The Best Games You've Never Played

Written by Joe Martin

December 28, 2007 | 00:33

Tags: #abandonware #awards #best #beyond #black-isle #bloodlines #evil #good #list #loom #outcast #psychonauts #realms #rez #torment #vampire

Companies: #ico #indie

Condemned: Criminal Origins – 2005

Status: Available! £9.99 in the UK (PC) or $24.99 in the US (360)

Condemned is one of those games that should have sold very well – it was an Xbox 360 launch title which later had a pretty decent PC port made. It was put together by two well-respected companies—Sega and Monolith—and at the time the Xbox 360 had no real competition. In fact, all expectations were that the game would sell massively. Obviously, that didn’t quite happen – people opted for other launch titles and Monolith’s spooky FPS was criminally ignored.

On this little list I’d have to be pretty honest and say that on the horror-front Condemned plays second fiddle to the bed-wetting atmosphere of Realms of the Haunting, but that doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. In fact, Condemned is spooky enough to put the chills up even the hardiest of mouse-twitchers.

The story is complex and a little difficult to explain. Players are cast as Ethan Thomas, an FBI investigator who specialises in hunting serial killers and has a near perfect record of arrests. Unfortunately, this reputation brings a lot of suspicion on Ethan when, in an awkward twist of fate, his gun is taken from him and used to kill two policemen.

The Best Games You've Never Played Honourable Mentions
Condemned: Criminal Origins is an FPS with a survival horror twist

Ethan goes on the run – aided by his one remaining friend in the Bureau and a mysterious man who claims to have been a friend of his absent father. His only hope is to track down the real killer and bring him to justice, but it soon turns out that the real killer has got a history which ties in closely to Ethan and there may be forces at work that neither the FBI nor Ethan were expecting. The main flaw of the game though is that these forces are never properly unmasked or explained, though hopefully the upcoming sequel will address a lot of that.

Condemned is a very visceral experience which draws inspiration from films like Se7en, shifting focus away from gunplay and towards the delicate timings of melee combat. Players often find themselves wading through burnt out buildings drenched in darkness, cracking skulls with pretty much anything they can get their hands on – literally ripping the environment apart to get new weapons.

Condemned isn’t a massively long game, but it’s plenty involving and is tense enough to keep you on the edge of your seat as you plunder the grimly realistic cityscape for clues. The brutal and adult nature of the combat, plus the oppressive darkness and shortage of ranged weapons means that the entire game feels longer than it really is and invites multiple replays from genre fans.

Honourable Mentions

So, my little list of underappreciated entertainers and criminally ignored games comes to a close. The selection presented showcases some of my best-loved titles, but it’s by no means comprehensive and there were plenty of titles that I wanted to include but just couldn’t squeeze in.

The Best Games You've Never Played Honourable Mentions
Arx Fatalis was an early competitor for Morrowind

Take Psychonauts for example, Tim Schaefer’s bizarre platformer that sees players invading the thoughts of their enemies. It’s also a darling of games critics everywhere and is a classic game that we strongly encourage you to play seeing as it can be picked up for free.

There’s No One Lives Forever too – the colourful Austin Powers-alike shooter that has players battling hilarious bad guys and sexual prejudice as a female spy in the 1960s. Or Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Bethesda’s chilling and ultra-hard adaptation of H.P Lovecraft’s early work? Or Rez? Ico? Arx Fatalis?

It’s a crying shame that many of these games find themselves on this list – literally true for some games like Beyond Good and Evil which did, at points, reduce me to tears. The unfortunate reality is that many games that truly deserve to be lavished with accolades, like Half-Life or BioShock, often pass by consumers without a thought. Some of them are indie games, like those we covered in a separate feature, The World of Indie Games, others are just mis-marketed or lost in the shuffle.

It’s a sad state of affairs and one I find myself continually lamenting because the reality is that the most I can do is let you know about the games above – brilliant, shining gems which unfortunately happen to lie in the deepest, darkest recesses – I can’t actually force you to play them. I wish I could though, because I know you’d enjoy it.

[i]Think you know some other unappreciated classics? Let us know what your favourite games are in the forums.
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