Condemned: Criminal Origins

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JaySevenZero
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Condemned: Criminal Origins

Post by JaySevenZero »

Here's where you can contribute your thoughts and opinions for Condemned: Criminal Origins for potential inclusion in the forthcoming podcast.

A friendly reminder that where the feedback for the podcast is concerned, we love it - but keeping it brief is appreciated. We do want to include a breadth of opinions where appropriate, but no-one wants a discussion podcast that’s mostly reading out essays. Better to save yourself time and cut to the chase if you can.

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Quiet Paul
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Re: 492 - Condemned: Criminal Origins

Post by Quiet Paul »

One of the true original modern horrors. This is a game that really creeped me out when I first got it in 2006. With clear influences from such films as Se7en, Hellraiser and Silence of the Lambs, it was one of the few early horror games to really nail atmosphere for me.

Playing it now, in comparison to games that have come since, it still holds a sense of creepiness and dread for what lurks in the darkness or what’s around the next corner, but every flaw it has stands out a lot more nowadays. Aged like a fine cheese, it holds a place in my classic horror games list.

I’ll start with what I like about it. The settings are well detailed. Each location in the game is a condemned building crawling with psychotic homeless drug addicts. Like Ethan, they believe they are forced to fight for their lives. I loved the train station, the library, the department store and the school. The atmosphere in these places is so thick, even with little to no music at all, when you hear the floors round about you creaking, the pattering of bare feet on concrete, the heavy breathing of some crazy person hiding somewhere as you know someone or something is waiting for you nearby with ill intentions.

As hit and miss (excuse the pun) as the melee can be, when it works, it works well. I mostly stayed in a pattern of attack, step back out of reach then attack again. I never relied on the blocking mechanic much as it seemed to arbitrarily block some shots and not others. If outnumbered you can always use the handy stun gun which is way overpowered but it can definitely save your bacon! Worst comes to worst though, Ethan has an extendable leg he can throw out his chest and knock back most enemies.

The environmental weapons are a brilliant means to make you feel like you are right in amongst this world with these cracked up enemies. Each level had its own favourite weapon for me. My fall back was always the large pipe or gas pipe, it works well with how I fought people. I did think it was a bit mad though that I really required a sledgehammer to destroy a padlock but the shotgun I picked up wasn’t up to the task but it does make for a few tense combat encounters with the hard hitting enemies knowing they have what you need and it’s up to you to get it! – Well, to a point. You can really just taser them and take the weapon right off them.

You get actual real rewards for picking up collectibles in the game and getting Achievements! Also, on the Series X it takes less than 2 seconds from when you press ‘Continue Game’ to actually playing. I’m not sure if this was the same on PC(?) but I was mighty impressed to going instantly from menu to in-game.

Now for the other stuff. The environments do look nice, however, the characters look like arse. Even at the time I remember thinking Ethan looked like what I imagine someone would look like with the body of a rugby player with the head of a dense concrete block and a face that someone has hastily constructed from plasticine.

During the first level when the suspect makes a break for it up the fire escape Detective Dickenson changes his mind and decides not to get back up but to split up and send Ethan to get the power to the building back on, for some reason. The detective could easily have ended the whole game by just waiting 10 minutes until back up arrived, covering all the exits and waiting!

The first enemy encounter in the game makes me laugh out loud every time. [incoherent shouting in background]
Ethan: “Federal Agent. Come out peacefully or I will use force!”
Enemy: “Fuck you!” :lol:

Later, in the same level, when the suspect has Ethan’s gun and has him pinned against a wall, the police kick down the door behind him and tell him to drop the gun while aiming their guns at him. The suspect then turns and points his gun at the police and shoots them both… Eventually. Between the time he’s aimed his gun and actually fired it, the police could quite easily have gone to the toilet, had their union sponsored cigarette and coffee break, came back and emptied their clips into the suspect before he bothers to pull the trigger. Also I’m pretty sure he just aimed in the general direction of the police and not directly at them, so I guess both policemen just died of embarrassment or something.

Rosa has a five o’clock shadow.

Thanks to the extras gained from getting achievements it showed the motion capture of the last boss which had him Filipino stick fighting. Even in game it looked relatively impressive, however, despite his fancy skills with a metal stick, his moves were completely negated by me running into his face and mashing the hit button and defeating him quite easily.

According to an article I read: on average throughout the whole of the US there are between 25 – 50 active serial killers at any one time. There are 5 total serial killers mentioned throughout this game (The Matchmaker, The Torturer, The Roadside Carver, The Bone-Cutter and SKX). The idea then must be considered that, on the minimum basis, around one fifth of all the United States’ serial killers reside in just Metro City. Or did, before Serial Killer X gave them what for.

Whilst of course I am being droll and facetious about some stuff that hasn’t aged quite as well, I absolutely recommend Condemned and Condemned 2. These games are a precursor of future classics such as, Amnesia and Outlast. The Outlast games taking quite a few influences from Condemned and they’re some of my favourite modern horror games. Condemned’s atmosphere, settings, audio and the enemies are so drenched in dread that with headphones on, playing in the dark, on hard mode will leave you exhausted by the end. You will be scared but not for what you can see, but what you can’t.

Shame Monolith couldn’t get NIN for the opening title sequence.

3WR: Killer be killed

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RinseWashRepeat
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Re: 492 - Condemned: Criminal Origins

Post by RinseWashRepeat »

I know a lot of people talk about Chronicles of Riddick as 'the' example of first person melee (or at least they did), but for me, Condemed was the real blueprint for how it's done. Each swing and impact felt like it had real momentum. Unlike other games with first person melee, I never struggled with gauging if enemies were out of range or not and whilst the on-screen action got hectic, I never found it confusing.

It had atmosphere in spades - just don't ask me any questions about the game's characters or story. I don't think it has either.

Games like Outlast and RE7 really owe Condemed a great debt.

3WR - Swing rebar bent.

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Tolkientaters
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Re: 492 - Condemned: Criminal Origins

Post by Tolkientaters »

This is an interesting game I've been meaning to play for a while, so when I saw it was coming up on Cane and Rinse I played it on PC.

It's a pretty good looking game (character models aside) with some nice atmosphere, the melee combat was great, I liked the level design; how sections were gated off by needing certain weapons, and the limited use of guns was a clever design choice. The first half of the game was a little bland, but the last half was a big improvement with more interesting environments and enemy encounters.

For the negative aspects the story, characters, and attempts at horror didn't work for me at all. There was one interesting scare that was so heavily telegraphed it lost all impact, I thought F.E.A.R. was a lot more effective as a horror game. The final boss was pretty janky and it definitely took too long (at least 50 swings) to trigger his kneeling animation which made it feel like I was doing something wrong and not damaging him.

On a more serious not, It's a fairly tropey idea for people with mental illnesses and drug addiction to be the enemies in video games, but it's a pretty gross trope and it's very present here.

Aside from that big issue it's a solid game that I enjoyed but I'd struggle to recommend unless someone just wanted a good first person melee game.

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matten zwei
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Re: 492 - Condemned: Criminal Origins

Post by matten zwei »

Playing videogames in the mid 2000s in Germany was a somewhat patronizing hobby. Condemned was one of many other games at the time, that were confiscated due to its violence. The fact, that a game could be so violent, that it was prohibited to distribute or even mention it in Germany, made it interesting for me. So I went to Denmark and bought myself a copy of this forbidden fruit. It turned out to be a game I just barely dared to play.

To be honest, I had no clue what this game was about when I bought and I might not even really know it to this day. The investigation-scene in the beginning already reminded me of my favourite thrillers, I am sure you guys already mentioned. Gameplay wise it felt a bit like a 3D-point-and-click-adventure for me, which might not be the most anticipated mechanic, but it sets the tone and atmosphere for the game, which is one of reasons I play videogames.

Despite the horrifying crime scene and Lt. Rosas depiction of the suspect, the most disturbing part so far, where Ethans fingernails, when he holds his phone. Otherwise I was really pleased with the game until the first addict showed up and ran towards me with a plank. I tried to shot him, but was to surprised, scared and stressed to hit him. With an empty gun, I had no idea how I was supposed to finish him off, so he hit me multiple times until I died.

I sat there with my heart pounding and the gamepad in my sweaty hands and thought: "This is too scary. There is no way I'll play this all by myself." Luckily, a friend of mine was also interested in banned games, so he came over and we started all over again. As we got further in the game, we've got used to the gameplay and began to taser everything that moved and yelled at us. The game became easier and easier, we managed to stun enemies, so we could execute them with a finishing-move, collected dead birds for whatever reason and had a really good time.

On one evening I was so desperate to play this game further and since my buddy wasn't around that day, I tried on my own. As soon, as I spawned in a subway and one of the addicted maniacs came cursing towards me, I turned off the console and said to myself: "Naah, it would be nasty to play this without him." So I rather watched some old Spongebob-episodes that night.

After all, I truly find this game to be one of my favourites. Yes, the gameplay is far from perfect, the facial animations hasn't aged very well, the characters are forgettable and some of the bosses, if not all of the, might be a bit out of place. However, the game tried something different and I think we can all agree, that its atmosphere is quite coherent. It makes you feel uncomfortable at all times.

Condemned's music in the menu actually fit this game very well. Its jazzy vibraphones are like the games film-noir-elements during the investigations. Its industrial beats are like the grim melee-fights against the addicts. Would I recommend playing it? Definitely!

my three word review is:
Taser, Hit, Repeat!

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Magical_Isopod
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Re: 492 - Condemned: Criminal Origins

Post by Magical_Isopod »

I'll be putting some more detailed notes on this game as I (re-)play it, but I wanted to talk about getting this game to run...

Playing Condemned in 2021 is a serious hassle. The 360 version just works, and that much of it is great. But MAN is this version ugly. Even by 2005 standards. So I strongly recommend the PC version... But even that's a trial.

There's some really great mods to fix various technical issues and upscale the graphics. These work great. But I encountered a bug that would cause the framerate to drop to single-digits after a few minutes. Apparently, this is a known issue with Monolith-developed games of the mid-00s. For some reason, having a Logitech-brand input device connected to your computer causes this to happen. Why? Who knows. But it's never been patched. You have to manually seek out a .dll file to fix this. It's dumb.

I'm gonna play this game to completion, but it's definitely been frustrating so far.

Update: The game just crashes after Chapter 2 without fail now, so I'm just going to give up on this one. I remember enjoying it when I played like a decade ago, but my experience this time around felt rather dull relative to all the prep work I put into it. Alas.

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Megadirt
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Re: Our next podcast recording (23.10.21): 492 - Condemned: Criminal Origins

Post by Megadirt »

Condemned was so popular when the Xbox 360 launched that my manager in GAME didn’t allow me to buy it on day 1, as every single launch console bundle relied on chipping away at our finite copies. So I spent that evening playing Perfect Dark Zero, online with my manager, and after a few hours of disillusionment he retired to play Tony Hawk and promised he would sell me Condemned the following day.

I remember it being my first “1000” points on 360 (though if i remember correctly there were only 970 available, but i got them all). The thing that stood out to me most was the ability to seemingly grab any random part of the scenery and run up to the nearest lunatic and batter them like a mars bar. I vaguely remember the birds bursting through a window being the scariest thing I had ever experienced, which didn’t last long because the mannequins rudely shifting positions when I wasn’t looking and then moving while I was looking has never left me. Andrew McCarthy would have had a very different experience in this department store, even without the distorted christmas music.

I havent thought about it much since the launch era of xbox 360 games, but i remember it very fondly and I’d be scared to play it again in case it has aged as brutally as I have in the past 15 years.

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DeadpoolNegative
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Re: Our next podcast recording (23.10.21): 492 - Condemned: Criminal Origins

Post by DeadpoolNegative »

I bought Condemned: Criminal Origins a while ago when it was only $4.99 on a sale, played it for a while but found the first person combat to be too fiddly for me. I don't like how I can't hold the block, or more accurately that the block is so quick. But playing it again for the podcast, I found myself getting into it more, now that I am able to get the timing down.

Condemned is that elusive first person fighting game. Previous games like Escape from Butcher Bay and Breakdown tried, while Butcher Bay was fun it didn't quite stick the landing. Condemed's swing/blocking system can at times be unfairly crude, but if you can figure out the rhythms, and remember that the taser exists, which I often didn't for some reason, it's a satisfying gameplay loop.

The creators of this game really set out to create a Seven or Saw simulator, and of the 16 years since the game's release, the grimly atmosphere really holds up. Everything feels so grimy and lost. On the one hand - is there ANY inhabitable building in this city?- but on the other, the more you trudge through it, the more it gets under your skin. The lack of incidental music is a huge plus. I enjoy a good moody score as much as the next guy, but the fact that there's so little of it mirrors the idea that it's just Ethan Thomas, the only seemingly sane person in a city full of mad men. So very, very alone, cut off from his fellow police with only a voice on the other end of the cell phone giving him information. At any moment, a crazy person could bash his head in.

The investigation mechanic is the one aspect of the gameplay that hasn't aged all that well. At first I found it kind of intriguing, but it only amounted to mostly lining the analog sticks up until I heard a buzz and clicked the right trigger, which triggered more exposition from Rosa. The investigation segments are to be commended for trying to break up the grind of wandering through the wreckage trying to avoid getting your head taken off, but I began to dislike them near the end.

Tokay, there is one other thing that hasn't aged well- the graphics. the environments are still nice, but the character models, ooooooof. I know this was 2005 but I often cringe at the cut scenes where the characters speak. Ethan in the game looks like his voice actor, Greg Grunberg, if you ordered Greg Grunberg off Wish.

As I said earlier, the game feels like a Saw simulator, much like Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a Texas Chainsaw Massacre simulator. Our hero is confounded by a killer with a twisted moral code... but it turns out Ethan himself is a bigger part of the story than he or the player realizes. Very familiar stuff, and threatens to become almost comical, but again the atmosphere, the tension, the gameplay loop carries you through it.

I appreciate Monolith for trying something new with Condemned and producing a game that, surprisingly, holds up if you'll willing to power through the rough edges and let it cast its spell on you.

Also, mannequin arms and coat racks are deadly weapons- who knew?

--Dan

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