Condemned: The Terrifying Game That Deserves a Reboot

Condemned, Horror, Horror games, video games

Germany Bans Condemned

In 2008, three years after its initial release, Condemned: Criminal Origins was banned in Germany.  Lawmakers cited part of the German penal code that forbids depictions of "cruel or otherwise inhuman acts of violence against human beings in a manner which expresses a glorification..."  The game became one of eight that have been banned in the country for excessive violence—another one of those eight being Condemned 2: Bloodshot.

That should give you a good idea of what you’re getting into when you start playing Condemned.  There will be pipes cracking skulls, Kill Bill level quantities of blood, and depraved crime scenes that will leave you with that nausea brought on by glimpsing into the darkest side of humanity.   

What Makes Condemned So Scary?

He might look scrawny, but he can seriously swing that pipe

In Condemned, you take control of SCU agent Ethan Thomas who is on the run after a killer known only as Serial Killer X uses his gun to shot two police officers.  Thomas is determined to prove his innocence and find the killer on his own, but there’s a major obstacle in his way: bloodthirsty homeless people who have mysteriously been driven insane. 

Fighting those homicidal homeless that lurk in every dark and musty environment Ethan finds himself in the highlight of the game. The only advantage he has over these tweaking lunatics is a taser gun that lets off one shot every ten seconds or so.  Other than that, Ethan is forced to improvise by finding makeshift weapons, like a mannequin arm, for instance.

The hand-to-hand combat is heart-racing and, even by today’s standards, lifelike.  A huge component of that intensity is the game’s sound-design—a lot of squishing, crunching, and of course screaming.  Think Eraserhead meets The Shining.  The music is also perfectly integrated into the game, growing in intensity at just the right moments for maximum effect.  

Outlast’s Forgotten Father

A patient at Outlast’s psych hospital appears unsatisfied with his stay

When it was first released, there was nothing like Condemned on the market.  As one IGN reviewer put it, “Condemned offers a compelling sneak peek at some of the incredible potential of the next generation of games.” 

Included in that next generation was Outlast, which was the scariest and most successful horror game to be released in a long time.  Outlast is a first-person survival game that takes place in a run-down, you might even say condemned, hospital.  It turns out the place is overrun by murderous patients that behave an awful lot like the psychotic denizens in Condemned.

The features of Condemned that Outlast is most heavily influenced by are in its atmosphere. The game is dark, the environments are bleak and grimy and filled to the brim with crazy people wanting to kill you.

Where Outlast departs from Condemned is in its combat system, or rather its lack of one. Instead of taking down those crazies with a found lead pipe, you run and you hide. In a way, it’s kind of brilliant.

The complete helplessness you feel when playing Outlast adds to its terrifying effect, and it’s the signature component of the game. While Condemned’s most successful scares are tied into its brutal and intense combat, Outlast succeeds by removing combat entirely. That being said, putting in just a little fight in the game’s protagonist would be a welcome addition to the game. 

Today, the rights to the Condemned series are held by Jason Hall of Monolith Productions.  While nothing appears to be in the works at the moment, he did express interest in rebooting the series in 2015 if he could find the right indie developer. 

Now who could that indie developer possibly be?  Perhaps a team that has solid experience in the horror/survival genre? One that isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of what a horror game can be? One that developed the scariest game for the latest generation of consoles? A developer like, say, Red Barrels of Outlast? 

Sounds like a match made in heaven to me.  


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Jake Swain has been interested in horror gaming and films since first watching David Lynch's Eraserhead at a far too young and impressionable age
Top 3 Favorite Games:Outlast, SOMA, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt