Condemned: Criminal Origins - Xbox 360 review

Condemned: Criminal Origins is one of the more adventurous titles available for launch for the Xbox360, but is the risk worth it or should you just stick to racing cars and scoring goals?

Strictly for adults - the game comes with an 18 bbfc rating - the best way to describe it the gameplay and atmosphere, is the film Se7en with you playing the Brad Pitt role.

Gameplay is a combination of horror genre and first person shooter with action and scare tactics coming in equal measures.

You play FBI Agent Ethan Thomas, a member of the agency's Serial Crimes Unit investigating a bunch of related crimes by a serial killer know as the Match Maker. The game starts with you turning up to a crumbling building where the latest gruesome crime has taken place. But things soon take a turn for the worse when your character is accused of killing two FBI agents and is forced to go on the run, catch the real killer and prove his innocence.

You then spend the rest of the game battling low-lives on the street and trying to keep out of trouble. To help you've got a an agent with the bureau that still trusts you and processes any forensic data you collect and send back to her via your mobile phone.

Dealing with the underworld means that the environment is very gritty, dark and macabre. The 10 levels are dark, and eerie and its tension levels are very high.

The fear factor is helped further by the weapons and melee offering. While you start with a pistol and later have access to a sawn-off shotgun, SMG and rifle, just as in the real world, you aren't going to find ammo boxes scattered around the place in every other room you go to offering refills. This means that beyond the 15 bullets you start with you going to have to rely on close combat fighting with whatever you can find lying around.

You can tear a section of metal pipe or an electrical conduit from the wall, pick up a nail-studded 2x4 or break an emergency case's glass to snatch a fire axe if you are lucky.

Each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses. The axe for example is powerful but slow while the conduit is quick but less powerful.

To help you last a bit longer you can block attacks, but timing, as they say, is everything.

Graphics and sound, like the gameplay is stunning. Condemned: Criminal Origins uses the full force of the Xbox360 and for a launch title we are amazed at how much more Monolith, the games developer, has got out of the hardware compared to efforts from Microsoft.

Everything is gritty, dark and eerie. And we would recommend anyone who plays this game to play it on his or her own in the dark and the volume turned up. It was certainly the first game we've played in a long time that made us anxious the entire time we were playing it.

Whether its hearing bad guys lurking in the darkened distance ready to attack ahead of you, your own shadow caught in a dimmed and dirty light or the fear and expectation that at any moment someone is going to jump out of the shadows and assault you, there is no let up.

Verdict

Condemned: Criminal Origins might be short and lack multiplayer support, but it's one hell of a rollercoaster ride. The CSI elements are more of a story pusher rather than a core element of the game, but its inclusion is vital and breaks the monotony that could have ensued had this been yet another hack and slash horror action gore fest.

If you enjoyed the film Se7en then this will be right up your street, however if you like your games fluffy and easy on the heart perhaps you really should stick to footie and racing.