Let me say this straight up: I hated this game.
I haven't felt such an overwhelming distaste for a game in quite some time.
In fact, up until tonight, I didn't hate it, I simply found it to be boring and annoying. However, this final chapter has pushed me from apathy to completely detesting this game. The worst part was I was looking forward to playing Condemned for several years, but it betrayed me.
Everyone betray me! I am fed up with this world!
So, the game itself is just a really bland, predictable "oh no, look out, someone's going to jump out over there" melee game with dark rooms. That's pretty much it. I have yet to have been startled or frightened once, which really disappointed me, as many people make this out to be a scary game. The melee is pretty terrible, as the blocking system is rendered moot by the various fake-outs enemies have. I swear, they must have double or triple the fakeouts in comparison to the actual attacks. What's the point in trying to block something when the majority of your blocks don't matter? This resulted in me always taking the strongest weapon, as there's not a point in using block, outside of a few exceptions.
On that note, there are WAY too many items/weapons. There's things just littered everywhere, and it made me feel even more at-ease playing since there's pretty much a health item around every corner. There's so many options and backups laying around I would have thought I was playing the game in that weapon cache aisle thing from the first Matrix movie.
The visuals, once again, are really evident as an early entry in the life cycle. I don't know if I've been spoiled by the niceties of other games this gen, but the characters were so bad to watch during cutscenes it was unbearable.
I did like that I could see elements of my character's face when I would run too close to the level geometry. It was often more shocking to see eyes and teeth floating in front of me for a second than anything that actually happened in-game.
The game just wasn't scary. I don't know if I've just gotten used to these things from playing the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games so much, but this just didn't get me at all. I often found myself trying to stay engaged by singing songs to myself. The enemies yelling all of the time, the game giving me tells like "you need this weapon" right before enemies attack, and so forth just neutralized all atmosphere that might have been built for some awful jump scare tactics that were telegraphed a mile away.
The enemies are some of the worst I've seen this gen. The fact that this is a launch title really shows. Half of the time, enemies would either be extremely easy to spot because they were standing half-out of cover or in the open doing nothing. The other half they would attack from nowhere (spawning behind me in a room I just checked or from afar with ridiculous accuracy with guns). It was either frustrating or boring, and it was a chore to keep pushing myself through each chapter more often than not.
Story... yeah, something, something evil killer and I was framed. Honestly, the entire premise sounded good at the start with the match maker killer, but then it got really stupid with the immediate "hey, you're gonna be framed because you're the most highly respected CIA investigator/CSI and killing your two cop partners was totally believable coming from you." Not to mention the obvious Vanhorn guy showing up all "Hey, I'm your buddy, friend! I'm totally not a bad guy!" Ugh. I thought the story was going to make me like it again with the whole "a killer stalking serial killers" avenue. I mean, that's kind of cool, right? Nope, time to blame it all on super-sonic air frequencies from some shirtless guy holding a 2-by-4. I don't know if this stuff is better elaborated on in the sequel, but I don't think I'll be looking into it.
The entire "story" just left me disinterested and hoping to get back to the gameplay. Which isn't something it should be doing, considering how much I didn't enjoy it.
On the note of gameplay (before I hit my final note on the last chapter), who on earth thought that mapping the run function to clicking the left stick was a good idea? I mean, seriously? Why not use a face button? Did I use the right bumper for anything? I mean, sheesh! I ended up walking everywhere because the run made me feel like I was going to break my control stick every time I used it. I guess the rest of the controls were serviceable, but it's probably not a good thing when the "oh-so-scary" game makes you laugh at the first sight of your kicking. What are you, Bruce Lee?
Also, I know it's a game, but the requirements of "you have to have this item to open this door" were rather dumb. I mean, a sledgehammer can't chop down a door? A sledgehammer can't break that one wooden beam to push the piano out of the way? The axe sever that connection to open the door's locking system? Just bugged me. Although, it did lead to me singing Sledgehammer on a regular basis.
And, the reason I am so upset with this game, is the final boss is bollocks.
The tedium of fighting with this really shoddy melee system is bad enough, but the final form left me in a terrible position that seems to have been a problem for others. I cannot pick up an item to fight him with, so I'm left to kicking him to end the game. Yup. Lots of fun when every time you try to get close he lands 2 or 3 blows against you. I attempted it between 15 and 18 times before I quit to the xbox menu, remembered I could change difficulty, jumped back in, switched to easy, and beat him after two more attempts. I remember spending like an hour and a half against the final boss in Ninja Gaiden 2 and not being this frustrated. Nothing worse than having some weapon right there that you can't pick up just taunting you while you get pummeled with wood sound effects.
I was so tempted to shoot the SKX guy at the end, just to seal my contempt for this game, but it didn't matter. I didn't care anymore. Then he killed himself, anyways. Great! Sure. Whatever.
There are only two things I can say I have taken away from this game that were positive.
1. Lunch lady boss at the school. Man, I want a game focused around a crazy lunch lady that stayed in some run-down school for years, despite no longer having a reason to be there. Best character in the game.
2. I had an instance where an enemy ran past me into a room. I thought "okay, whatever." Then a few seconds later it ran past me again into the room it originally came from. "...okay, sure." Then it ended up chasing me down after a few more seconds, leaving me no choice but to kill it. Made me laugh, though.
I can maybe see why people liked this at release, but I couldn't stand this. I was fortunate enough to only have paid $10 for this game, and I still feel cheated. Thanks Sega, for reminding me why I don't buy things with your name attached to it anymore!
Well, except Bayonetta. And Valkyria. BUT THAT'S IT!