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Video Game / Condemned: Criminal Origins

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Condemned: Criminal Origins (2005) and its sequel Condemned 2: Bloodshot (2008) are a two-part series of horror games by Monolith Productions. Their selling point is their vicious and brutal melee combat, which combines with the game's subversive, if at times barely comprehensible storytelling.

The game takes place in a fictional U.S. city. named "Metro City". Ethan Thomas, rising star in the FBI's Serial Crimes Unit gifted with incredible forensic instincts, is framed for murder when investigating a crime scene. The next morning, an enigmatic man claiming to be a friend of the family comes and warns Ethan to flee, before the police arrive. This prompts Ethan, at this man's urging, to begin searching for the serial killer that set him up. As the game progresses, a trail of dead birds and murderous hobos begin hinting that something is wrong in the city, more wrong than he might have ever suspected.

Criminal Origins has examples of:

  • 100% Completion: Getting all the collectibles slightly changes the ending to reveal that an ancient cult was behind everything. Ethan still appears to turn into a metal monster at the end, though.
  • Abandoned Area: Condemned is pretty much Abandoned Area: The Game. While the locations Ethan visits do have some human (and some not-so-human) inhabitants, they are devoid of any other people. Locations include a department store, school, Sinister Subway, apartment complex, and public library - all of them abandoned due to high crime rates or some other reason (the library caught fire at some point before the game takes place, and repairs never finished).
  • Aborted Arc: Serial Killer X, in the first game, is a Knight Templar (maybe, it's difficult to tell with his rant to Ethan near the end) who believes he's on a "path of righteousness". In the sequel, he stops killing serial killers and starts trying to join the Oro.
  • Artificial Brilliance: Enemies will attempt to grab weapons from the environment and hide behind cover to ambush Thomas. Also in melee combat they will try to trick to the player like attacking then stopping to make the player block prematurely and then attack them when their guard is down.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Averted. You would think a trained police officer would be a stronger asskicker than a jacked up homeless person, but they're on even level. Ethan does have much better stamina, but see Made of Iron as to why.
    • Played straight with the Dark Watchers; their leader takes a hellacious amount of punishment even when compared to the other Watchers.
  • Boring, but Practical: The super taser. The regular taser does a little bit of damage, but still requires some skill to use. Stealing an enemy's weapon while they are stunned gives them a really powerful unarmed grapple move, and smacking them while they are stunned immediately gives them a hard-to-block weapon counterattack. The super taser however, does a ton of damage, knocks them to the floor, and makes them drop their weapon, opening them up for a free counterattack that, in almost all cases, will kill them even if it's just a kick to the shins. After getting the super taser, it's easy to go through most of the rest of the game that way and completely ignore the more intense melee combat.
  • Breakable Weapons: Using firearms as melee weapons will eventually cause them to break.
  • Calling Card: About halfway through the game, it's revealed that Serial Killer X is actively exploiting this trope to avoid detection - he doesn't have his own methods for doing in other serial killers, but rather uses their own methods against them, which has caused every case he intervened in to go cold since, for all the police are able to tell, the killers in question performed one more slightly-out-of-character murder before disappearing.
  • Chekhov's Gun: One is set up and the true payoff doesn't come until the finale of the second game. When Rosa and Ethan are examining his medical records in the library, Rosa points out that something in the neck area of Ethan's x-ray was redacted; indeed, the player can see a blacked out area on the film. It's eventually revealed that this is because Ethan has enhanced vocal chords and is capable of emitting damaging sound waves without any modification to his body.
  • Clear My Name: Ethan's goal is to prove that he didn't kill two police officers while hunting Serial Killer X.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Torturer/Carl Anderson's M.O.: abduct and torture people horribly (in the one murder of his we see in-game, he removes his victim's arm and lips), then release and stalk them until they commit suicide.
  • Concept Art Gallery:
    • Unlocked bits at a time by picking up dead birds and pieces of metal. Yeah, it's that kind of game.
    • A few 50 point achievements can be earned by watching television, which involves walking up to a special TV and pressing the "A" button.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: Bosses are immune to being stunned by the taser (and therefore also cannot be disarmed), and by the time you reach the final two boss fights you've permanently lost your taser anyway. Also, when you fight Serial Killer X, if you had the foresight to bring a gun to the fight you'll find he takes significantly reduced damage from bullets compared to melee attacks. Inverted with the Oro Watchers; they're tough Elite Mooks / Boss in Mook's Clothing enemies if you fight them normally, but if you just shoot them they go down just as fast as a regular enemy.
  • Cop Killer: The serial killer the player is following kills two cops at the start. This kicks off the plot of the rest of the game.
  • Crapsack World: You rarely visit anything apart from long-disused, run-down and mostly destroyed buildings. Almost everyone you encounter in them is deranged and murderous.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Whatever is causing birds to die also makes the homeless in Metro City act like homicidal maniacs. The sequel reveals this to be sonic disturbances of man-made origin.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: The level set in Bart's department store, which is decrepit and abandoned. From the décor and the faint ghostly music you can hear playing, the store closed down one Christmas. This is arguably one of the most atmospheric levels of the game largely due to the out-of-place Xmas setting.
    • Fridge Logic kicks in when the player recalls Rosa told Ethan that Bart's has been closed for 14 years. No one thought to turn off the power to the lights or PA system in that time? Let's chalk it up to Rule of Scary.
  • Difficulty Spike: The last combat section before the Final Boss requires the player take down a small army of melee combatants in a cramped barn that offers no refuge and only a few health packs. Oh, and the player has to beat them without having access to the overpowered Taser he's probably been relying on for most of the game.
  • Driven to Suicide: This is the Torturer's method of "killing". He doesn't murder them directly, he just tortures and then stalks and harasses them to the point where they take their own lives. The police still, obviously, consider him just as bad as the others who do straight-up murder their victims.
  • Drop the Hammer: The mighty (yet slow) sledgehammer is not just useful for breaking in skulls, but breaking through locked doors.
  • Enemy Civil War: Mooks fight each other so often that it's practically a gameplay strategy to stand back and wait a fight out. This is actually explained in the propaganda reports. The signal the ORO is putting out dramatically degrades brain function to the point that humans are essentially feral responding to anything that doesn't respond with total submission with violence.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Lest you think SKX is an honorable Serial-Killer Killer, one of the first things he does is gun down two police officers and frame Ethan for it.
  • Even Evil Can Be Loved: Serial Killer X turns out to be Leland Vanhorn, the nephew of Malcolm Vanhorn. Malcom actually saves Leland when the latter is downed by Ethan and tries to snap him out of his psychosis. Unforunately, Leland rebuffs his uncle's pleas to stand down, strangling him in Condemned and later killing and dissecting him in Bloodshot even after Vanhorn nursed him back to health when he took a gunshot to the face.
  • Expository Gameplay Limitation: Whenever Ethan receives a call on his cellphone the player is slowed down to a walk, cannot attack (as he is holding his phone in his hand) and Invisible Walls appear around Ethan, significantly limiting the player's progress. Normal gameplay resumes once the call is over.
  • Facial Horror: The faux-mannequin enemies from the mall level have gruesomely disfigured faces with no lips, nose, or eyelids beneath their masks.
    • The Giant Mooks in the final level appear to have burn injuries to their faces.
  • Fingore: At the end of the game, you get to watch Serial Killer X cut off Ethan's left index finger.
  • Fingerprinting Air: The level of details you get from analyzing crime scenes with just your on-site equipment is improbable, so it's honestly a surprise that exactly one set of fingerprints per game is actually too smudged for his equipment to properly identify.
  • Finishing Move: Get an enemy's health down low enough, and they'll drop to their knees. Once they're in this state, the player can finish them off with one of four finishing moves:
  • Fragile Speedster: The pale, skinny enemies you encounter in the subway tunnels move very quickly, but die in one hit from any weapon (including the tazer which otherwise can't actually kill someone by itself). They do get tougher in the latter part of the level, but not by much.
  • Giant Mook: The large men in firefighter coats in the 4th level and the giant burn victims wielding flaming 2x4s in the final level. Both have about twice as much health as regular enemies.
  • Hammerspace: Averted for the most part. In cutscenes Ethan is always seen carrying a large bag storing all of his forensic tools, and he can only carry one weapon at a time. Doesn't explain why he can't carry med-kits with him, though, or where that weapon goes while he's doing something like slip through a tight space or climb a ladder.
  • Hate Plague: Implied to be the reason why everyone is trying to kill you. Eventually revealed to be the result of sonic disturbances created by an ancient cult.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Dark Watchers. Whenever they show up, they appear as fast-moving silhouettes and Ethan's vision distorts. Their leader in particular seems to be capable of altering the scenery on a whim and summoning crazies out of nowhere.
  • Improvised Weapon: Very nearly all of them, from pipes to electrical conduits to locker doors. Firearms are the only things you find that are actually built to be weapons.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: Serial Killer X kidnaps serial killers and uses their own methods to kill them.
  • King Mook: Unlike the other bosses, who have unique combat styles, when you finally fight Serial Killer X he fights like a regular enemy, only with more health and very high skill at attacking, blocking, and counter-attacking. He also runs around very fast, allowing him to flank you inside the house you fight him in.
  • Lip Losses: As Ethan is investigating Carl "The Torturer" Anderson's latest crime, he finds a classroom where Carl cut Samuel Tibbits' lips off and left them on a chalkboard with "Loose Lips Sink Ships" written on it.
  • Made of Iron: Justified towards the end of the game, when you come across a classified medical report that shows Ethan having "abnormally high" muscle and bone density. Your enemies, meanwhile, presumably have adrenaline and the hideous strength of the insane going for them.
  • Meaningful Name: Criminal Origins, the subtitle of the game, is explained in the sequel as meaning that the Oro are indirectly behind most, if not all, of humanity's atrocities.
  • Mle Trois: Different enemy "factions" will often be hostile towards each other as well as towards the player, and even allied enemies will turn on each other if they accidentally hit each other with their strikes.
  • Monster Closet: Happens once, rather literally, in the subway level - the player opens a locker and gets jumped by a pale, emaciated woman wielding a rebar.
  • Morton's Fork: Combined with Last-Second Ending Choice, the game ends with SKX taking a bullet to the face in the trunk of Malcolm Vanhorn's car, either from Ethan's gun or from his own. The rest of the ending progresses the same way no matter which choice you made; the only other change is whether you collected all the birds and metal pieces or not. For what it matters, SKX in Bloodshot holds Ethan responsible for the injury sustained by that shooting.
  • Murderous Mannequin: Subverted. Though several mannequins appear to follow you around in the department store level, even completely encircling you when you fall into a dark pit, they never actually attack you.
    • But there are a bunch of crazies impersonating mannequins in that level as well. They have a different, more "relaxed" pose from the real mannequins, but without careful examination (or having never played the level before) you'd never be able to tell until they started clubbing you in the back of the head. Or you turned around to find that the mannequin on the pedestal behind you has walked off, or you see one looking at you... A paranoid player may have attacked every single mannequin as a precautionary measure from the start of the department store level.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Enemies can reload their guns, while you cannot (although not every enemy carries spare ammo).
  • Neck Snap: One of Ethan's four finishing moves that he can perform on a weakened opponent.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Plenty. They get weirder and scarier as the game progresses to the point where it's difficult to tell whether something supernatural is happening or not.
  • Not Brainwashed: The non-crawler enemies Ethan faces in the Library during chapter 7 are simple criminals or Disaster Scavengers and not effected by the whatever has been effecting everyone else, or at least ones that haven't progressed as far as everyone else. To wit they are better equipped and far more organized and display close quarter combat tactics such as kiting Ethan through multiple ambushes and attacking in groups rather that one or two at a time. They also don't fight each other unless one accidentally hits another. Their leader is also still cognizant enough to give orders and responds to the situation, with frustration but it's head and shoulders above the random swearing from everyone else.
    • Serial Killer X or Leland Vanhorn is unaffected by the sound the Oro produces. Probably as a result of being born from Oro members he has a natural resistance to it like Ethan. Unfortunately, due to the abuse and mistreatment he suffered as a child and through adulthood, he became homicidal anyway. Somewhat played with as his uncle, Malcolm, is adamant that he is just a good person who succumbed to the effects of the sound. But interactions with Leland throughout the game make it clear he is in full control of his mental faculties, he is just evil on his own accord.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: For most of Chapter 10, there are no enemies except for the crawlers in the basement and the Dark Watcher in the attic, but the old Apple Seed Orchard house is still as creepy and dilapidated as everywhere else in the game. Then when the thugs finally show up, they leave a bloody mess breaking in and you have to go back to the front door.
  • One-Man Army: Ethan. Over the course of two games, Ethan fights his through an army of psychos with things like pipes, boards, wrenches, and the occasional firearm. Justified, because almost all of Ethan's enemies are crazy hobos with little to no strategy in melee combat or sense of self preservation, and Ethan is a trained FBI agent with "abnormally high" muscle and bone density.
  • Pipe Pain: A common type of weapon. Comes in many varieties, to boot!
  • Pistol-Whipping: You can use firearms as melee weapons, but it's not recommended as you'll break the firing mechanism after just a couple of swings. Pistols are also pretty much the worst melee weapons in the entire game, which is understandable since a small bit of metal doesn't compare well to a pipe or 2x4.
  • Precision F-Strike: While Ethan does mumble some curses when fighting enemies, the only time he swears in scripted dialogue is when he finds SKX in the trunk of Malcolm's car.
  • Scenery Gorn: The devs sure did a great job of making the run-down urban locations look as awesome as possible.
  • Sequential Boss: The final boss has to be beaten 3 times in a row to finish the game; his fighting style doesn't change in each fight, though the area you fight him in changes each time. A bug in the Xbox 360 version of the game would sometimes disable your melee weapon during the 3rd fight, forcing you to kick the boss to death.
  • Serial Killer: There's a variety of serial killers who X is hunting down and killing; you explicitly deal with ones called the "Match Maker" and the "Torturer", though newspaper clippings you find in his hideout near the beginning of the game make mention of several others, including a "Roadside Carver", a "Bone Cutter", a "Dumpster Strangler" and a "Window Washer". SKX elaborates on the first two when you confront him at the end; apparently the Roadside Carver simply slit his victims' throats, and the Bone Cutter would cut out his victims' internal organs and individually label them for the police.
  • Serial-Killer Killer: Serial Killer X, the main antagonist, is named as such late in the game after you discover one of his victims. The first guy you're chasing is the "Match Maker", a serial killer who sets up female victims with male department store mannequins that have been damaged with a specific marking on one cheek. But then halfway through the game, you find the same sort of scene with the genders reversed - a male victim (with the same sort of scar on his cheek) and a female mannequin. Turns out that the victim this time is the Match Maker, done in with his own methods. Unlike many other examples of this trope, this guy is not doing it out of any sense of altruism or justice. He seems to be doing it as a way of "absorbing" the power of murderers or something like that. It's indicated that he's been driven insane by the Greater-Scope Villain and doesn't necessarily have a rational motive.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Guaranteed to happen at least once while you're playing, even if you aren't aiming to do it.
  • Shock and Awe: The basic taser stuns enemies just long enough for you to steal their weapon. After getting upgraded in the library, it takes a huge chunk out of the enemy's health and causes them to collapse, allowing the player to kill them with a single hit. See Boring, but Practical.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Pump-action shotguns usually come with enough ammo to help you get through a tough fight or at least keep you alive long enough to find a decent replacement weapon. Double-barreled ones on the other hand only come with 2 shots and are only useful for killing a single powerful enemy. In a game where you are constantly attacked by large groups of murderous hobos this makes it almost useless.
  • Shovel Strike: The shovel is a fairly rare and powerful weapon. It can be used to bypass certain types of locked doors.
  • Sinister Subway: Two levels towards the beginning of the game. Considered the Slow-Paced Beginning before the department store level really starts ratcheting up the tension and Mind Screws.
  • Story-Driven Invulnerability: Every time Serial Killer X shows up, and a few moments with some of the regular enemies.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: The subways have several female enemies that bear a resemblance to this trope - most likely due to the squalid living conditions one would expect in a subway.
  • Subways Suck: They're apparently infested with pipe-wielding psychotic maniacs.
  • Survival Horror: Weapons must be scavenged, guns and ammo are extremely limited, and health kits aren't exactly a-dime-a-plenty. A few sections have some Checkpoint Starvation to add to the tension as well.
  • Throw-Away Guns: Firearms cannot be reloaded, and must be discarded after using up all the pre-loaded bullets.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Rosa doesn't ever comment on, or seem to even notice, the weird supernatural crawling enemies attacking her and Ethan in the library. Or Ethan's weird blackouts.
  • Verbed Title
  • Vice City: A Deconstruction in that it shows just how frightening a decaying, crime-filled city, in which the cops don't really do anything unless they have to, would be.
  • Vigilante Execution: SKX's modus operandi.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: In the course of proving his innocence in the murder of two police officers, Ethan flees from the police (twice), breaks into multiple closed or condemned buildings, and bludgeons a small army of hobos, drug addicts, and assorted other lunatics to death (granted, the people he kills are trying to kill him first). Then again, it's entirely possible Malcolm Van Horn or the Ancient Conspiracy pulled strings to get him off the hook.
    Shadrouge: Isn't the whole reason that you're sneaking around down here is because the police think you've killed someone and—
    Shadrow: Hey, look, the police are outside! Yay!
    Shadrouge: "I didn't kill anyone so I think I'll go run off and kill a bunch more!"
    BigPhyll: Like I pointed out before, yeah, this cop is just going on a killing spree with weapons like sledgehammers and axes!
    Fertro: No, they attacked him first.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Metro City, in which the games are set, is what appears to be a "Rust Belt" city, due to its large amount of abandoned factories and cold winter. However, the Rust Belt area is quite large.
  • Your Mom: A thug towards the end of the library level will say "Fuck your mom!"

Alternative Title(s): Condemned