Raw, savage beatings are the order of the day in Condemned: Criminal Origins, an original first-person action game from the makers of F.E.A.R. The game was originally released for the Xbox 360, but has now been faithfully adapted to the PC. You play as an investigator who's struggling to keep his own sanity while tailing a serial killer and facing off against what seems like an army of depraved sociopaths. Condemned's impressive graphics and bone-crushing hand-to-hand combat sequences make for a visceral, highly atmospheric experience that's quite unlike anything you've ever played before. But as great as that may sound, Condemned is something of a one-trick pony, whose monotonous gameplay doesn't quite live up to the quality of the presentation and underlying concept. Don't you dare let that stop you from taking the plunge if the concept intrigues you, though.
Condemned is kind of like a first-person shooter, except instead of shooting, there's mostly just a lot of pure, bloody brawling. For some strange reason, there's no real bare-handed combat, but improvised weapons are everywhere. You've got everything from metal pipes to nail-covered two-by-fours to fire axes to sledgehammers to signposts. Each weapon is rated differently for speed, range, power, and defense, though the differences can be pretty subtle. So it'll often come down to a subjective choice: How does that metal conduit strike you? How about that nice concrete-crusted rebar over there? Take your pick and hang on to it, because you can only carry one weapon at a time.