Condemned: Criminal Origins is one of the creepiest single-player games we’ve ever played. It’s even scarier than FEAR, which is the current high-water mark in the horror/shooter genre. But like Doom 3, it runs out of new ideas early, and by the end of the game it’s not scary anymore, just tedious.
You play a forensic specialist in the game, and you’re on the trail of a serial killer. Not surprisingly, this serial killer hangs out in disgusting, decrepit buildings, which you must scour for clues. And naturally, these buildings are filled with drug-crazed people who want to kill you, while you’re completely unarmed (you’re a scientist, after all).
You have to cull your weapons from the environment. You can pull conduit off walls, rip rebar from support structures, yank out steam pipes, or pull down signs. Grab your blunt object, and then use it to bash in the brains of your attackers. Sometimes, if you beat a lunatic so hard that he’s almost dead, he’ll fall down on his knees in a stupor, giving you the opportunity to perform one of four dazzling finishing moves.
Occasionally, you’ll find a loaded pistol or shotgun lying around, which seems like the answer to your prayers, until you pick it up and realize there are only a few bullets left in it. Because you can carry only one weapon at a time, it’s unwise to swap a good melee weapon, such as a fire axe or sledgehammer, for a gun that will run dry after fighting just one or two people.
Each level has nine hidden objects for you to find: six bird carcasses and three metal objects. Finding all of the objects is very difficult, but once you do, you are rewarded with the lamest prize ever—unlocked photos of concept art from the game. B-O-R-I-N-G. Once we realized that this was all we’d get, we stopped wasting our time searching for the hidden secrets.
There’s no multiplayer, and there’s not much replayability, either. Our advice: Wait until this game hits the bargain bin; then it’ll be a must-buy.