Ok, so branching into video game reviews is a new thing for my blog, and I’m unsure how much of it I will do. But I couldn’t sit quiet about this one.
For those that know me, I’m what I like to call a ‘cheap gamer’. That is to say, I rarely buy video game systems when they first come out, waiting a year or two so that they, and their games, drop in price. I also rarely buy brand new games when they first come out for the same reason … I usually spend $20 or less on a game.
I figure that way, I can definately enjoy it and get my $20 out of it easily. Especially since I have so many other things stealing my time, and therefore I don’t have THAT much time for gaming.
So, recently, I went and bought “Condemned: Criminal Origins” for my Xbox 360. The reason for the choice? It was on a sale rack for $15 at a local store, new.
It looked interesting, because it was kind of a cross between a CSI, a zombie game, and a physcological horror. What could go wrong eh?
Well, in all honesty, I did enjoy playing it, although, it was a rather short game to play through, and that’s coming from me. It was fun, it was neat having the crime scene investigation angle going on (more later). I also enjoyed the ‘grab anything’ combat system, that had you ripping pipes off the walls, 2×4′s from pallets, and so on, in order to protect yourself.
However, through the whole game, I constantly had to battle against bad video game storyline management and cliches.
Now, I understand when to help a storyline along, a game designer needs to place the random barrier, or restrict the actions of your character … but it got REALLY out of hand in this game, to the point that I kept sighing throughout. Here are just a handful of the issues:
- When you find a gun, it only has the ammo that’s in it. Even though the bad guys reload, you can’t search their bodies for extra ammo. And even though you can pull the clips out to check the remaining ammo, you can’t just KEEP the ammo on you to later refill a gun.
- You are strong enough to rip pipes and conduit off of walls; however, can’t push a couple bags of trash, or a desk aside that is blocking your way. Nor can you duck down and crawl through passageways that you just saw someone else go through.
- In certain places you need to break into secured keypad areas. You do this via cutting the conduit with a shovel. I’m sure that a secure pad isn’t that easy to bypass.
- Worse, ummm, why a shovel? Shouldn’t the axe be able to do that as well? Heck, given you can rip conduit off of walls, can’t you just use your hands?
- Similarly, you need to break padlocks off of doors, and only a sledgehammer works. What about the fire axe, a crowbar, rebar with a chunk of cement on it, etc? Also there are doors to break down, that only the axe works for. But I bet the sledgehammer would do nicely in real life.
- A ‘game mechanic’ causes you to have to pick and choose what ONE weapon or tool you want to carry at any time. Only one. Pick up a new one and you drop the other ones. I understand some level of this, to keep you from running around with an insane number of tools on you. But why can’t I put that pistol in my pocket when I pick up the crowbar? Or carry a piece of rebar in one hand, and a shovel in the other?
- Some enemies use two weapons at once (such as two sticks), yet your character refuses to ever carry anything in his left hand. Which, could, oh, be used for blocking perhaps?
- When using guns as melee weapons, you always turn them around and use the stock, instead of the nice solid barrel. Later causing them to therefore break.
There were also a number of other issues I had with the game, such as having one of the achivement earning systems be really unrelated to the storyline, nor just one-offs. That being collecting these metal plates you find around. Nothing in the game mentions the plates, why you are collecting them, etc. But you do, and you get achivements for it.
Also, the CSI element of the storyline, which is what I was most looking forward to, ended up being VERY downplayed. You are prompted when you near evidence, you magically select the right tool, it points you in the right direction, etc. Also, all evidence is sent back to a lab via a cell phone and anayled instantly. This ranges from the stupid, such as taking a picture of a stack of papers, for the lab assistant to then explain to you what all the papers say (Ummm, can’t you read yourself? And how did she see the ones on the bottom?). To the ridiculous, such as pictures of fingerprints under laser light being able to be scanned and matched, DNA sampled and analyzed immediately, and bloody footprint pictures being turned into 3D models of a boot.
The fact that you were so ‘lead’ in almost all places, really ruined this aspect of the game. It would have been much more interesting had you been able, and encouraged, to use your tools whenever you wanted, and to potentially find all SORTS of evidence, anywhere, that would have all led to more and more pieces of the puzzle. Knowing me, I would have really gotten into that, and been scanning, taking pictures, etc everywhere, and driving my lab assistant mad … But even worse was that OBVIOUS pieces of evidence were ignored. A cigarette butt dropped by the killer? No, let’s not check it for fingerprints nor DNA. Photographs, let’s look at them, but not check for fingerprints, etc.
To the game designers credit, it appears that they had originally designed the game to have more of this, from watching some of the unlockable ‘prototype’ movies. Where they show the character just pulling up any tool, at any time, and scanning all sorts of different things (including that cigarette). I wonder why that changed during production? Of course, the game appears to have taken a very different turn from watching those prototypes as well, since in one of them, it shows you using some form of magic to attack enemys, steal their weapons, and heal yourself. So, ummm, interesting.
I also wanted to talk a little more about the ‘weapons anywhere’ system. I did enjoy this, and I think it was a great aspect to the game, but they really didn’t go far enough with it. I was constantly frustrated by how much I could NOT pick up. Look, a board leaning against the wall. Nope. Look, a chair, Nope. Look, a closetrod, Nope. Instead it had you picking up only the same couple dozen items. And they always looked the same (a 2×4 with nails picked up anywhere, looked the same). It again was keeping me from suspending belief when I had to keep cursing because of all the great weapons I saw laying around, that I couldn’t pick up. While walking around with my piece of conduit.
Finally, the game keeps building you up, learning that there is something ‘special’ about you, but in the end it never really spills the beans, and EXPLAINS in detail what is going on. Leaving almost a cliffhanger without you really knowing the details about yourself.
Anyway, was it worth $15 of enjoyment, yes, it was. But I’m still really dissapointed that in the current day and age of video game development, that designers (especially Sega) are relying on so many cruches. Especially after playing a game like Oblivion that is just amazing in it’s ‘openness’ and letting you do anything that you want to do.