Monday, February 1, 2010

Game review: Condemned and Condemned 2


Blogger's note: This a review for Condemned the game, not Condemned the movie. I haven't seen the movie, and judging by the trailer I don't want to either. 

Out of all the games that I've played so far, Condemned is the one that scares me the most. The atmosphere is creepy, the plot is interesting, and you really have to become part of the madness in order to beat it. For me, personally, the freakiest level has to be the school, and the words, ‘Loose lips sink ships' will always make me cringe for the rest of my life.

The player stars as Ethan Thomas, an FBI agent who is on the trail of a serial killer called the matchmaker, who pairs his tortured victims with mannequins (shudder). Before Ethan can get very far in his investigation, a stranger intercepts him, frames him for murder, and throws him out the window and into a world where everyone wants to bash his brains out.

Before I dive too deep, I do have to get one detail out of the way.


Yes, unfortunately, there is a small flaw in the character models which make both Ethan and his associate Rosa look seriously overweight. To make it more jarring, every other character in this game is relatively thin, so it's not as if the designers were incapable of creating Ethan the same way either. Not only that, but in most scenes Ethan's weight gain is not proportional to the rest of him, making him look unintentionally freakish at times.

If you go into this game expecting a first-person shooter, you will be slaughtered. Guns are few and far between, and the ones you do find are conveniently empty of all but one bullet. Nope, melee weapons are going to be your best friend in this game, and your opponents are surprisingly good with them as well. But not to worry-knowing full well that Ethan is obviously being set up, his fellow police officers will help him at every single opportunity.

Ha. Yeah right.

Final Grade: 4 1/2 out of 5. Overall, a great game, spooky with just one minor design flaw.


Blogger's note: Spoilers for the ending.

Great news! Realizing his public image was suffering, Ethan Thomas gives up his coffee-and-donuts diet and replaces it with cocaine-and-booze. Wait, what?

That's right, life hasn't really been going too well for Ethan, who spends most of his evenings passed out in bars and looking for exciting new real estate in the cardboard box industry. However, that is interrupted by a call from his ‘mentor'. And by mentor, the game means a guy who showed up very occasionally in Condemned 1 sprouting riddles and eventually betraying Ethan with a shovel over the head. Huh. Anyway, said ‘mentor' is in trouble, which sparks a whole new adventure of horror.

Condemned 2 suffers from the exact same problems as F.E.A.R 2-too short and an easy boss fight. I wish I could say that was the only problem, but the level of bone-chilling tension is significantly reduced when compared to the first game. Condemned 2 goes to great length to explain the madness behind Condemned 1 (screwing that up I might add), and once that madness is understood, it is no longer feared. In addition, the game replays some of the old tricks and levels in the first game, which really doesn't add much to my overall experience.

That being said, there are some nice scary moments in the game, the doll warehouse being my favorite. Ethan's boozed-induced hallucinations are a treat as well. The puzzles are also a huge improvement over the first game, requiring you to actually think rather than be told what to do.

But it's the ending that really suffers. At the end of Condemned 1, it was established that Ethan was part of a greater darkness that might one day consume him. At the end of Condemned 2, we get absolutely nothing. Somehow we've gone from drug-addicts acting crazier than usual to mystic cults, medieval sword fights, chosen ones, and government conspiracies all in one game. Then the President has a heart attack. Ethan, who couldn't care less at this point, takes a nap and the game ends.

FINAL GRADE: 3 out of 5-very minor improvements, but not an improvement over the first game at all.

Thanks to Condemned, I now have to beat up all the mannequins in a department store before I can shop there. 

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