting” is barely as fast as a normal game walk speed. You also couldn’t straight up block in the game, only parry, which meant you had to learn the skill instead of first learning how to just hold block. You get used to it, but it’s not ideal. The game is also incredibly dark, which is expected of a horror game like this, but you also had a flashlight toggle button, but you literally never turn the flashlight off for the entire duration of the game. Why bother letting us control it and waste a vital button to toggle it? The ability to kick also didn’t help too much because it was pretty weak (even though it did sorta stun the guy) and took some time to recover. The most overpowered thing in the game is the taser, because it just had a recharge time, but unlimited uses, and definitely helped ruin some of the harder enemies. You lose it in the last level, and that level was easily 10 times harder because of the lack of taser. Smart Sega bastards.

Overall, this game sucked me right into the series. My friend recommended it (she likes crime scene investigation, plus psychopaths and brutal, bloody violence), and I must say I agree that it is a great game and the combat is rewarding, to us desensitized kids. Within an hour of beating this game, I ran out and bought Condemned 2: Bloodshot, brought it home, and started playing. That review is coming soon.

Pictures courtesy of Gamespot and Xbox Advanced (whatever that is).

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