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Aaamaazing: Condemned Criminal Origins


Condemned engages in a torrent of ‘meta-scares,’ programmed scare-tactics in which the designers accept the fact that you’re playing a game, rather than try to make you forget it. They embrace the idea that you can’t look two ways and send enemies from two directions. They deny you the information you take for granted in other games and play upon gaming tropes. Piling on ammunition supplies and then giving you no boss to fight. Scaring you in forced perspective animations, when you can’t react immediately, and jarring you in moments where you expect to be safe from enemies.

A traverse through an abandoned shopping market is made infinitely more terrifying by the groupings of mannequins that line hallways and rooms. Some wear dingy Santa hats. I smacked a few upon arrival, to double check their inanimate appearance. It seems inevitable that one will jump to life and come at me, but eventually there are too many to check in a single room and after whole minutes pass without your paranoia validated, I start to forgo the wrench-to-the-head checks. That’s when one pounces on me with a guttural scream. Somewhere, a designer laughs manically. “I knew it!” I shout, my confidence bruised and my nerves completely shot.

Condemned undergoes some radical departure from its origins. Drifting into the supernatural, it never deviates from the formula it originally introduced, but never stops heightening all of it. Detective tools are for murder scene investigations, until you’re using them to track and read the cryptic wall-scratching of a maniac. You’re a dutiful police investigator, until you are framed for multiple murders and find your cryptic personnel file with, perhaps most disturbing, your x-rays with whole organs redacted. Heck, even your firearm, which should be for shooting, is re purposed as a blunt tool in desperate times.

The game wants you unnerved and never comfortable with your location, your weapons, or your allies. It succeeds here, as for the first time I found myself having to pause before to move into rooms, and it accomplishes a horror experience so effectively, that it became a group activity to play it. Condemend: Criminal Origins set a high precedent with horror games for me. It showed remarkably cunning design, with carefully laid traps and constant psychological warfare designed to undermine the player, and did so with a tight-lipped, twist-laden story. It is terrifying, riveting, and just plain amazing.
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About AwesomeExMachinaone of us since 6:13 PM on 07.28.2009

Twenty four years ago I was adorable. Now I'm inquisitive and hilarious.

I have a plastic tooth to replace one lost in a mosh pit during my more ridiculous high school years. I speak shitty German and I ride a bike. My Xbox gets so much use, I'm sometimes embarassed. But I'm unemployed, so my time is spent writing blogs on the internet, reading good literary fiction, and playing video games.

In the grand scale of things, I'm a late-bloomer. My parents banned all consoles from my house as a kid. See what you've done? Now I game constantly to make up for years of lost time.

I won't list my favorites, because you've probably seen ten lists like it before me.

There's a life-sized Boba Fett standee in my living room.

No Clip Series:
Grand Theft Auto IV
Fallout New Vegas
Red Dead Redemption

The Slapstick Cephalopod: An Interview with the Octodad Team
Chicago Night Fights: Marvel vs Capcom 3
Inventing the Paint: An Interview with Author Tom Bissell
Top 10 Greatest Tiny Video Game Characters

Front-Paged Monthly Musings:
Groundhog Day: The Liberty to Pursue
Teh Bias: Critical Errors at Surface Level
Alternate Reality:Time for a new job
Something About E3: Imaginings from 20 Years Ago
The Great Escape: Tiny plastic guitars and wiimotes
My Expertise: Latent Racial Bonus
The Future: Overdoing the Over-the-Top
Love/Hate: A Gentleman's Baffling Love for Collecting Furniture
Nothing is Sacred: Games Taking Themselves Too Seriously

Worth reading:
We Are Destructoid
Writing on the Wall: How Graffiti Builds Universes
Combating Lawlessness in the Wild West of Red Dead Redemption
Being a Coward on Purpose
What Bringing About the Fictional Zombie Apocalypse Taught Me About Game Design
Why Video Game Designers Need to Watch the Road Warrior
The Needless Shit We Gamers Do

Xbox LIVE:The Disco Pony
PSN ID:The Disco Pony


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