If I were on death row, days away from my ultimate punishment, would I choose Condemned: Criminal Origins
as my final game? In a word, no. But for those who are not yet knocking on death’s door, Condemned is absolutely worth a play. Even in 2022, nearly two decades after its original release, it holds up admirably.
Condemned is a gritty FPS game with a focus on melee combat. Guns are rare and legitimate weapons such as knives and swords are uncommon, meaning you’ll often be forced to fight crime with random objects like lead pipes and wooden table legs. It’s a rough-and-tumble approach to combat that was a refreshing change of pace back in 2005 and it remains one to this day.
One of the first things you’ll notice while playing Condemned is the slow movement speed. While I expected this would be an annoyance, the game’s environments are quite claustrophobic, making the protagonist’s plodding gait a natural fit. It also helps that the game is fairly linear with little need for backtracking, so you rarely feel like you’re wandering aimlessly. The action always propels the player forward and keeps the engagement level high; by the time I reached the conclusion I hardly would’ve guessed that seven hours had passed.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of Condemned, however, relates to its development. In 2005, Monolith Productions released not only this game, but also The Matrix Online
These days, with game development growing ever more involving and complex, most studios can no longer even dream of pushing out products at this ludicrous rate (the only studio that perhaps comes close is Obsidian Entertainment
). Please don’t tell me how many espressos, Red Bulls, and javaccinos the developers at Monolith chugged that year. I don’t want to know.
Condemned is also notable for being an Xbox 360 launch title. Despite being somewhat forgotten, it was easily one of the stronger games among a relatively weak launch lineup. Check it out sometime when you’re in the mood for horror and retro vibes – bonus points if you play in October.