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Condemned is an extremely brutal game. It's a hard hitting, often disturbing first person shooter. As I trudged the streets to track down the malevolent serial killer I was reminded films like Se7en, where aggressive depictions of violence and dark brooding aesthetic make me shiver. It might not be for those of a sensitive disposition but I did enjoy it despite its many frights.
It's clear how nasty Condemned was going to be when the main weapon is a crowbar. This simple piece of metal turns extremely nasty in the wrong hands as we soon discover in vivid colour. At times I wondered if the violence was excessive but when Condemned is quite clearly set in a harsh inner city ravaged by drug wars, it made sense that even the 'good' guy would be brutal.
But that's not to say that I didn't feel uncomfortable at times. The violence is almost always melee based and often directed at homeless drug addicts. The game may depict them as homicidal lunatics but even so, it felt a little wrong and unpleasant to simply cave their heads in at the drop of a hat.
It all just felt a little too real to not make me stop and think about just what I was committing. If ever a game could so strongly demonstrate how games are no longer 'just' for kids, this is it. As someone who isn't a fan of depictions of creepy, mad people, this was a strange choice for me to delve into but something about Condemned held my gaze.
Much of the game relies on constantly keeping you nervous.
Much of the game relies on constantly keeping you nervous. It doesn't throw cheap thrills your way; instead it builds up gradually, becoming increasingly tense as you wander around. All the surroundings are dilapidated, typically abandoned buildings or stores.
One particular level was an old department store full of mannequins. The shadows were forever ominous and the more I explored, the more nervous I became. Then, as horror fans may have guessed, the mannequins started moving and attacking me just when I'd least expect them. Of course the mannequins weren't alive, it was just the mad drug addicts concealing themselves as dolls, but it was still immensely alarming. In a moment of fear, I wildly swung at the heads of all the mannequins with my crowbar - just in case, you understand - of course all of these dolls were simply that, plastic and fake. I still never looked at a mannequin in the same light again after that.
A lot of this fear was down to my weaponry, or should I say my lack of weaponry.
A lot of this fear was down to my weaponry, or should I say my lack of weaponry. In many other games of this type, I could have simply shot at the various mannequins from a distance, but here I had to deal with them face to face. Such weaponry forced me to get up close and personal, most crucially it took longer to dispatch an enemy with a bar, and that made me feel extremely vulnerable.
None of the game requires a firearm, but a gun frequently feels like a great security blanket in such a game. I know that no matter what, pretty much everything in games can be killed with a gun. So to have this taken away for the vast majority of the game made me distinctly nervous.
Condemned is an extremely disturbing experience at times; albeit an enjoyable one.
I mostly played Condemned when others were in the room. Condemned's claustrophobic atmosphere made me feel alone and jumpy, so having someone else in the room with me made feel a little safer. If nothing else, their presence meant that I had a slight distraction.
Condemned easily sucked me in to the point that events in the game felt more realistic than they actually were. Like a good horror film, Condemned made me suspend my disbelief and simply succumb to the creepiness depicted, despite the fact that my rational mind was telling me this was simply a game.
Condemned is an extremely disturbing experience at times; albeit an enjoyable one. Much like a good horror film with its many frights and great use of psychological horror, it appealed to my sensitive side that likes to be scared. It's not an easy game to play mentally but the evocative story is worth it.
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