Game reviews: Condemned: Criminal Origins (PC)

This is a game made by the same company which made F. E. A. R., using the same engine.

+ Has some of the best graphics I have ever seen for the shader model 2 generation of display cards. Especially the first level of the game is a kind of show-off of the game graphics, and it looks superb. As with F. E. A. R. the dynamic lighting and shadows are quite well utilized at places. (As the game progresses, however, the graphics maybe get a bit dull, when the initial wow factor passes.)

+ Has the rather novel idea of emphasizing melee combat over firearms (while there are firearms, they have extremely limited ammo, and there is no ammo laying around, unlike in most other FPS games). While this may sound like a dull idea, it's actually quite well implemented in the game and works quite well.

+ Avoids even more FPS cliches than F. E. A. R. did. (Although still has a bunch of them).

- While they clearly put a lot of effort in the story of the game, somehow I found it a bit hollow in the end. Good idea and a good try, but it just didn't work fully for me. Also, the supernatural overtones were a major letdown. (In my opinion the story and the game would have worked a lot better without any of the supernatural and parapsychological crap. I'm not inherently against the use of those as story-telling devices, but in this particular case they didn't work well at all, IMO.)

- Like F. E. A. R, it tried to be scary at places, but it didn't work at all for me, sorry. (In fact, I don't think that this story even needs to try to be "scary". A psychological thriller and murder mystery would have been just fine.)

- Like in many other games, they introduced a relatively novel idea, in this case the crime scene investigation with related forensic tools, but didn't fully utilize it after all. It had great potential in making the game a lot more interesting, but in the end it was completely underused and just felt artificial and forced. Basically the "crime scene investigation" consisted of pressing a button when the game tells you to do so, search for the bright spot, and press the button again. That's about it. The relatively good basic idea was ruined by a bad implementation. The game would have not been too much different without this.

- Expanding the previous point, the game would have probably been much better if it had concentrated more on the crime scene investigation puzzles and less on melee combat.

- The game was utterly linear and even shorter than F. E. A. R. I completed it in 3 days, while playing something like 3-4 hours per day. (Compare it to Half-Life 2, which took me 5 days to complete while playing something like 8 hours per day, or The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, which main story took me something like a month to complete.)

I think it's rather telling that the speedrun of this game is 2 hours long, even though there are no major shortcuts nor glitches in the game (that is, the speedrun uses basically the exact same route as a regular first-time player would use).