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Condemned - Review

A Blast from the past Process. Today we look back at an old classic.

Sega and Warner Brother Interactive present a Monolith Productions game, Condemned: Criminal Origins.

Originally produced for Xbox 360 in 2005, this game has been available on Steam for a while. The graphics are a little dated but we are going to see if it still packs a scare.  

The game opens with a death investigation with two FBI agents. I play as Agent Thomas.  

Evidence is gathered at the crime scene. The crime having been committed by a serial killer called - The Matchmaker. He is known for killing women and setting them in a scene with mannequins. 

It becomes apparent that the homicide suspect is still in the building. The game is a bit like 'CSI'. It is the player's responsibility to check the ammo in the gun as there is no on screen prompt. If you forget to do this, you can resort to kicking encountered enemies.

Over the introduction the player is gradually introduced to various abilities. Glimpses of the past hint at what has happened. Early in the game the player looses the firearm and instead has to resort to using found weapons, pipes, wood etc. This gives a unique feel as the majority of games allow you to carry a whole bag full of weapons and found items.

The game is more about counter attacking rather than going in with weapons swinging. You need to counter the enemy moves in order to take them down. Even during the combat sections, there is still investigation to be done with the characters wide array of gadgets and tools. The environment is suitable scary with rats scuttling in the shadows. The only way to obtain health is to smash open first aid lockers found at various points in the game, although are hard to come by so keeping healthy could become a struggle.

Secrets can be found off the beaten track and finding these unlocks achievements. Only one item can be carried at any time and so making the choice between gun, fire axe or other weapon is important. As in real life, the different weapons have different effects. The Taser is a good weapon for bringing down enemy characters temporarily.

At the end of each chapter, the game gives you a breakdown of your favourite weapon, how accurate you have been and what secrets you have found. Meaning people who want to 100% the game can try and improve their detective technique before moving on to the next stage of the game. I managed a fairly abysmal 40% accuracy on my first walkthrough.

Chapter two sees FBI Agent Ethan Thomas awakening in a new setting and suffering from strange hallucinations. An old friend of his fathers informs him that the death of his colleagues last night is thought to be of his doing after the killer used his gun. Ethan proceeds to go on the run, leaving his apartment as the police begin to knock on the door. Ethan flees into the subway and though abandoned buildings.

Moving through a variety of settings makes the game feel realistic. Even running, Ethan does not move overly fast as you try and find somewhere safe to go. Ethan holds on to his phone as he still has some friends back at base.

A slight bug in the game play as a character I encounter manages to walk through a wall in order to attack me. This was a one off incident during our time playing the game. Ethan manages to get hold of another gun, hinting that there will be an occasion coming up where he needs to use it.

Exploring the environment is made all the more challenging as enemies turn off the lights and use the environment to their advantage. During the game play it did feel a bit like I was going around in circles, but there was enough to keep me interested. Some backtracking is required to collect the required items, however, there always seems to be a weapon close to hand when the need for combat arises.

The sound files in the game are realistic and certainly enhance the game play.

At some points in the game it is tricky to know what you should be doing, but the game will lead you in the right direction. It proves a little challenging to investigate and attack enemies at the same time. If anything, I'd like more of the investigation and less of the combat.

Although enjoyable to play, it does feel a little drawn out at times. For an eleven year old game it still holds up today with both action and scares. For anyone who wants to live the life of an FBI agent on the run, this game will be right up your alley!

 

 

Penumbra - Overture by Frictional Games

There are things I need of you. Things you may not understand. Please do not make the same mistakes I did...

This is an early offering from Frictional Games released before the popular Amnesia and Soma. The first part of a trilogy.

September 2000 and the story begins. Receiving a letter from my dead father the week after my mother's funeral, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was directed to head to a bank to get a safety deposit box. The request was to destroy all the contents, but curiosity got the better of me and I found myself on a journey following the notes to discover a location in Greenland.

The game begins in a cabin inside a boat that teaches us how to play the game. Standard mouse and keyboard controls are used to navigate the game and interact with most of the items in the environment. The introduction does a good job of teaching controls before hurrying you on your way before the fog descends and the night draws in.

Stepping off the boat the character quickly becomes disorientated and you are challenged to find shelter from the heavy snow. The on screen images are blurred and this creates a good environment as the character clings onto life. Grabbing a nearby rock I smash an opening into an underground vault.  

This was the first challenge in the game. Using a rock to smash the ice from the lock was straightforward, however the challenge arrived when trying to turn the handle. Some smashing later and I was progressing on my way.

Red pulsing around the edge of the screen indicates I am hurt. Continuing to explore my new surroundings I collect anything that could appear useful. I remain uncertain as to what I am about to find.

After using the 'hand' to pull away a bookcase I find a hole in the wall and am soon crawling through a tunnel. Clearing my way to a room I see a hatch... the on screen text saying this is solid... to keep people out...or in!

Heading 100 feet below the ground in the remote arctic wilderness I began to feel scared and isolated from my usual safety nets (parents, friends, emergency services). Everyone who would normally support me is now too far away. I am not sure what to expect down here. Caution and stealth are recommended in order to survive the game. I am pre-warned that light sources will attract whatever is out there...

Moving forwards, a map of the environment indicates there are quite a few rooms / hiding spaces to be explored...

Notes from 1945 are found and can be read but they do not seem to offer much of an insight at this point. Finding out there are weapons and bombs locked away seems to be inviting me to accept this as my next challenge. It also hints towards a strange artefact that was discovered in a previous dig site, circa 1945.

The game is reminiscent of 'The Thing' and no doubt I will find some horrific creature lurking within the darkness. I find myself holding my breath slightly, awaiting the jump I know is out there.

Another note mentions that mind-altering chemicals may be causing high suicide rates in Greenland. The miners have symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia however the local inuits claim that spirits known as 'tuurngait' live in the mountains.

Having freedom to be able to explore and interact with the majority of the environment enables the player to feel like they are in control over what is happening. The music and sound effects add to the dramatic feel of the game. While hidden from creatures, text on the screen further prompts me to stay out of sight. If I am seen, I'm a goner!

Having no weapons makes avoiding creatures the only way forward. The ability to peek around corners allows me to quickly see whether there is anything lurking in my path.

Clues etched into a wooden bookcase indicate further what could be about to happen. The characters thoughts are displayed on screen as I move through the eerie environment and this is a nice touch to add another level of realism.

It transpires that spiders are feeding on the dogs in the maze of tunnels I find myself in. Hearing the characters heartbeat on the audio file is a nice touch for adding to the rising sense of terror.

Our first hour in the world of Penumbra is a tense and intriguing experience and the game promises scares to come. I look forward to delving further into this world and the sequels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaming PC Build Guide: What they don't tell you

The last time I built my own gaming PC would of been around 15 years ago, yeah thats a long time and well overdue. So why now? My main reason is being able to play a whole bunch of indie games that are launching on Steam, along with the urge of going back to be playing FPS games with a mouse and keyboard.

I'm also seeing my self turning off the TV and tuning into Twitch streams, after I turn the TV back on of course! I've been watching all the latest CS:GO competitions and it takes me back. I was apart of the first UK professional clan, more on this topic another day. Let's get on with the guide.

While I knew what I was doing, I felt I should refresh myself with all the latest products and setup configurations. I browsed and read a lot of different guides for building a gaming PC but here's a few things that cropped up when purchasing and building my new setup.

Case

ATX Bench Case, ATX Mini Tower, ATX Mid Tower, ATX Full Tower, ATX Super Tower, Home Theater Computer Case, Server Chassis... the list goes on. Do your research, while I did buy the correct size case to fit my motherboard I rushed in and wanted a cheap case to hold my parts together. This did do the job but my case didn't come with all the correct standing pins to hold my motherboard into place, a few missing screws is ok, I hope.

The other problem with choosing a cheap PC case is ensuring it's going to hold all your components. My AMD radeon card is a lot larger then a typical Nvidia card and the card itself only just managed to fit into the case, it's still a tight squeeze once the power cables are connected to the card.

Next issue was ventilation. The case did come with one case fan as standard and has room for one other fan, this is located at the back. Buying a fan to install into the case I made a slight oversight but luckily I purchased the correct size of fan for my case, so make sure you double check the sizing of the parts that you'll be placing inside the case before jumping in and thinking it will do.

Talking of case fans, you can now buy ones with a 3 or 4 pin connectors. Plugging a 3 pin into a 4 pin slot will work but you won't have the ability to control the fan speeds, that you'd get with a 4-pin fan.

Windows

Setting up Windows was as simple as booting up your PC with a Windows disk but most custom builds won't come with a DVD drive but you can now boot and install Windows from a USB stick, simple right?

Every guide I read and followed on how to install Windows informed me to download a Windows install and this would create the install within the USB stick, while this was true IF you're downloading the files on a correct Windows operating system e.g. Windows 7 and up, I was not. Using a Windows Vista system, known as a Legacy Windows you cannot download the installer as a easy setup tool and only as a iso file, I couldn't get this to work so I had to borrow a more up to date system to create my windows installer.

Maybe an oversight by myself but just a few niggles slowed me down along the way but general research is key, while being practical is the best way to learn and progress. 

Leave a comment below if you've recently built a new PC or are looking for some advice and we'll do our best to help you out!