Brutal combat? Check.
Jumps scares and sustained tension? Check.
Insane story that someone may have written on acid? Check.
Crime Scene Investigations? Check…wait what?
Condemned was a series of horror-action games that combined brutal melee combat and crime scene investigation that probably should’ve been rebooted by now. It was a fun, tense, and thrilling addition to the horror genre and unsurprisingly, ended with a cliffhanger. There are no indication that Sega will revive the franchise, which shouldn’t come as much of a shock because like many games in the horror genre, it didn’t sell particularly well. For whatever reason, it’s hard to penetrate a market dominated by the Resident Evils and Silent Hills of the world. Its disappointing for sure, but luckily the series can be found on PC and I highly recommend you give it a go.
Set in the fictional Metro City, players will control Serious Crimes Unit investigator Ethan Thomas to investigate the murders of Serial Killer X. As Ethan, you will come across grizzly crime scenes in which you’ll find clues in the environment that will help you track the notorious serial killer. During the events of the game, you’ll notice that the various denizens of Metro City are behaving strangely. By strange I mean violently, as many of the individuals you run across are looking to do whatever it takes to put you in the ground. Luckily, Ethan is a competent fighter and this is where the Condemned series shines.
Set in first-person, melee combat in Condemned was simple but incredibly satisfying. Players can punch, kick, push, block, counter, and if prompted initiate a brutal melee finisher to ensure your opponent never gets back up. Melee weapons are littered throughout the environment and while the first game allowed the player to use a melee weapon indefinitely, the sequel saw these weapons have a limited use. Combat in the sequel is far better as you can chain melee attacks together to further brutalize your opponents. You could also use the environment to kill enemies in some seriously gnarly ways. There were guns, but they were scarce and honestly not as fun as the melee combat. Most enemies could be one-shotted which took away from some of the tension.
The first title in the series was a more grounded experience with a few supernatural elements. Its sequel, Bloodshot, went completely off the rails in terms of narrative as it expands on the madness gripping Metro City. It’s less about crime scene investigation and more about paranormal investigations. The game is far more brutal and features some seriously disturbing moments. If you hate dolls, you’ll hate them even more after playing this game. There’s a section that will make you extremely uncomfortable and paranoid. Oh, and bears too. Bloodshot was bigger and bolder, showcasing Ethan’s descent into madness after the events of the first game. I don’t blame the guy for going crazy either, this man has seen some shit.
While it is unfortunate that the Condemned series has been left in a grungy alleyway to rot, this is an underrated gem that I believe many fans of the horror genre would enjoy. It’s an example of why the first-person POV is perfect for horror games. It can be brutal, unnerving, and even slightly silly, but dammit if Condemned wasn’t a fun experience. It deserved a finale and while this will never come to fruition at least the game can be found on Steam for under 10 dollars. Pick it up, turn the lights off, and make sure you play it with your headphones on.
It’s the only way. Embrace the madness.