A Trip Down Horror Lane: one approach to homelessness

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Although Monolith missed the mark with Fear, they came close to a bulls-eye with Condemned, a first person title with a focus on close range combat. You could pick up random items lying around to use against an army of insane hobos. The basic fighting system let you block and counterattack, which enemies could do as well. Fighting enemies was a chaotic in-your-face experience. Since different weapons had different attributes, you had to make sure you had the right weapon for the job. Larger weapons would hit harder, but were slower and harder to block with, for example. While there were guns available, ammo was always limited.

After the jump, hobo with a wrench

The enemies themselves also played into the atmosphere. The majority of the enemies in Condemned were homeless people driven insane by an unknown force. Many enemies wandered around talking incoherently or fighting each other before you showed up. In some places, random muttering would be your only warning before an attack. It wasn’t uncommon for enemies to curse and scream at you. One of the best areas was in a destroyed department store where mannequins were scattered around. Some of the mannequins were actually enemies waiting to ambush you once your back was turned.

Condemned had a great style. Like Silent Hill 2, the environments were decrepit, run-down, and what you would expect on the wrong side of the tracks. Many levels took place in areas with narrow corridors, which further conveyed the feeling of isolation. The creepiest part of Condemned came near the end of the game. Without spoiling the plot too much, you’re looking for someone called “Serial Killer X”, who is killing other serial killers. The main character learned that X was at a house in the middle of nowhere.

When you arrived, you found the house was abandoned and you had to search for clues. This really took the atmosphere up several notches. You could look around and see how the house had fallen into disrepair. There was no combat at the start. The house made random creepy noises. You could tell that something big was going to happen. Then you got to the basement and were attacked by freaks crawling on the ground. These kept spawning as long as you were in the basement, forcing you to search frantically for the clue you needed.

Condemned did well enough that Monolith made a sequel. This expanded the combat system and added more adventure style gameplay, but it downplayed the horror. Once again, the designers attempted to explain what was going on, removing much of the mystery of the first game. Condemned 2 jumped the shark when cults, superpowers, and giant hobos appeared.

Up next, all aboard the Dreamweaver train
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Josh Bycer has had nightmares that make less sense then the Silent Hill series. As he continues to search for his place in the industry, you can find him over at Gamasutra, on his blog, or posting in the forums as Jab.