Condemned PC DVD-ROM

Published by SEGA
Developed by Monolith Productions
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Condemned, an introduction.

One of the games that stood out for it’s originality at the launch of the Xbox 360 was Condemned. It wasn’t a FPS or a driving game or a multi-platform title; it was an action game with a definite blood-chilling quality to it. In fact Condemned was definitely one of the better Xbox 360 launch titles. It’s no surprise then that the game has now found its way to the PC.

What’s the game about?

Condemned puts you in the shoes of FBI Agent Ethan Thomas. Thomas has been assigned to the Serial Crimes Unit and is charged with bringing the worst serial killer to justice. It’s certainly no easy task and it all goes horribly wrong in the first chapter. Whilst Thomas is on the hunt for the killer two police officers that are with him are murdered. Owing to an accident he has early in the mission Thomas loses his gun and it’s with his gun that his fellow police officers are killed. Naturally, as his gun has been used for the killings he’s the prime suspect. From the second chapter onwards, Thomas is alone. He does however have the assistance of Rosa, an expert lab technician who will make sense of any evidence that he finds during the game. The game isn’t just a straightforward hunt for a murderer though. The various dark and derelict locations you’ll find yourself in are filled with psychopaths that think nothing of picking up any kind of heavy implement and charging towards you in an attempt to finish you off. Believe me when I say there hasn’t quite been an experience like it to date.

What’s good about the game?

Condemned is definitely one of the most terrifying games I’ve played. During the game you’re attacked by all kinds of psychos who simply want to kill you with anything they can get their hands on. Nothing original there you may say, but the AI is quite sophisticated and knows how to block your attacks as well as how to avoid them. It can’t be emphasised enough that the game isn’t a FPS and is almost completely mêlée in nature. There are moments when you can use firearms but these are few and far between and you’ll never find any ammo, so once you’ve used the ammo in gun you’re back to using anything you can find as a weapon (you can only hold one weapon at a time). Items such as crowbars, shovels, planks and pipes can all be picked up and used to swing at your enemy. The mêlée nature of the game also adds to the fear factor as you have to stay in close quarters with these psychos. Thankfully you have a device known as a Taser, which emits an electrical charge that will temporarily stun your enemy. This is a great aid in taking out single enemies but when you’re attacked by multiple enemies it’s not quite so effective. Using the Taser will deplete its charge, so you can’t use it constantly. It does recharge when not in use though.

What also adds to the fear factor is that at any given time you can be attacked. The location of the enemies isn’t as tightly scripted as in other horror games so you simply never know when you’re going to come under attack. This causes you to be constantly nervous and twitchy and it really instills a feeling of absolute fear. The enemies will sometimes wait for you to be in a position where you are easily cornered, which is definitely a tense experience. The combat isn’t just a case of wildly swinging a weapon. You have to block moves and make use of the Taser. You can sidestep an enemy and you can also aim your attacks at specific parts of the body. There are also some finishing moves that you can perform. To add additional suspense to the game, most of the time you’re in very dark locations. Thomas has a flashlight (that can be used even when you have a weapon in your hand as it’s fastened to your shoulder strap) but this will only light up a small area and it still makes it possible for enemies to avoid detection.

To give you respite from the fear and taking enemies out with just about any implement you can find, you are also tasked with collecting evidence. Thomas has forensic tools such as a 3D scanner, a UV light, a laser light, a digital camera and a sampler (which examines the chemical makeup of a piece of evidence) that can be used. When you’re in a situation where evidence can be gathered you’re prompted to use the appropriate piece of equipment. Using these forensic tools is as simple as could be, you can’t really go wrong in fact, so if you’re playing the game just for the action you needn’t worry about there being progress halting puzzles. The game still uses the checkpoint save system that the Xbox 360 used but it also allows for quicksaving too, although this does take away some of the fear as you can simply tap the quicksave key whenever you feel the need to.

What’s not so good about the game?

Those expecting Condemned to be an all guns blazing FPS (although standard FPS controls have been used) will be disappointed as this is something the game was never intended to be. The level design could have been better to be perfectly honest and there are times where it can become a little disorientating because corridors and rooms you are passing through are very similar to those you’ve already passed through, which makes it tricky to get your bearings at times. The game could have been longer too. You’ll get approximately 10-12 hours from the game on your first play though. Whilst you could argue the game could have been longer it would have probably felt artificially padded out had the game gone on for another 4 or 5 hours.

How does it look?

Condemned looked fairly good on the Xbox 360 but in fairness it didn’t push the graphical capabilities of the console in any way. The PC version looks pretty much the same as the Xbox 360 when the graphical details are all turned up, although you can set the levels of anti-aliasing which makes the game seem a little sharper than it was on the Xbox 360 version. You’re going to need a hefty PC specification if you want the frame rate to remain smooth though, if you intend running the game with all of the graphical details turned up. For the most part Condemned is a dark and dreary affair. Some locations have shafts of light here and there but most of the time you’ll be relying on your flashlight. The lighting effects in the game look very good. The mêlée combat looks great (due to the character animations and the physics on display) and the level of detail definitely adds a lot to the experience. As we’ve already mentioned, the level design could have been better in terms of its construction.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Like the Xbox 360 version, Condemned on the PC does offer subtitles and as a result you’ll be able to follow the game’s story and be fully aware of what needs to be done. Your HUD shows gauges for your health, endurance and Taser battery charge. Text prompts appear when you can use your forensic tools too. Objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time by pressing the Esc key. As with the Xbox 360 version, there are no captions. Because of the nature of the game many enemies can be heard before they are seen and as a result deaf gamers will definitely be at a disadvantage here, as you won’t be aware of a nearby enemy that’s probably getting ready to charge at you. Sometimes you’ll actually see objects being thrown around, which of course gives a definite indication that enemies are nearby but there are quite a few moments when the only warning can be footsteps or the sound of groaning and deep breathing, which is much more problematic. Don’t get me wrong, the game is far from impossible for deaf games but it is definitely more difficult.

Final thoughts.

Condemned on the PC is just as an intimidating experience as it was on the Xbox 360. With a high-end PC you can have the game looking pretty much the same too. The problems that the Xbox 360 version had are still here though. The disorientating level design and the lack of captions are the major problems. I’m pretty sure most will appreciate the quicksave option that has been added but in some ways it strips some of the fear factor from the game. Overall though it’s the same tense action horror game that you won’t want to play just before you go to bed and if the survival horror genre is to your liking and you didn’t experience the game on the Xbox 360, now’s definitely the time to do so.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Condemned for the PC is pretty much a carbon copy of the game that appeared on the Xbox 360. It’s as intimidating an experience as you’d want from a game. The lack of captions make it a little more difficult for deaf gamers and the system requirements are demanding but if being scared half to death thrills you this is definitely worth playing.